Acrylic plastic is a light weight material weighing far less than glass; it is not affected by continuous exposure to sun light or the chemical contact with sea spray/water hence the extensive use of this material in marine vessels. It is a flexible material and a good insulator, resistant to most chemicals.
Acrylic and Perspex can be used in a number of ways from bath and basin splashbacks to, in a thicker form, shelves. Thicknesses of Acrylic and Perspex vary from 1.5mm to over 25mm.
Cutting Acrylic is a simple process but whichever method you use you need a saw with fine teeth. It is possible to cut Acrylic with a Hobby Knife but several cuts need to be made on top of each other. The Acrylic can then be bent over a straight edge much the same as cutting ceramic tiles. On the open market there are plenty of special blades available and purposely designed for cutting Acrylic Plastic. If you find your self not able to purchase one of these blades then the use of fine toothed blades will be sufficient. A saw of about 10 teeth per inch is ideal.
When using a jigsaw to cut Acrylic make sure the cutting speed is as high as you can achieve with your saw. If you are producing straight line cuts the use of a straight edge clamped into position will ease the cutting process and give you a correct cut. The Jig Saw is the most suitable tool to also give you curved cuts in Acrylic. Hand saws can be used but because of the speed of the cutting action, a Jig Saw will give a smoother more constant finish.
Never force your cut, this will cause the acrylic to over heat and possibly melt or disfigure the cut edge. The Acrylic will always come with a protective film or sheeting attached, leave this protective layer on the acrylic as long as you can, it will protect the finished surface of your acrylic.
Cut edges can be sanded down with some wet and dry paper or very fine sand paper.
It is advised when drilling Acrylic to use purpose made drill bits. These are widely available at most DIY stockists. Metal work drill bits can be used to drill Acrylic but require a little modification by grinding. Metal bits are normally 120° angled, but for this purpose, they need to be reground to around 60° so that the bit grinds the Acrylic rather than grabs and chips it as a normal metal bit would do.
Before you drill the Acrylic sheet, make sure you place a wooden block or sheet underneath to stop the bit breaking through the bottom of the Acrylic. This will stop any splitting or cracking. Always use a small pilot hole before attempting to drill the main hole.
If your acrylic is thicker than ¼” then it is advisable to use a lubricant, water will be sufficient. If you are drilling your hole to take a screw or bolt it would be advisable to counter sink the hole just to make sure your fixing sits well to the Acrylic.
Gluing Acrylic, Perspex and other plastics(This section thanks to The Technology Student)
Plastics can be joined using a range of modern glues:
Perhaps the best glue is Tensol Cement which joins plastics such as perspex together permanently. The glue is applied to the surfaces to be glued and they are pressed together. They should be clamped for 24 hours and this gives a permanent joint.
Contact adhesive can be used to join plastics. The adhesive is applied to both surfaces and when the surfaces appear to be dry they are pushed together. If the two pieces of material are left for a number of hours, they are virtually impossible to take apart.
Many adhesives are plastics themselves. A good example is ‘Araldite’ which is an epoxy resin that hardens when a second chemical is added (called a catalyst). It can bond most materials including some plastics. The two tubes can be seen in the diagram. An equal amount of each tube are mixed together and then applied to the material to be glued.
Super glue (cyanoacrylate)is another adhesive that joins plastics together, very quickly. Great care must be taken when using this type of glue as it will just as easily glue fingers together. For this reason super glue is not used in schools.
A glue gun can be used to join a variety of plastics. This glue usually gives a semi-permanent joint as surfaces glued together can sometimes come apart. The glue is a type of plastic that melts when hot and solidifies when it cools. Be careful to select that right type of glue stick - this depends on the material to be glued. General purpose glue sticks are usually used in schools.
Ventilation is vital when using all these glues. Ideally an extractor should be used to extract all the dangerous fumes.
As always at DIY Doctor we recommend the use of safety and protective gloves, dust masks and eye protection.