Does your project require you to use acrylic or polycarbonate? It does! Now you wonder how to cut hard plastic or what you should do to cut thick sheets of plastic.
There is no need to give up yet. The likeliness is you already have the tools in your home to achieve this. Yes, we know cutting wood offers you great methods, but plastic is a different scenario altogether.
The problem is that plastic is tricky to cut as it can melt during the process. Further, the surface can scratch fast, and you need to buff the edges. But it is not impossible to do when you use the following techniques.
How To Cut Thin Sheets of Plastic?
Do you want to cut thin acrylic or polycarbonate plastic sheets up to ⅛ inch thick straight? Then the good news is you might already have the right tool using a utility knife.
- Secure your plastic sheet using clamps to a large working surface.
- Using a straight edge mark your cut line and score it using your utility knife. You will need to do a couple of passes to make a deep groove. Do this making a scoreline halfway through your plastic.
- Remove the clamps and flip over the plastic sheet and repeat the same method for the other side.
- Next, reposition your plastic sheet on the work surface by lining up the scored groove with the work surface edge. Finally, secure it with the clamps.
- Now comes the final step to snap off that portion hanging of the work surface.
How To Cut Thick Sheets of Plastic?
Great, but how do I cut through thicker polycarbonate sheets or acrylic plastic greater than ⅛ inch thick? Here you’ll need to use either a circular saw or a table saw. You will also need a special blade to cut through the plastic marked as “No Melt” blades.
Also, make sure the blade’s teeth are evenly spaced with a uniformed height and shape spaced close together. The reason is that wider-spaced teeth could cause chipping or crack in the plastic. Another notable thing is a regular blade can cause the plastic to melt.
So if you do use a regular blade, leave it to cool between cuts.
- As before, place the sheet of plastic on your work surface and mark a line using a permanent or grease marker.
- Secure the plastic sheet with clamps to the work surface to prevent it from moving around.
- Take your table or circular saw and cut through the plastic as you would do with wood.
How To Cut Hard Plastic?
For cutting hard plastic without breaking it, there are a few techniques you can use. However, these methods work on plastic that is less than ½ inch thick. You can use the string or hot knife method for this thickness of plastic using a low cut. However, if thicker, then you need to use your circular saw or table saw for cutting.
Using The String Method
You can use cotton thread to slice through oddly shaped pieces of hard plastic such as toy cars, model figures, or PVC pipes. Yes, you can at the concept is one of the most straightforward techniques to use.
- Use clamps or masking tape to secure the piece of plastic to your work surface.
- Grab a pair of pliers and grip a needle in the pliers. Next, heat the needle using a lighter.<
- Take the needle and make a hole along the cut line in the plastic.
- Use a spool of cotton thread and pass the one end through your hole. Keep your spool end on the top side.
- Next, provide yourself with a foot of thread to work with and wind the loose end around your hand.
- Now pull the thread tight to use it like a saw to cut the plastic by removing it back and forth.
The method takes patience but works to make a clean cut without breaking the plastic.
How To Cut Plastic Using Other Saw Methods?
As we have already provided saw cutting methods, there are other saws you can use as well:
- You can use a hacksaw, but the process is slower or you can opt-in using an electric hand saw that is a bit faster.
- For more accurate cuts than using a circular or table saw, a jigsaw also works well. Again, you get the best range of blade options to use. It is ideal for cutting plexiglass.
Lastly, using the above tools helps to secure the plastic to the work surface using clamps. Also, remember to wear your safety glasses and cut them slowly to prevent them from melting.
Using a Hot Knife
Another excellent method is to use your soldering iron tip modified to a knife shape to cut through the hard plastic.
- Take a hammer or mallet to help flatten the iron tip.
- Let the soldering iron warm up and cut through the plastic.
Doing this helps prevent your plastic breaking and provides a clean cut that works well with curved cuts. Or, if you do not have a soldering iron, you can use your drill at a slow speed with a tiny bit to drill holes along your cutting line.
Once you drill the holes, use your utility knife or a fine-toothed saw to cut through the remaining plastic. By drilling holes reduces the chance of the plastic breaking and makes cutting along the line simpler. You can use this technique in tandem with the other methods as well.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
The best option is to use a saw for cutting thick or flat pieces of plastic. You can use a hacksaw, circular saw, jigsaw, table saw, or a fine-toothed saw. However, make sure the tool is equipped with a plastic cutting blade.
Acrylic has a shinier surface, while polycarbonate is a more robust plastic. However, both weigh less than a piece of glass, but both are stronger than glass and easy to clean.
Acrylic is very scratch-resistant, but as polycarbonate, it provides a high light transmission. Both these materials are used optical devices for these abilities.
You can spray anti-scratch coating spray over the plastic to provide abrasion resistance. To do this, you will need a praying gun or nozzle to atomize the silicon nanoparticles to create a thin protective film.