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How to Cut Plexiglass with a Jigsaw- Important Safety Tips

How to Cut Plexiglass with a Jigsaw- Important Safety Tips
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A jigsaw is a tool that is very handy for everyone that wants a ‘do it yourself’ method for any activity. Be it in a garage or the workshop. It is ideal for cutting various materials. It can perfectly cut the plexiglass amongst other materials. But do you know how to cut plexiglass with a jigsaw?

What is Plexiglass?

Plexiglass is the trade name commonly used to refer to acrylic. An acrylic, similar to polycarbonate, is a thermoplastic homopolymer that is transparent. The similarity between it and polycarbonate is that they are both resistant to impact and are a good alternative to using glass.

The first production was in 1928 but was first showcased in the market in 1933 (five years after). The company that first sold it in the market was Haas and Rohm Company. It’s regarded as the clearest plastic in the market.

It is also called acrylic glass. The various brand names it comes in are Acrylite, Lucie, Perspex, and Plexiglas. But the materials are all the same.

It was quickly adopted by the military during WWII. It is was used in making the windscreen of warplanes, periscopes for submarines, canopies, and turrets. It was noticed that acrylic was better for airmen than glasses.

The eyes of airmen who got injured by the shards from acrylic that were broken fared better compared to those from broken glasses.

As a result of this, acrylic (plexiglass) has become more popular over time. They are now being used in making more products like acrylic nails, lenses, furniture, paints, medical devices, security barriers, and LCD screens.

Its clarity has also made it a good material for making see-through tanks, glasses, and enclosures for exhibits. But they scratch much easily than glasses. As a result of this, what some manufacturers do is to cover its surface with scratch-resistant materials.

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What Are the Best Ways of Cutting Plexiglass?

The best way of cutting plexiglass is through the use of laser. This will give you a precise and neat cut. But this is mostly used by professionals and experts. Most people who work from home workshop or garage will most likely not have any laser.

So, in the absence of laser, the next best option is the jigsaw. This is particularly good if you are going to make curved cuts. There are other types of saw that you can use depending on the type of cut you wish to make.

But whatever type of saw you wish to use, ensure you maintain some precautionary measures. This is to protect yourself from getting injured and the plexiglass from getting damaged.

video showing how to use a jigsaw to cut plexiglass

What Are The Types of Saws Used for Various Cuts on Plexiglass?

The types of saws used for various types of cuts on plexiglass are:

1. Jigsaw: is best for curving cuts.

2. The band saw will serve well if, the plexiglass is brittle.

3. If you want a cut that is long and straight, then the table saw is a better option.

4. Alternatively, if you do not have the above-mentioned saws but do have a hack saw; use it.

Plexiglass, as we stated earlier, is quite durable. But that notwithstanding, if there is too much stress on it, it could break. But the good thing about the plexiglass is the fact that it does not shatter like glass. Rather, it breaks into large chunks without having any sharp edge.

Having said that, it is important to handle plexiglass carefully, especially when dealing with a power tool.

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Why Should You Make Use of a Jigsaw In Cutting Plexiglass?

You should use a jigsaw to cut plexiglass because it is a good tool for precise cutting and making curves or angles on plexiglass. The jigsaw does heat up while cutting. But its heat does not get anywhere close to the melting temperature of the plexiglass. Rather, the heat it generates helps it to cut the plexiglass faster. Another quality that makes the jigsaw a perfect tool for this job is its ability to make both curved and straight-line cuts.

The melting point of plexiglass is within the range of 320 to 340 degrees. That means that this plastic mixture can survive a lot of heated materials. But things like welding tools and some other high heating tools can get it melted.

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When Do You Use Jigsaw to Cut Plexiglass?

Use a jigsaw to cut plexiglass when you need to make angled cuts together with curved lines. Jigsaws can also cut straight lines just like other saws. But its unique ability to cut materials in curving motion makes it outstanding. Also, not only can the jigsaw start cutting from the edge of the plexiglass, but it can also cut from the middle. To achieve this, all you have to do is to bore a hole where you intend to start. When you have done that, just place the blade into the hole and cut.

What makes a jigsaw such a versatile tool is its ability to make straight cuts, cut in circular motions, and at different angles. This makes it an appealing tool to use in cutting plexiglass and many other materials.

