How to Cut Acrylic Sheets at Home Without Special Tools

How to Cut Acrylic Sheets at Home Without Special Tools by Valentin | Last Updated: May 24, 2021
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Acrylic glass is a very interesting and versatile material to use for a lot of different crafting projects. It can be cut, sanded, polished, and bend which makes it very versatile. But it can sometimes be hard to cut properly without special tools which is why I decided to write this article to help you cut your own acrylic glass at home without the need to purchase any expensive special tools.

As a whole, there are few simple ways to cut acrylic glass at home. The easiest one is by using a simple box cutter to carve a groove in the acrylic sheet. Then orientate the acrylic sheet along a table edge so that the edge and the groove line up. Finally, gently break the acrylic glass along the groove.

While using a box knife to cut acrylic glass is the easiest way to cut acrylic at home it is not the only way. I will explain several methods to cut acrylic glass in this article in more detail. Including how to cut it with a saw and how to cut it with a knife.

Also, when you continue reading I will sometimes say acrylic glass and sometimes I will call it Plexiglass so don´t be confused. Acrylic glass and Plexiglass are just two different names for the same thing. It´s like saying Budweiser instead of Beer.

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Cutting Acrylic Glass With a Knife

This is probably the best-known method for cutting acrylic glass. It is also the easiest way that needs no special tools. All you need is a Knife for example a box cutter or a utility knife, and something to guide the blade for example a yardstick or a simple piece of wood.

As a general rule, you can cut acrylic with a knife if that knife is sharp and thin. Box cutters, utility knives, or glass cutters are ideal choices for cutting acrylic sheets. But most hunting knives or pocket knives are less ideal for cutting acrylic.

There are some things to consider when using this method to cut acrylic sheets.

For one, you can only make straight cuts using this method. So if you wish to cut more organic shapes or round corners then you need to use another method.

And if you do this method wrong then you might just break your acrylic glass instead of cutting it. So follow the steps carefully.

1. Draw the Line That You Want to Cut

As I mentioned above, you can only do straight cuts with this method.

So use a yardstick or a piece of wood and a marker to draw a straight line where you want to cut your acrylic sheet.

Don´t remove the protective sheet from the surface of the acrylic sheet. Acrylic sheets scratch quite easily so you defiantly want to keep the protective sheet on the acrylic while you are working on it.

Flip the acrylic sheet and draw the exact same line on the other side of the sheet. Try to be as accurate as possible here.

2. Cut a Groove in the Acrylic Sheet

Hold the piece of wood or the yardstick next to the line you drew and use the knife to score the acrylic sheet along the knife.

Don´t use too much strength here. It is very easy to slip off and hurt yourself with the knife. Trust me, I cut myself in my thumb while cutting an acrylic sheet and I had to go to the hospital to get stitches.

So use a moderate amount of strength and score the acrylic sheet multiple times. I usually go overboard here and score the acrylic sheet 15 times or more. You don´t have to do as many passes but I recommend scoring the sheet at least 10 times.

Then flip the sheet around and repeat the process along the line on the other side of the sheet until you have a nice groove on both sides of the acrylic sheet.

3. Break the Acrylic Sheet

I know, this step sounds a bit scary and that is also the reason why so many people avoid using this method. A lot of crafters think this method is not reliable or accurate because of this last step where you break the acrylic sheet along the scored surface.

That isn´t really true though. If your groove is deep enough then the plexiglass should break exactly along the groove without any issues and with very little force required.

So, put your acrylic sheet on a table with straight edges and align the groove, that you made with the knife in the previous step, with the edge of the table.

Then either use some clamps or some weights to hold the side that is on the table down on the surface of the table. Then gently push the side of the acrylic sheet that is hanging over the table down. Put more and more pressure on the sheet until it finally snaps clean off.

4.Clean the Edges

Cutting acrylic sheets this way will most likely damage the edges a little bit. It´s not the cleanest way to cut acrylic sheets after all.

Luckily it´s quite easy to clean the edges of acrylic sheet.

Simply sand them with some fine-grit sandpaper. Use 100 grit sandpaper to start things off. Run it along the edge but be careful not to touch the top or bottom of the sheet because acrylic scratches very easily.

Once you are done, move on to 140 grit and repeat the process until the edges are even and smooth. You can even go as far as using 400 or 600 grit sandpaper if you want your edges to be very smooth but for most projects, this is probably a little bit overkill.

And that´s how to cut acrylic sheets with a knife.

How to Cut Plexiglass Without Breaking it

Naturally, most people want to avoid breaking their plexiglass and you can´t really cut thicker acrylic sheets using the knife method anyways. So how can we cut plexiglass without breaking it?

As a whole, to cut plexiglass without breaking it a saw is needed. It is not recommended to hand saw plexiglass as it will be a lot of work and the results won´t be that great. Instead, it is recommended to use a jigsaw that is equipped with a blade that has a high tooth count for optimal results.

So if you don´t want to or if you can´t use a knife to cut your acrylic sheet then the next best thing is using a jigsaw.

It is important to equip the jigsaw with a knife that has a very high tooth count. This will ensure that the cut is as smooth as possible and it will reduce the chances of the acrylic sheet breaking along the cut line.

The big advantage a jigsaw has over using a knife is that you can cut curves!

1. Draw the Line That You Want to Cut

As with the previous method, it is important that you draw the line that you want to cut first.

So use a marker to draw the line. This time, however, you only have to draw the line on one side of the acrylic sheet and the line can be curved if you want to.

2. Cut Along the Line

Now simply cut along the line that you just drew with the jigsaw. Make sure that you don´t use too much power on the jigsaw or the plastic will melt. Try to set the jigsaw to a medium speed and don´t force the saw through the plastic.

Just apply downward pressure and a little bit of forward pressure to guide the saw through the plastic along the drawn line. That’s all you need to do.

If the saw gets stuck while cut a curve then don´t try to force the saw to cut the curve. This will just damage the acrylic sheet or it will leave unsightly marks. Instead, simply remove the saw and cut it from the other edge.

3. Clean the Edges

This step is exactly the same as before. Simply use some fine-grit sandpaper to clean up the edges. Just be careful not to damage the surface of the plexiglass.

Hi, I am a passionate maker and professional prop maker for the entertainment industry. I use my woodworking, programming, electronics, and illustration know-how to create these interactive props. And I share my knowledge and my experience on this blog with you so that you can become a maker yourself.