How to Cut Plexiglass on a Table Saw
Plexiglass is a trade name for acrylic glass or polymethyl methacrylate (PMMA). It’s a transparent thermoplastic, used in sheet form (acrylic sheets). Due to the low weight and shatter-resistant properties, it’s often an alternative to normal glass. Scientists developed the material in 1928, and it went on sale for the first time in 1933 under the name Plexiglass. In this article, we will describe how to cut Plexiglass on a table saw for:
- Window panes—as substitution for glass
- Safe enclosures and furnishings—bathroom enclosures and other home furnishings
- Craft projects
- Food storing
Because Plexiglass is a softer, plastic-based material, it can be easily cut for the purposes listed above. The most important thing to do before actual cutting is choosing the correct blade for the saw. The type of cutting required will also determine the type of saw you should use.
- Use circular blade table saws for line cuts
- Use sabre saws for curves with a smaller radius
- Use band saws for more demanding larger-radius curves
- Routers and woodworking shapers for cutting and trimming the edges of flat and formed parts
Before you begin
Before you start, you will need safety equipment and tools (carbide-tipped blades, safety glasses, tape measure, sandpaper and, of course, a table saw). Plexiglass tends to melt if subjected to elevated temperatures. Since the table saw will generate heat, you need to choose the right type of blade and try not to work too fast. Woodworkers journal provides some great tips below.
Wondering how to cut plexiglass on a table saw? Check out the tips in this video.
To continue, proceed through the following steps:
- Clean the table—Make sure there are no traces of sawdust or chips on the table before starting.
- Measure the Plexiglass—Use a tape measure to measure the Plexiglass. For thin sheets, use a utility knife and snap it off. Only Plexiglass with a thickness of a ¼” or more is OK to cut with a table saw.
- Choose the right blade—To get the best results, choose a blade with a large diameter. The blade should consist of 60-80 carbide-tipped teeth of equal height and shape. Blade teeth should be angled at 5° to 10° and have sharp edges. For softer Plexiglass, use blades with fewer teeth. For harder Plexiglass, use blades with more teeth.
- The size of the cut—Measure the area you want to cut and mark it on the Plexiglass. Don’t forget to include the thickness of the blade in your measurements when you are setting the Plexiglass against the table fence.
- Safety glasses—Wear safety glasses to stop small shards flying into your eyes.
- Start cutting—Turn the saw on and slowly guide the Plexiglass over the saw, one end secured against the fence. Make sure you use a helping tool to guide the glass to keep your hands away from the blade. Watch out for chipping and melting.
- Sand it down—If there are any irregularities after the cut, sand them down with some 180-grit waterproof sandpaper until the edges feel smooth. Finish by sanding the edges down with a 600-grit paper.
How to cut plexiglass on a table saw -operational details
For an optimum cut, the cutting elements and the stabilizer must suit the axle holding them with no less than 1/1,000” clearance. Any defects or misaligned parts will vibrate and in turn cause substandard quality cuts and shorter blade life. Experts agree that the Plexiglass cutting blade shouldn’t be used for cutting other materials. This is to prolong its service life.
It’s essential to hold the Plexiglass firmly against the fence during the cutting process. The fence should always be parallel to the saw blade. To save time, a few Plexiglass sheets can be stacked on top of another and cut at the same time. Use suitable support tools (clamps) to make sure the sheets are not moving. Avoid taking the mask off the sheets until you finish cutting to prevent possible scratches.
Compressed air is an effective way to clean the table saw of sawdust and chips after any cutting operation. A damp cloth will further make sure all the remnants of dirt are removed. It will also help to remove any traces of a static charge on the table.
To reduce chipping to a minimum, employ a steady and smooth rate of feed to the saw. The feed should be uniform and uninterrupted. The recommended feed rate is 3-4 inches per second or 15-20 feet per minute. The blade should run at around 3,450 revolutions per minute. There is no need for coolants during the cutting process unless smooth cuts are needed.
If any overheating does occur, lower the speed of the blades to around 2,500 revolutions. If that isn’t enough, spray some water with a 10% detergent solution on the Plexiglass during the operation.
We hope our instructions on how to cut Plexiglass on a table saw have been clear and useful. For even more details and video tutorials, please visit YouTube and dedicated table saw or Plexiglass cutting sites.