Handling these types of cuts on plexiglass should not be a problem for a good jigsaw. And the perfect jigsaw model is the BDEJS600C by Black+Decker.

how to cut plexiglass with a jigsaw
Photo credit: MakeMagazinDE, wikimedia

How Do I Use Jigsaw To Cut Plexiglass?

To use Jigsaw to cut plexiglass, take the following steps:

Step 1: Place the Plexiglas sheet on an even workbench or table.

Step 2: Use a yardstick or ruler to roughly measure the length of Plexiglas you wish to cut. Mark your cut line with a grease pen.

Step 3: Cover the cut line by sticking a line of wide painter’s tape directly over it.

Step 4: Measure again and mark another cut line atop the painter’s tape.

Step 5: Snap the jigsaw’s plastic base and insert it into place.

Step 6: Put on your safety goggles, leather gloves, earplugs, and mask.

Step 7: Place the blade of the jigsaw at the edge of the cutting line.

Step 8: Turn on the jigsaw and slowly cut the first few centimeters of the Plexiglas. After the first few centimeters, the blade will begin to heat up and will glide more easily along the sheet. At that point, you can cut a little faster. When you near the end of the cut, grab the overhanging section of Plexiglas before it falls. Do not put your hand near the blade.

Safety First

How do I protect myself while using the jigsaw to cut plexiglass?

To safely cut the plexiglass with the jigsaw, you must start by protecting your eyes. The reason is that it is very common for the blade of the jigsaw to break. And when that happens, your eyes could be on the receiving end.

The next thing to do is to find a good surface that is good enough to contain the plexiglass while you are cutting it. It is not good for the plexiglass to fall off while you are cutting it. Your work can be ruined. Apart from that, it could cause an industrial injury.

Before the Cutting Starts

What are things to observe before cutting the plexiglass with a jigsaw?

Before you cut the plexiglass, do the following:

1. Ensure you protect it from splintering or chipping away. This is not difficult.

2. Get a masking tape or painter’s tape. Cover the area you want to cut with the tape. Draw your cutting line on top of the tape. With that, your cut will be guided, and the plexiglass will not splinter or chip away. 

3. Where the plexiglass comes with plastic protection from the manufacturers you don’t have to use masking tape or painter’s tape. The plastic will act as the protection and guide. When the cutting of the plexiglass is done, remove the plastic covering.

4. The final preparation you should make before the cutting is to clamp the plexiglass. But this depends on the shape of the cut you want to make. Some cuts do not allow clamping.

But if it can be clamped, do it. If the plexiglass is not clamped, you may find it difficult to keep it in place while cutting.

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Choosing the Proper Jigsaw Blade

What is the proper jigsaw blade for cutting plexiglass?

You are to pick a blade that is shallow and has fine teeth. If it isn’t fine enough, the plexiglass will be chewed up. This will give you a jagged cut. The best size of blade to use on a jigsaw when cutting plexiglass is 10 TPI. The blade must be a bi-metal blade. Do not use a metal blade that its teeth are too fine. It can clog, heat up, and melt the plexiglass.

The first step towards making a clean cut on the plexiglass is by picking out the appropriate blade. Note: One of the ways to classify a blade is by the number of teeth it has per inch. That is Teeth p/inch or TPI.

Jigsaw, just like any other saw, is primarily associated with woodwork. For this reason, you must carefully select the blade you will use to cut the plexiglass. Selecting the appropriate blade is very important to ensure you get a good cut.

The First Approach with the Saw

When you are making your cut with the jigsaw, avoid pressing too hard on the plexiglass. This could make your cut to be haphazard, causing the plexiglass to melt, bur, and most times break.

When you are about to cut the plexiglass using the jigsaw, make sure the blade is at a high speed. The high speed will help it to glide into the plexiglass easily and make a clean cut. If the blade is not at a high speed, it will not make good contact. This will make the plexiglass to have a pressure breakage at its edge or at the site of the first cut.

Hence, if the jigsaw you want to use has the “soft start” mechanism, then it is going to be difficult cutting through. The slow start mechanism means that the blade can only hit a high speed when it meets resistance.

This makes it hard when you want to make a high precision cut. If this is not the case with your jigsaw, you are good to go.

