Plexiglass is a cost-effective, versatile, and shatterproof substitute for glass. Used in a wide range of applications including tabletops, picture frames, aquariums, and more, plexiglass is preferred by many for their DIY projects. Luckily, cutting plexi doesn’t require any specialized machinery, and it can be shaped using common workshop tools.
How you cut your plexiglass depends on its thickness. To cut a thinner sheet (3/16″ or less), score it with a utility knife, make a deep grove in the sheet, and then snap off the required portion. For thicker sheets, use a power saw fitted with carbide-tipped blades for an even cut.
The durability and sturdiness of plexiglass make it an excellent material for various everyday applications. Let’s look at the tools that you can use to cut through plexiglass, and how can you buff and polish the edges to give it a professional look. We’ll also share some tips that will protect your plexiglass from damage.
Can You Cut Plexiglass?
Yes, it’s possible to cut plexiglass with the help of the right tools. You don’t need any heavyweight machinery or specialized training to cut this versatile material.
With the help of just a few tools like a utility knife, table saw, or a jigsaw, you can easily cut plexiglass to fit your measurements.
Before You Begin
Before cutting plexiglass, it’s essential to keep the following considerations in mind:
- Plexiglass comes with a protective thin layer of film. Avoid removing this covering until you’ve finished cutting the plexiglass to protect it from scratches.
- It can be quite difficult to achieve a smooth, regular edge while cutting plexiglass. You’ll need to smooth out the finish by using sandpaper.
- Wear gloves and safety goggles for protection, as shards or splinters resulting from plexiglass cutting can pose a hazard.
Cutting Thin Sheets of Plexiglass
The tools that you’ll need to cut plexiglass depend on the thickness of the sheet. For sheets that are up to 3/16 inches thick, you’ll need:
- Place your plexiglass sheet on a stable, flat surface. Make sure the surface of your work table is clear of any objects that could damage the sheet.
- Use a ruler and a dry erase marker to mark the line you wish to cut.
- Using the ruler to guide your utility knife, drag it across the marked line to score your plexiglass sheet.
- To make a deep groove in the sheet, make sure that you score again and again at least 10 to 15 times. Deeper cuts will make it easier to snap the sheet.
- Flip over the plexiglass sheet and similarly score the other side.
- After you’ve finished scoring, position the sheet in such a manner that the portion you plan to break is hanging over your worktable’s edge.
- Use a clamp to secure the plexiglass in place.
- Apply sharp downward pressure to snap off the portion of the plexiglass extending beyond the work surface.
Cutting Thicker Sheets of Plexiglass
If you’re cutting a sheet that’s thicker than 3/16″, you’ll need the following:
- A power saw such as a table, circular, scroll, or saber saw. If you need to cut anything other than a straight line, then opt for a jigsaw (on Amazon).
- Spray bottle
- C-clamp (on Amazon)
- Fit a table or circular saw with a fine blade designed with crosscut teeth to make sure that the plexiglass doesn’t chip during the cut. Carbide-tipped blades are best for this purpose, as they are strong enough to cut the sheet with a minimum amount of dust and debris.
- Align the plexiglass sheet with your marked line.
- Clamp the sheet to the work surface to keep it secured.
- Make sure the blade of the saw is rotating at full speed before cutting the sheet.
- Push the saw slowly and at a consistent pace for an even cut.
An overheated blade can cause the plexiglass to crack or chip. Use a spray bottle to cool down the blade or pause for a few minutes between cutting to prevent this problem.
Which Type of Saw Is Best?
You can use any type of power saw to cut plexiglass sheets of medium thickness; however, the best saw for this job is a scroll saw (on Amazon), as they produce much less heat compared to other types of saws, which in turn reduces the risk of your plexiglass sheet melting while it’s being cut.
If you’re working with a large sheet of plexiglass and need extra space to work, then it’s best to use a table saw.
The most important thing, however, is that you use a blade that’s best suited for the job. Be sure to choose one that’s designed with fine teeth and has at least 10 per inch.
How to Polish and Buff Cut Edges
Irrespective of which cutting method you choose, it’s very hard to achieve an even-cut plexiglass edge. If the cut edge is going to be visible in your application, then be sure to take some time to buff out the imperfections.
You can use a handheld power sander (on Amazon) to sand the cut edges, however, manually wet-sanding helps to achieve the best results. Here’s how you can do that:
- Begin the wet-sanding process with a 180-grit waterproof sandpaper.
- As the edges become smoother, switch to finer 600-grit paper.
- Once the edge achieves the smoothness you want, use an electric drill with a buffer attachment to polish the edge.
How to Avoid Cracking and Breaking the Plexiglass
Although durable, plexiglass isn’t unbreakable. That’s why it’s crucial to keep the following tips in mind to protect it from cracking or breaking during cutting:
Leave the Plastic Film On
The thin film covering over plexiglass protects it from scratches. Keep it intact while you measure, mark, and cut the plexiglass to protect it from scratches from your work surface and tools.
Run the Knife Repeatedly Over the Plexiglass
When cutting the plexiglass with a utility knife, be sure to score a deep, straight line before snapping off the required portion.
Choose the Correct Blade Type
It’s vital to use a sharp blade whether you’re cutting plexiglass with a power saw or a hand tool. A dull blade can damage the sheet and cause it to crack or break.
Keep the Blade Cool
It’s essential to keep the blade cool while cutting to prevent it from melting or breaking. If your blade starts to overheat while working, turn off the saw and wait for it to cool down.
Adding soapy water to the plexiglass sheet while cutting also helps to keep it lubricated.