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5 Ways to Cut Acrylic & Perspex Sheets 

Written by MS
19/07/2021 10:55:31


Here at The Plastic People, we know quite a bit about different plastic materials and their uses and properties. Of all the plastics we work with daily, acrylic (aka. Perspex, Plexiglas and PMMA) is one of our favourite materials as it is simply so easy to use. 
 
That’s why we think acrylic is the perfect DIY material for a range of home projects. It's lightweight, affordable, and shatterproof. In this blog, we’re going to discuss the five primary ways you can cut acrylic sheets/panels to any size or shape for your DIY projects. Towards the end, we also explain the best ways to ensure you get a good finish on your plastic. 
 
If DIY isn’t your thing, or you’re looking for a more complex and intricate shape/design cut from acrylic, then get in touch with our team today! We cut acrylic - and a range of other plastics, including PVC and polycarbonate - to any size or shape. Check out our services by clicking here and get an instant quote today. 
 
Hand Saw
 
Using a hand saw to cut your acrylic material is perhaps the most universal option - and it is a fairly low skill. This method does, however, require more concentration and effort than using an electrical saw, such as a jigsaw or band saw. 
 
Tools:
 
  • Fine-tooth hand saw (helps you to avoid jagged edges)
  • Ruler and marker pen
  • Solid, flat cutting surface 
  • Clamp (optional)
 
The Process:
 
  1. Begin by creating a guide for yourself directly on the plastic’s surface with a marker pen. Straight lines will be the easiest to cut cleanly. 
  2. Clamp your acrylic into place (or weigh it down on one end to help stabilise the material). 
  3. Finally, begin cutting. Make sure you are not using a wood saw as this can damage the material - we recommend a fine-tooth hacksaw or similar tool. Try to keep the acrylic as still as possible to avoid warping your cutting path. 
 
Score and Break 
 
Scoring and breaking your acrylic is a relatively quick and hassle-free way to cut plastic to the desired size. Note: This method should only be used on acrylic under 5mm. 
 
Tools:
  • Ruler/straight edge and marker pen
  • Scoring knife 
  • Solid, flat cutting surface
  • Clamp (optional)
 
The Process:
 
  1. Just as above, you want to begin by marking out the area you want to cut and then securing the acrylic sheet into place on your cutting surface. 
  2. Next, using your ruler as a guide, run the scoring knife along the surface of the plastic a few times to create a narrow groove. 
  3. Place the edge you wish to remove over the edge of your flat surface and, with a quick movement, push down on the overhanging edge (or waste plastic). The plastic will begin to end and then crack, leaving you with two sheets of acrylic. 
 
Jigsaw
 
Using a jigsaw has the benefit of efficiency over our two previous options. It is quicker to work with and thus requires less concentration. With an electric saw, you can also create more intricate cuts as it’s easier to manipulate your tool. 
 
Tools:
 
  • Jigsaw with a fine-tooth blade
  • Ruler/straight edge and marker pen 
  • Safety glasses
  • Flat work surface
  • Clamp (optional)
 
The Process:
 
  1. Once again, begin by creating a guide on the surface of the acrylic. You can cut a straight edge with a jigsaw, or opt for a more freehand curve if you want to create a circular piece of plastic. 
  2. Clamp into the place and put on your safety goggles in case any plastic particles are dislodged during the cutting process. Clamping is very important when using a jigsaw as it prevents the plastic from vibrating and moving around. 
  3. Saw through the plastic. When using electric saws, it is best to work quickly as they create extra heat that could bend/warp the acrylic plastic. 
 
Bandsaw
 
Band saws are typically quite large pieces of machinery that you will only find in workshops and on factory floors. For instance, we use some form of the bandsaw to prepare and cut all our acrylic sheets here in The Plastic People factory! 
 
Tools:
 
  • Bandsaw 
  • Marker pen 
  • Safety goggles 
 
The Process: 
 
  1. Begin by marking your plastic. Some high-tech band saws come with guides built into the machine, so you may be able to avoid this step.
  2. With your safety goggles on, turn on the bandsaw and begin passing the plastic through the blade. There is a range of different blade widths for band saws - and the one you choose depends on the plastic thickness and desired shape. Do your research or check the manufacturer’s guide before beginning. 
 
Laser Cutting 
 
This final method for cutting plastic is reserved primarily for intricate shapes and complex designs that need to be machined precisely. Laser cutters use a CAD programme where the dimensions/design is entered into a computer that operates the laser cutter or CNC router. 
 
At The Plastic People, we use laser cutters and CNC routing/milling machines to create complex parts, components and products - to extremely tight tolerances - for a wide range of different businesses and industries. Click here to find out more and enquire about our services. 
 
Finishing 
 
Once you have cut your acrylic sheet or panel to the desired size/shape, you may notice a rough or jagged edge. The surface of the acrylic may also have become dusty, scratched or dirty. 
 
To sand rough edges, you can use sandpaper (typically 600-1000 grit), a metal file or an electric sander/buffing machine. Begin by filing down rough edges, before sanding the acrylic. Every few minutes, you should wipe down the edge as well to remove any debris. 
 
We have produced a range of blogs all about cleaning acrylic and removing scratches from the surface of your plastic. To check out our in-depth advice on finishing acrylic sheets, panels, and products, click here.
 
Further Help
 
Our team of plastic experts are always on hand to help you with your projects. If you need further advice on working with acrylic - or any plastic material for that matter - get in touch today. You can reach us through the website (click here) or by emailing service@theplasticpeople.co.uk. 
 
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