Start with a Rough Work

Since this is your first time cutting such a material, it will be a good idea for you to do some rough work. Get a small piece of plexiglass and practice on it. This will help you understand how free or tight the cut will be like.

It will go a long way in helping you understand both the material you are working on and the tool you are using.

How Do You Cut Plexiglass With Momentum?

When you are about to cut the plexiglass, you must:

1. Have your jigsaw fired up.

2. Avoid starting the jigsaw when the blade is in close contact with the material. This will cause the plexiglass to splinter at the edge. 

Also, while cutting your plexiglass with some momentum, jigsaws have the problem of jamming up during the cutting process. So, with this type of approach, the momentum will help it to slide into the plexiglass without jamming up. But the momentum should not be too much to ensure you make a clean cut. As soon as you cut into the plexiglass, it can be increased.

But sometimes, if you do not have the experience, starting with the momentum could ruin your work. That is why we advise that you get some level of practice. This will help you know what to expect before you start the main cut.

How Do You Prevent The Melting of The Plexiglass?

To prevent your plexiglass from melting do the following:

1. The first thing is that you need to cut steadily. You must maintain an average speed. You can’t go too fast nor too slow. If you go too slow, the blade of the jigsaw will start to build up heat on the line of the plexiglass that it is cutting.

2. Secondly, the heat that has been transferred to the plexiglass can make it stick together after your cut. And could slowly make the blade to jam up and break also. On the other hand, if you go too fast, the plexiglass might break as a result of the speed. The trick is to move moderately, don’t move too fast nor too slow.

3. Thirdly, do not pause in the middle of the cutting process. In other words, do not stop until you get to the end. This is because you will have the same resultant effect as you will have if you go slowly.

4. Also, once the blade stays at a point for long, it will make the plexiglass around the blade get heated. This could ruin the cut you are making. It is a good idea to use a cordless jigsaw. This way, you are sure of not stopping halfway into your cut because of the cord.

If you are not careful during cutting, plexiglass can melt. This is because it is plastic and therefore is susceptible to melting. That is why you must be careful and make your cut in the right way.

Although the blade cannot get too hot to make the plexiglass melt on a wider scale, it can get the smaller particles around it melted. This might make the cut to become uneven.

How Can You Avoid the Breakage of A Plexiglass?

You can avoid the breakage of plexiglass, by doing the following:

1. Using cooling lubricant

2. Applying water as an alternative to lubricants

Although the plexiglass is durable, it is also brittle and can break during the cut. This can happen to anybody no matter how experienced you might be. But there are a few simple ways you can greatly reduce the possibility of breakage.

How Does The Use of Cooling Lubricant Affect Cutting Plexiglass?

The use of cooling lubricants on the plexiglass is beneficial in two ways:

2. First, the lubricant will cool the temperature of the plexiglass.

3. Secondly, it will also lubricate it and make the cutting go smoothly. 

By cooling the plexiglass, you are reducing the possibility of it heating up, breaking, or sticking back together.

Applying Water

Water is an alternative to using the cooling lubricant. Although it will not make the cutting to move easily the way a lubricant will. But it will help to cool the blade, thereby reducing the heat and preventing the warping or melting of the glass.

Use Masking Tape

At the beginning of this article, we mentioned the importance of using masking tape or painter’s tape. It will help protect the glass from chipping and give a smoother cut.

Time to Cut

Now you have chosen the right blade to use, set up a comfortable working area, and gotten your lubricant and/or masking tape ready. All that is left now is for you to proceed with the cutting.

Remember to follow the tips given. Cut with care, be steady and move with momentum, and leave the rest to the jigsaw.

While cutting, if you notice unusual friction from the jigsaw blade, stop the machine (not pause while the engine is running). Bring it out and give it some time to cool before continuing. Remember to power it up before re-entering.

Cleaning the Edges of the Plexiglass

When your cut is done, you might have a few jagged areas. That is normal, especially around the corners and bends. You can make use of sandpaper that the grit is fine to smoothen it. This will help to make it clean and smooth.

Conclusion

Cutting plexiglass is not a difficult task to accomplish. The secret is to pick the right blade for the job and follow the tips that have been discussed in this article. As we mentioned, the best tool to use is a laser. That will give you a clean and easy cut.

But in the absence of that, you should use the jigsaw or any of the other mentioned saws. That, of course, depends on the type of cut you wish to make.

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