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How to Cut Acrylic or Plexiglass Sheets

Acrylic sheets are easy to cut if you know what tools to use! I'll show you how to cut acrylic or Plexiglass three different ways for the best results!

How to Cut Plexiglass with image of plexiglass rectangle on gray backgroundAcrylic sheets (also known as Plexiglass) are a great alternative to glass, especially when safety is a concern. Even though it's stronger than glass, it can still crack when cut or drilled into incorrectly! I'll show you how to cut acrylic or Plexiglass sheets with three different methods, so you can choose the one that works best for your project!

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Uses for Acrylic Sheets

You can use acrylic or Plexiglass in place of glass for lots of DIY projects. Here are some examples . . .

I recently used a clear acrylic sheet to make this Lego bin for my son. The see-through sides make it easy for him to spot that elusive piece at the bottom. Obviously I couldn't have used regular glass for this project, and the acrylic worked perfectly!

DIY Lego bin with baseplates and plexiglass sides

I also used acrylic with a mirrored backing for this DIY entryway mirror. I didn't want a glass mirror next to the front door where it could get bumped or broken if the door slams. No seven years of bad luck in this house!

DIY entryway mirror with key hooks and change jar

Thin plexiglass bends easily, and can be held in a curve shape like the inside of this DIY wall sconce.

frosted acrylic sheet bent around the inside of a DIY wall sconce

Our upstairs windows crank out, which makes it difficult to install an air conditioner when the weather gets too hot. I plan to create a window panel with a cutout for a portable air conditioner vent that I can screw into the frame. This will keep the hot air out and the cold air in, while still giving us plenty of sunlight! Stay tuned for a tutorial this summer!

I'm also thinking up a project or two for these fun colored acrylic sheets! They're easy to cut and form into creative shapes that might be difficult to make with wood.

colored acrylic sheets

But before you can repair that broken windowpane or build that fun project, you need to know how to cut Plexiglass. Here's what you'll need!

Materials Needed to Cut Acrylic or Plexiglass Sheets

Don't forget your safety gear! Here are my recommendations for safety glasses and ear protection. No excuses!

How to Cut Acrylic by Hand

Cutting acrylic by hand is the easiest way to go for a beginner who isn't familiar with power tools. All you need is a thin acrylic sheet, a straight edge that is longer than your cut, clamps and a scoring knife.

Clamp Down the Straight Edge on the Cut Line

Plexiglass can scratch easily, which is why it's sold with a protective film on the surface. Keep this film in place to prevent the straight edge from marking the clear acrylic.

Lay your acrylic sheet on a flat work surface, and mark the line to be cut. Then arrange the straight edge so it's just slightly on the line and clamp it to the work surface.

Check to see where the blade of your scoring tool will land when you run it against the side of the straight edge. The edge of the blade should hit the line exactly. If not, adjust the straight edge until it does. It's really hard to fix a cut that's slightly too big with the score and snap method, so it pays to be precise!

how to cut acrylic or plexiglass by hand by scoring

Score the Cut Line

Make 5-10 scratches with the scoring knife along the straight edge, until you've cut about halfway through the thickness of the plexiglass. Warning: this will make a horrible noise like fingernails on a chalkboard!

Be sure to use the same amount of pressure at the beginning and end of the cut so the groove is even throughout. Otherwise, you could get an uneven break and ruin the acrylic!

Snap the Acrylic at the Cut Line

Take the acrylic out of the clamps. Rotate the piece so that the cut line is on the edge of the work surface.

Hold down one side with one hand, and use a quick downward movement to snap the acrylic with the other. It should break cleanly along the cut line.

snapping an acrylic sheet that has been scored

Sand the Cut Line

The cut line may be sharp and uneven after snapping the acrylic sheet. Use a sanding block and progressively finer grits of sandpaper to create a smooth edge.

sanding the cut edge of an acrylic sheet

How to Cut Acrylic with a Jigsaw

Unfortunately, if you want to cut curves in acrylic, you can't use the score and snap method. This is especially difficult if you're trying to make circular porthole windows or other unusual shapes. In these cases, you'll have to use a jigsaw with a special acrylic blade.

Ryobi jigsaw and plexiglass blades

The key to cutting acrylic with a jigsaw is to keep the speed low. If you cut too fast, the acrylic will melt from the heat the friction creates, and your project will be a mess! Apply a strip of painter's tape to the cut line to prevent cracking.

For the best results, you'll want to support both sides of the cut line to reduce vibrations. Two scraps of 2x4 lumber work great for this. Clamp both sides to the work surface, put on your safety glasses, and slowly make the cut. Then sand down the cut edge to remove any sharp or uneven areas.

How to Cut Acrylic with a Circular Saw

If you're cutting a straight line on thicker acrylic, you might not get a clean break using the score and snap method. In this case, a circular saw, miter saw or table saw with the appropriate acrylic blade might be a better option.

Cutting acrylic on the table saw or miter saw is the same as cutting wood, so long as you use the correct blade. Just switch out the blade as directed in your saw's owner's manual before making the cut. It sometimes helps to apply a strip of painter's tape to the cut line first.

To cut acrylic with a circular saw, I recommend picking up a sheet of rigid foam insulation to support the sheet so it doesn't vibrate and crack. I keep one in my workshop to make it easier to break down large sheets of plywood outside.

Place the acrylic sheet on top of the rigid foam insulation, and mark the line to be cut. Install a 7 1/4" plastic cutting saw blade in the circular saw. I recommend using a circular saw jig, or a circular saw guide to keep your cuts straight and to prevent the blade from wandering.

cutting acrylic with a circular saw connected to a Kreg circular saw guide

Drilling Holes in Acrylic

Acrylic may be stronger than regular glass, but it's still brittle! Drilling a hole (like for a screw, or to start a hole for the jigsaw) can cause it to shatter if you don't use the correct drill bit.

cracked plexiglass

Always support the acrylic sheet with a scrap piece of wood that you don't mind drilling holes into. Insert an acrylic point drill bit into the chuck of the drill and set it to a medium speed.

Clamp or hold down the acrylic while you drill the hole. If possible, set the hole back at least 1/2" from the edge to prevent it from splitting like the one above!

drilling holes in acrylic

I hope this post was helpful! Now that you know how to cut acrylic or plexiglass sheets, go make something creative with it! If you do, tag me on Facebook or Instagram so I can check it out and share it!

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How to Cut Plexiglass with image of plexiglass rectangle on gray background