Acrylics can be purchased in:
sheets, as shown in Figure 1;
Figure 1 - Acrylic sheet
rods of varying diameters, thicknesses, and lengths. Acrylics are very popular in making crafts.
In finished products acrylics are used for the construction of bathtubs and stall showers.
For acrylic sheets that are thinner than an 1/8 inch you can use a utility knife and score the sheet numerous times in the same spot, then bend it over a flat surface with a straight edge and snap the piece on the line, as shown in Figure 2.
Figure 2 - Score and bend acrylic sheet
Acrylic sheets that are thicker than an 1/8 inch can be cut with a saber saw, jig saw or circular saw. There are saw blades for saber saws, jig saws and circular saws that are specifically made for cutting acrylics. The saw blades to cut acrylic are fine tooth. For circular saws 80 teeth are recommended, as shown in Figure 3.
Figure 3 - Acrylic circular saw blade
For saber saws and jig saws a blade with a minimum of 10 teeth per inch is recommended, as shown in Figure 4.
Figure 4 - Acrylic saber saw blade
Selection of saw blades for cutting acrylics.
Saber saw, jig saw and circular saw blades, designed for cutting acrylic material are available at most big box home improvement centers.
You do not have to use a blade specifically designed for acrylics. Any fine tooth blade should work well.
When using a saber saw or jig saw to cut acrylics you should set the speed to the highest level possible. Saber and jig saws work well if you are cutting curved sections out of acrylic sheets.
When cutting with a circular saw, jig saw or saber saw do not apply a lot of forward force against the acrylic material. Allow the saw blade to cut the material. If you apply to much forward force you will end up overheating and possibly melting rather than cutting the acrylic material.
It is always best to clamp the acrylic material to a bench or table while cutting. The use of a straight edge is highly recommended.
The cut edges of the acrylic material can be sanded using wet and dry sandpaper or as an alternative very fine sandpaper.
Most acrylic sheets are sold with a protective plastic film on the sheet to protect it from scratches. Leave the protective sheet in place as long as possible, including when you cut and or drill the acrylic material.
In order to drill a hole in a piece of acrylic material you should use a drill bit that is designed for the application, as shown in Figure 5. Unlike metal drill bits that generally have a 120 degree angle on the tip, drill bits for drilling acrylic material have a 60 degree tip angle which helps to prevent cracking and chipping.
Figure 5 - Acrylic drill bits
Selection of acrylic drill bits
Always place the piece of acrylic material on a scrap piece of lumber and drill through the acrylic into the lumber. If you attempt to drill acrylic material with nothing underneath the piece you will most likely crack or chip the material as the drill penetrates through the acrylic material.
For holes greater than 1/8 inch in diameter it is recommended that you drill a pilot hole in the acrylic material. You can drill a countersink hole in acrylic materials that are thicker than an 1/8 inch.
Water can be used as a lubricant to keep the drill bit cool while drilling through the acrylic material.
Drill bits designed for drilling acrylics are available at most of the big box home improvement centers and craft supply retailers.