If you have a woodwork shop at home, chances are you own a table saw. As simple as it is, the table saw is a versatile tool with multiple possible uses at your shop. You can use it to cut a lot of materials, including plexiglass. It is an added advantage to using the table saw since only a few other tools can cut both thin and thick plexiglass as the table saw. However, it is paramount that you use the correct blade type when cutting plexiglass with a table saw since regular blades can destroy the plexiglass.
With this in mind, here are essential details when cutting plexiglass with a table saw.
What Is Plexiglass?
It may come as a shock to some, but plexiglass is not glass. Instead, plexiglass is made of acrylic. In fact, in some instances, people refer to plexiglass as acrylic glass. Due to its similarity with actual glass, you can use it in place of glass if a sturdier surface is needed; these uses include signs, bathtubs, greenhouses, windows, and furniture.
There are three types of plexiglass. To determine which plexiglass is suitable for cutting with a machine such as a table saw or done mechanically, you must understand each of these types.
Types of Plexiglass
Cast Acrylic Sheets
It is the hardest type of plexiglass. In addition, it is the most common plexiglass and is slightly more expensive than other types. Since it is usually harder than the other plexiglasses, you can cut cast acrylic sheets with a table saw. However, it would be best to use the right saw blade to avoid the glass melting while cutting into it.
Extruded Acrylic Sheets
It is the second type of acrylic sheet that is softer than cast acrylic sheets and has a lower melting temperature. With these properties, the extruded acrylic sheet should not be cut using any power tool, as it can melt easily and break quickly. Instead, the extruded acrylic sheets should only be cut using hand tools. However, this sheeting has one advantage; you can easily mold it using heat.
Polycarbonate Acrylic Sheets
This type of sheeting is almost a hybrid of acrylic and extruded acrylic sheets because it is slightly softer than cast acrylic sheets. Compared to the extruded acrylic sheets, this type has a higher melting temperature. Consequently, you can cut the polycarbonate acrylic sheet with a table saw. However, to achieve a clean-cut, you need to use the correct blade and apply the correct feed method.
7 Steps To Cut Plexiglass with Table Saw
Step 1: Safety
Use protective gear when using the table saw to cut plexiglass. Wear eye safety glasses to protect your eyes from plastic shards that the table saw produces since these can shoot at your face and harm you.
Step 2: Measure plexiglass thickness
Using a tape measure, determine the thickness of the plexiglass you want to cut. It would be best if you only cut plexiglass with a minimum thickness of a quarter of an inch with a table saw. Due to the massive friction created by the table saw blade, thinner plexiglass, like a quarter of an inch, will either crack badly or melt.
Step 3: Select correct blade
The more teeth a blade has, the more friction generated and consequently more heat. Selecting the correct blade will minimize heat generated, thus less damage. However, there is no standard number of teeth since whatever works for one person may not work for another. Use blades with fewer teeth for the varieties of plexiglass that are not as hard. It helps to avoid either melting, burning, or both. However, for harder varieties of plexiglass, blades with more teeth work best. The reason for this is that such blades prevent chipping of the plexiglass.
Step 4: Calibrate the cut you desire to make
Label the plexiglass with the length of the cut you want to produce. However, note that the width of the saw will take a slight amount of space; thus, you should also consider it in your calibrations.
Step 5: Use push block
A push block is a safety device when using a table saw, and it will assist you in securely moving the plexiglass sheet over the running blade of the table saw. This safety device produces a three-dimensional force. Downward force ensures the plexiglass sheet remains in place; forward force pushes the plexiglass sheet over the blade while sideway force ensures the sheet stays against the table saw’s fence.
Step 6: Make the cut
The procedure of cutting both plexiglass and wood is identical. However, you should follow small details to get a clean final cut due to material differences. The first detail is using the correct blade, suitable for cutting plexiglass plastic. Secondly, set the table saw’s blade at just one inch higher than the plexiglass you are cutting. Finally, avoid removing the plexiglass’ protective cover as it protects the sheet from getting scratched. To make the cut, place your plexiglass on the saw. The side of the protective layer should face down. Set the plexiglass tightly against the fence. Start the table saw and push the plexiglass slowly over the blade, using the push block for support.
Here’s a tip: While cutting, if you notice that the edges are chipping off the plexiglass, replace the table saw blade with another one with more teeth. If the sheet begins to melt, replace the table saw blade with another one with fewer teeth.
Step 7: Smoothen the edges
The edges of the plexiglass are most likely rough after cutting, and you need to smoothen the edges using sandpaper. To make sanding easy, use a sanding block. You have now finished cutting plexiglass with a table saw and smoothened the rough edges. You can now install your plexiglass!
Tips to Minimize Breaking Plexiglass When Cutting With a Table Saw
Plexiglass is a tough material; however, it can break. To minimize irreparable damage to the plexiglass, here are some tips:
- Use the correct blade: The blade should be sharp and made to cut plastic.
- Cool the blade: Heat melts and destroys plexiglass. Therefore, keep the blade cool by pausing cutting when the blade becomes overheated.
- Do not remove the plastic film: Plexiglass comes with a protective layer. This layer, to some extent, acts as a lubricant when you are cutting the plexiglass. Leaving it on the plexiglass as you cut it will reduce the breakage of the material.
Frequently Asked Questions
Why is my table saw breaking plexiglass?
The blade that you are using may be blunt. Check and sharpen it if it is not sharp. Secondly, you may be moving the plexiglass at high speed over the blade. Move the plexiglass slowly. Thirdly, your plexiglass may be thin, below a quarter of an inch. If your plexiglass is thin, it is highly likely to break when you use a table saw. Fourth, you may be holding the plexiglass loosely; therefore, tightening your grip will prevent it from breaking. Lastly, you may be using the wrong type of blade.
How do I identify the correct blade to cut plexiglass?
Blades with between 50 to 80 blades give the best results when cutting plexiglass. More teeth mean more friction, thus more heat which tends to melt the plexiglass. However, metal blades that have carbide tips can also cut plexiglass properly; you should avoid using these blades. Instead, use special blades made to be used on plexiglass.
Do I need a table saw to cut plexiglass?
No. There are several other methods to cut plexiglass, and it also depends on the thickness of the sheet. You can use a plexiglass knife for thin sheets that measure an eighth of an inch. A jigsaw can also cut through plexiglass and give you a clean cut without damaging the sheet. Use the jigsaw on a sheet of any thickness. You can also use the circular saw. The circular saw uses a blade similar to the one used in the table saw. Furthermore, the end cut will be almost similar to the one made by the table saw.
How can I make a round cut on plexiglass?
The best tool is the jigsaw when you want to achieve a round cut. The jigsaw is easy to use since the plexiglass is clamped, and you direct the jigsaw along with the points that you want to cut.
You can cut plexiglass, which is plastic, with a table saw. However, use the correct blade and take preventive safety measures. There are three types of plexiglass: cast, extruded, and polycarbonate. The extruded acrylic sheet, which is the softest, should not be cut with a table saw since it has a low melting temperature.
Whatever the size or type of plexiglass you want to cut with a table saw, always ensure that you have the right blade. Check if there is plenty of support on the plexiglass while cutting. Moreover, a suitable saw setup will give you great results every time you cut the plexiglass. Using these tips, you are sure to safely cut your plexiglass with a table saw and explore more projects around your home.