Acrylic is a wonderfully versatile thermoplastic that you can use in thousands of different applications. Learning how to cut acrylic plastic sheets is a bit of an art, and you might find yourself unavoidably limited if you try to cut acrylic on your own.
Learn the top five best ways to cut acrylic, and weigh the pros and cons of the various options at your disposal. Then, find answers to all the questions you might be asking about cutting acrylic at home or in a shop (hopefully our shop!).
What is the best way to cut acrylic sheets?
It’s best to avoid damaging acrylic sheets during cutting while maintaining precise control over the entire process. There are a few main ways to go about this process:
1. Scoring and breaking
Scoring and breaking is the easiest way to cut an acrylic sheet from home, but it yields the most irregular and unpredictable results. Here’s how it works:
- Draw a straight line where you want to cut your set
- Use a box knife to make a deep score straight along that line
- Line your knife up with a straight edge for the most accurate results
- As long as the scoring cuts at least 1/4 of the way into the sheet, it should break evenly along the line when you apply pressure
Keep in mind that scoring and breaking only allows you to make straight cuts in one direction.
2. Cutting with a saw
Saws are slightly better for cutting acrylic than scoring and breaking, but you have to use the right type of saw and blade. You can use any of the following types of saws to cut acrylic:
- A handsaw
- A jigsaw
- A band saw
- A table saw
But, table saws are undeniably best for cutting acrylic. These saws allow you to cleanly cut curves into acrylic plastic, expanding your creative range and delivering better-looking results.
If you don’t have a table saw at home, don’t be surprised when your results look nothing like the clean-cut acrylic you’ve seen online. Without professional tools, you won’t be able to cut acrylic professionally.
3. Cutting with a laser
Not even a table saw delivers anything close to the clear cuts and complex geometrical designs that lasers can deliver. Laser-cut acrylic sheets have amazingly sheer edges and can be cut into essentially any shape.
If you’re guessing that the types of lasers capable of cutting through acrylic are both extremely dangerous and very expensive, you’re absolutely right. This technology is usually out-of-reach for consumers, making acrylic laser-cutting an absolutely essential business.
4. Sanding into shape
Even if you cut your acrylic sheets in a less-than-professional way, you can still even out the edges after the fact with a little bit of sanding. Plus, the right kind of sanding can add new shapes and contours to acrylic that might be useful or aesthetically pleasing.
Since it can entirely reshape a piece of acrylic, sanding is technically a type of acrylic cutting. Just don’t rely on sanding for the majority of your acrylic cutting needs.
5. Professional acrylic cutting
Regardless of which method is used, the hands-down best way to cut acrylic is to rely on professional help. Home tools can cut acrylic with some degree of competence, but you’ll be left with sub-par work if your understandable lack of technical expertise in the field results in mistakes.
Professional acrylic fabricators and cutters know the best ways to cut acrylic for specific applications, and they have the know-how to get the job done accurately and efficiently. Call Plastic Zone for a free acrylic cutting quote.
Professionally cut acrylic sheets — 2 options
When it comes to getting your acrylic sheets professionally cut, there are two main ways to go:
Benefits of pre-cut acrylic sheets
Pre-cut acrylic sheets cut straight to the chase while still delivering impeccable professional quality. With pre-cut sheets, you’re saved the hassle of cutting your acrylic on-site, and you have access to a variety of common sheet shapes and thicknesses.
In many cases, pre-cut acrylic sheets are appropriate for instances in which mass-fabrication of otherwise large-scale projects are underway. For smaller projects, customizable results might be more desirable.
Benefits of custom-cut acrylic sheets
Getting acrylic sheets custom-cut takes longer, but it might be the only option in your situation. Not all applications can be serviced by pre-cut acrylic — even though there are so many different types of pre-cut acrylic solutions available.
With custom-cut acrylic, you can span any gap, contain any fluid, protect any machinery, make any sign, or do anything else that you’re empowered to do with acrylic. You’ll just pay a bit more and wait a little while.
Cutting acrylic sheets FAQ
Let’s wrap up with answers to common acrylic cutting questions:
Can you cut acrylic sheets at home?
Yes, it’s certainly possible to cut acrylic sheets at home. Doing so, however, will limit the accuracy of your work and the ability of your results to meet your expectations.
Cutting acrylic at home can also be physically dangerous, so there are lots of reasons to have a professional acrylic cutting company perform this work for you. If that weren’t enough already, remember that professional acrylic cutters also have access to a far wider array of tools than you could possibly have at home, dramatically opening up the vista of achievable projects.
Can you cut acrylic sheets with a table saw?
Yes, and cutting acrylic with a table saw is, in fact, the best way to go about this tricky technical process from home. Other saws aren’t accurate enough to cut acrylic with smooth edges, and they lack the table saw’s ability to deliver curved cuts.
You’ll need the right blade to cut acrylic, though — even if you have a table saw. The finer the tooth count, the better: Experts generally say 120-150 tooth saw blades are ideal.
Where do you learn how to cut acrylic sheets yourself?
If you’re interested in learning how to cut acrylic sheets at home, there are plenty of free video tutorials available. What you won’t find online, however, is the decades of experience that goes into an acrylic cut so fine it looks like glass and so accurate it leaps like a beam of light.
Cutting acrylic at home, you’ll be lucky to come away without any injuries. Done professionally, however, acrylic cutting can deliver the caliber of customized results capable of completing any project.
What safety precautions should you observe when cutting acrylic sheets?
We’re glad you asked. Whether you’re cutting acrylic yourself or you’re watching a friend do it for you, there are some basic safety precautions you should take:
- Make sure you’re cutting on a level surface and that the acrylic sheet is secured in a clamp or is otherwise in a stable position
- Wear eye protection and gloves, and make sure those around you wear eye protection as well
- Acrylic contains respiratory irritants, so wear a painter’s mask or a similar sealed ventilator during the cutting process
- Other individuals in the area should also wear masks, and exhaust fans should be running throughout the cutting process
- Cut carefully and slowly, and disconnect your saw from power when done