How to bend Perspex

Written by clare edwards
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How to bend Perspex
Boiling water can soften thinner sheets of Perspex. (Stockbyte/Stockbyte/Getty Images)

Perspex is the brand name of an acrylic (methyl methacrylate) plastic. The most familiar type comes in colourless, glass-like sheets, but Perspex is available as blocks and other forms in a variety of colors and finishes. To be bent or curved, you must heat the Perspex. In manufacturing contexts, this is typically done using a specialised oven. But you can bend sheets of Perspex a quarter of an inch thick or less using heat tape, also known as a strip heater. This method works well for sharp angles; for gentle curves, heat the Perspex in boiling water.

Skill level:
Moderate

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Things you need

  • Sink
  • Angle form or bending jig
  • Fabric work gloves
  • Set square
  • Heat tape (strip heater)
  • Cylinder form
  • Large pan
  • Stove
  • Tongs
  • Cloth

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Instructions

    Using Heat Tape or Strip Heater

  1. 1

    Wash the Perspex sheet in warm water to remove any protective coating. Prepare a form that's the same angle as the bend you want to make; this should be something you can fix in place and should be heat-resistant. The straight edge of a wooden or metal worktop will do, provided you want a right-angled bend. Alternatively, prepare a bending jig if you have one.

  2. 2

    Position the heat tape where you want the bend, making sure it is straight. Connect the heat tape to an electricity supply. Allow it to heat up.

  3. 3

    Put on fabric work gloves so you can handle the hot plastic without injury. When the Perspex is warm and soft, switch off and remove the heat tape and place it somewhere safe to cool.

  4. 4

    Bend the Perspex into the required shape using the form. Let it cool and harden. Alternatively, use the bending jig to shape the Perspex and to hold it in the right shape until it has cooled.

    Using Boiling Water

  1. 1

    Prepare a cylindrical form or a bending jig. Fill a large pan with water and put it on the stove to boil.

  2. 2

    Wash the Perspex sheet in warm water to remove any protective coating. Turn off the stove when the water is boiling. Carefully slide the Perspex into the boiling water using tongs. Let it stand in the water for around 10 minutes. Do not turn the stove back on, as you could melt the Perspex in the pan. The residual heat will be sufficient.

  3. 3

    Put on fabric work gloves and use the tongs to remove the Perspex sheet from the hot water. Bend it around the cylindrical form or use the bending jig, if you have one. Allow the Perspex to cool and harden.

Tips and warnings

  • You can make an effective cement for Perspex by melting Perspex shavings in acetone.
  • Hot Perspex can burn you badly. Handle it with care, using gloves.
  • It's possible to bend Perspex with the help of a heat gun or similar tool; however, Perspex burns easily and can be dangerous if it melts too fast or catches fire.

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