Working With Acrylic Perspex Sheets

On Cut Plastic Sheeting we offer acrylic plastic in a range of different colours and in countless shapes and sizes, all cut to your size requirements. However, you may also want to 'work' the acrylic yourself to achieve the desired finish.

Our guide below will cover various aspects of working with acrylic, from cutting with various tools through to drilling.

How to clean acrylic Perspex sheets

Using a soft cloth or chamois, acrylic can be cleaned easily with warm water and a mild soap or detergent. It should also be dried with the same type of cloth.

Under no circumstances should acrylic be washed with:

  • Glass cleaning sprays
  • Window cleaners
  • Scouring pads or compounds
  • Acetone-based cleaners (e.g. nail polish remover)
  • Petrol
  • Lacquer thinner
  • Alcohol

How to cut acrylic Perspex sheets

When working on a new sheet of acrylic, ensure that you keep the protective masking film on for as long as possible. This will help to preserve the material's aesthetics and prevent the surface from becoming scratched.

Using A Knife Or Scriber

Suitable for cutting short-length sheets with a thickness less than 3/16”, cutting acrylic with a knife or a scribe is done by scoring the sheet and then snapping off the excess material.

  • Scoring can only be done in straight lines
  • Outline the break-off line by going over it several times with your knife or scriber
  • Tightly clamp the sheet in place with the line hanging over an edge
  • Apply swift downwards pressure
  • Neaten up the edge using sandpaper. Start using 40 grit paper, then 60, 120, 220 and finally 400.

Using Power Saws

  • Use slow or medium speed settings
  • Ensure the teeth of the blade are fine, evenly spaced and have the same height
  • Special blades specifically designed for acrylic are available
  • Blades designed to cut copper or aluminium can be used instead

Using Table or Circular Saws

  • Blades must be hollow ground and have a minimum of 5 teeth per inch
  • When setting height, place the blade 3mm above the material's height to avoid edge chipping
  • Keep the blade lubricated with soap, beeswax or purpose-made lubricant
  • Ensure blade has reached full speed before cutting
  • When using a hand-held saw, ensure the sheet is firmly clamped to your work surface, with a block of wood on top of it to distribute the pressure

Using Jig Saws

  • Use purpose made acrylic-cutting jig saw blades
  • Do not cut any other material with these blades
  • Ensure the blade is moving at full speed before cutting

Using Hand Saws

Hand saws are not ideal for cutting acrylic, but whilst difficult to achieve, good results are possible.

  • To avoid flexing, clamp the acrylic sheet to the work surface
  • If the cutting area starts to flex, stop cutting

Routing, Shaping & Drilling Acrylic Perspex Sheets

Using Routers Or Shapers

  • Single fluted bits should be used for inside circle routing
  • Edge routing should be done with double fluted bits
  • Avoid vibrations – even the slightest vibration can cause damage

Using Drills

  • For the best result, use purpose-built acrylic drill bits
  • If using normal drill bits, make sure both cutting edges are slightly ground
  • The sharper the tip, the better
  • If two unbroken, shaving-like ribbons of acrylic are coming out of the drilling area, everything is alright!

Please Note:

  • Tools that are not sharp enough or are uneven may split the sheet
  • Make sure that the blades or bits you're using are in suitable working condition
  • Use water or purpose-made drilling oil to keep the plastic cool whilst cutting or drilling sheets
  • Never use blades or bits with outward-facing protrusions.

Finishing Acrylic Perspex Sheets

Once you have finished working on your acrylic sheets you will need to neaten up the edges, smooth the sides and get the sheet ready for use.

Scraping 

  • Scraping should be done before any other finishing step
  • Taking a hard, straight edge – the metal side of a set square, for example – simply scrape down the length of the cut edge

Filing

  • Use a smooth cut file to smooth edges.
  • File in a single direction
  • Set file at a diagonal angle and keep its teeth flat on the surface

Sanding

  • Use a sanding block, not lose paper
  • Use dry 120 grit sand paper to start with
  • Follow by using dry 220 grit paper
  • Finally, finish with wet 400 grit sand paper
  • Optional: For an even cleaner finish, 600 grit paper can be used
  • Use slow, circular motions and don't use too much pressure
  • Power sanders at slower speeds may be used on acrylic

Buffing

  • For best results, use power-driven buffers at a speed of 4000 feet per minute
  • Use carbonised felt or unbleached muslin wheels only. Do not use solidly stitched wheels
  • If you intend on using a buffing compound, apply tallow first
  • Silver or brass buffing solutions can be used, as can car polish that is free from silicone and cleaning solvents
  • Using very light pressure, move the plastic sheet across the wheel from side to side
  • Keep moving the sheet to prevent too much heat building up from the friction
  • Always start buffing plastic from the centre, never from the ends of the corner

Forming & Joining Acrylic Perspex Sheets

Heat Forming

  • Gloves are a must have
  • Acrylic becomes soft and malleable when heated
  • Any shape it is put into when heated will be held upon cooling
  • Never heat acrylic in an enclosed space (e.g. an oven)
  • Clamp your acrylic to a work surface
  • Use purpose-built DIY tools, ideally a strip heater
  • Strip heaters will allow you to heat up a specific area
  • Heat until the material sags, then bend away from the heating element
  • Acrylic sheets with a thickness greater than 5mm should be heated on both sides
  • To form acrylic in any way other than straight line bends, you will require custom jigs

Joining Acrylic - Capillary Cementing

  • Requires careful measurements as the two pieces must slot together precisely
  • Join the two sheets together with masking tape and clamp firmly in place
  • Use an applicator with a narrow nozzle for best results
  • Keep joint horizontal to prevent the adhesive from running out
  • If joining the two sheets at a right angle (to create an 'L' shape) apply the cement along the length of the joint from the inside
  • If you intend to join them end to end, apply the cement on both sides
  • Leave the cement to bond for 48 hours

Joining Acrylic - Viscous Cementing

  • An alternative method of joining for occasions when Capillary Cementing is impossible or impractical
  • Forms strong transparent joints
  • Can be bought or made by dissolving small flakes of clear acrylic in a solvent
  • Apply a small quantity of the cement to one edge
  • Press it against the other and tape or clamp them together until they are adhered

If you have any other questions about working with acrylic, please do not hesitate to email us on info@cutplasticsheeting.co.uk.