Looking through a Plexiglass porthole – Photo Courtesy: Anthony Easton
Whether it is plexiglass or a Lexan sheet that you are working with, there is one thing for certain – you need to cut it and you need to know how to do it properly without ruining the sheet. You may think that this is something you cannot do on your own or that you need specialized equipment that you simply cannot get a hold of, but in both instances you would be wrong.
The truth is, there are many benefits to using plexiglass or Lexan sheets over regular glass and you can very easily cut it yourself at home using woodworking tools you likely already own, or could easily acquire if need be. Here are a few things you need to know about cutting plexiglass.
How Plexiglass and Lexan Sheets Differ
The first thing you need to know is what materials you are working with. While you may think there is little difference between Plexiglass and Lexan sheets, they are two completely separate materials. Plexiglass, or polymethyl methacrylate, is a hard, clear plastic whereas Lexan sheets are polycarbonate plastic sheets. The difference in the composition of the two means that cutting them will require slightly different approaches in order to be successful.
When it comes to plexiglass there are two different methods you can use to accomplish your goal, according to Wiki How. The first method is known as the “score and snap” method and it is best used for cutting smaller pieces of plexiglass. Be sure you only attempt this method on a piece of plexiglass that you can handle on your own, without any help from someone else.
Cody Meshes, Warm Springs Youth Ambassador, Georgia, USA, measures a piece of plexiglass to cut. Photo Courtesy: Nicole Rankin, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Southeast Region (USFWS)
To start, leave the protective, paper covering on the plexiglass for as long as possible throughout this process to avoid scratching it. Place the sheet on a flat, even surface or across enough saw horses to fully support the sheet’s weight. Measure out the piece you want to cut with a yardstick and mark it. You then need to score the mark along the length of the plexiglass because you won’t be actually cutting the sheet but breaking it. The best tool for scoring would be a glasscutter, but if you do not have one some good alternatives would be a box cutter or a utility knife. Remember that the deeper you make your scores the easier the piece will break. Flip the sheet over and score the other side. When you are finished bring the plexiglass to the edge of the bench and press down firmly on the scored line to snap the piece off, and then smooth out the rough edges with a buffer.
Cutting the plexiglass sides – Photo Courtesy: Benjamen Johnson
For larger sheets, it is best to actually cut the plexiglass with a circular saw. Simply mark your cut line, clamp the plexiglass to your workbench (again keep the protective paper on the sheet), and cut using a coolant for a smooth cut. You will likely have to buff the edges after this cut as well.
Cutting Lexan Sheets
Cutting Lexan: Lexan is much tougher than plexiglass – yes much more expensive – but allows the cabinet doors to be much light – special table jig and saw blade required. Photo & Info Courtesy: Josh and Melanie Rosenthal
Some special consideration is needed for cutting Lexan sheets when it comes to the type of blade used, says eHow. You can use your circular saw, but you will need a fine-tooth blade such as a Carbide saw blade with 60 to 80 teeth per blade. Once you have your blade installed on your saw, place your Lexan sheet across sawhorses to make your cutting platform. Mark off where you want to cut with a grease pencil, as this will clean off of the Lexan easily. When making your cut, make sure it is one smooth push without stops to avoid melting the plastic.
Ready to cut – Measuring and marking the Lexan to fit in the cabinet doors. Photo Courtesy: Josh and Melanie Rosenthal
You do not have to be a professional to be able to work with plexiglass and Lexan sheets, even in your own garage. Now you can cut these materials for your own projects just like a pro.
Ashely Marie Wilson is a recent collge graduate with a degree in writing. She likes to share home improvement tips and ideas. To see more, check out her Twitter @ashelymarie1985.