Sheet Plastic

patlaw

Mike
Corporate Member
I want to make some dividers for small parts bins I'm buying from Lowe's. Scribing and breaking the stuff below is a challenge. It didn't go so well the first time. Can this be cut on a table saw without shattering or sending flying shards all over the place?

Optix Clear Acrylic Sheet

What I need is some sheets of soft plastic. Ideas? It needs to be .080" thick.
 

Canuck

Wayne
Corporate Member
I cut it on the table saw with an 80 tooth plywood/melamine blade often. (When using TS fence, I add an auxiliary fence as the sheet is so thin, I have had issues with the sheet sliding under the fence and messing things up!)

Just make sure you are wearing your eye protection.

Wayne
 

blackhawk

Brad
Corporate Member
I have cut quite a bit of acrylic. As Wayne mentions, you will need a high tooth count blade. I have a Freud blade with maybe 90 teeth specifically for plastics. The only thing to keep in mind is that the acrylic likes to have a full cut through the blade with at least 1/8" or 1/4" waste for a smooth cut. In other words, if you have a piece that is 6-1/8" wide for example and you want to shave it down to 6", the acrylic will start to chip out while cutting. I cut polycarbonate also and it really hates to be shaved down like that.
 

Rick Mainhart

Rick
User
Acrylic is brittle (thus the name Plexiglass) ... hard to scratch, but easy to shatter. It gets more brittle with age. I tend to avoid it. You CAN cut acrylic with wood working tools, but it can shatter on you without warning. You can also score it and snap it (similar to cutting float glass, but without the kerosene) ... great for those straight pieces.

Polycarbonate (Lexan, Makrolon, etc) are very flexible ... easy to scratch and difficult to shatter. You can cut Polycarbonate with your existing woodworking tools, and bend it using sheet metal working tools without heating. Exposure to sunlight will cause surface oxidation ... look at car headlights for examples of this.

For drawer dividers where you don't care if they get scratched, I'd use polycarbonate.

I purchase my Polycarbonate from Triad Plastics in Winston-Salem ... but you can get it from most supply houses (Alro carries some polycarbonate, or McMaster-Carr. Search for plastics suppliers in your area.

Regarding bin storage dividers ... you might just pick up a piece of zinc plated steel sheet from the store at the same time ... cut the dividers with tin shears and fold the sharp edges over (or file them smooth) for a much thinner, stronger divider.

Hope this helps.

Rick
 

jerrye

Jerry
Corporate Member
This saw will do the job faster and cleaner than you might think. Use a low angle when cutting and things will go smoothly.
 

Rick Mainhart

Rick
User
Hi Joe,

Most of my polycarbonate cutting is done on my CNC router. To keep the chips from melting into a glob, I've found that keeping the chip thickness around 0.005" is sufficient to carry away the heat and the chips. I've also used my table saw, moving the material as fast as the saw will allow (don't bog it down). I typically use Whiteside router bits and have no issues.

Plexiglas and I just don't get along ... I don't bring it into the shop, and it doesn't explode on me. I treat it as glass, and keep my distance!

Vinyl, while a plastic, is very different from both Plexiglas and Polycarbonate and requires different feed, speed, and saw tooth/router bit cutting edge profiles similar to say pine, oak, and ironwood. You CAN cut all three with one saw blade or router bit, but you have to watch chip thickness and be careful not to burn the material as you cut.

If you are interested, feel free to visit the Onsrud web site and read up on their recommendations for router bit profiles for the various plastics. I'm no longer using Onsrud bits as I'm not working with HDPE sheets these days ... and the Onsrud bits were the absolute best for that work ... overkill for plywood and polycarbonate work.

Regards,

Rick
 

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