Clear acrylic sheets are a light, durable material used in windows and other home construction and improvement projects. They're also popular with artists and sculptors who use them to make anything from sculptures to bird houses. Clear acrylic sheets have special needs when it comes to cutting. If you don't approach cutting them correctly, you risk cracking, chipping or even melting them.
Leave the clear plastic coating on your acrylic sheets. This will protect them from scratching as you handle the sheets and as you make your cuts. In many cases, the plastic coating can be left on until the project is completed, giving you a clean, polished end product.
Use a straight edge or template and a marker to draw lines where you need to make your cuts. You can draw them right on the plastic coating, but be careful that it doesn't stain or scratch your acrylic sheets. Test on an area that will be cut away.
Secure your acrylic sheets to a hard, flat workbench or table using a vice or clamps. The side you will be cutting first should be hanging off the end of your table. If you clamp the sheets too hard, you will dent or scratch them. If you don't clamp well enough, you risk injury or cutting errors.
Use a coping saw to begin making your cuts. A coping saw is a thin, sharp hand saw which cuts acrylic sheets quickly and accurately. You want to use this coping saw because it gives you the most control over your cuts. Larger hand saws can crack and splinter your acrylic sheets, and power saws generate enough heat to melt them. A coping saw is just right.
Loosen the clamps and rotate the acrylic sheets to make additional cuts on additional sides. Once you have finished cutting, use a fine emery cloth to sand and smooth the cut edges.
If you purchase your acrylic sheets from a home supply store, they can often cut them for you. Some power saws can be fitted with blades that may not melt or warp your acrylic.
Always wear personal protective gear, such as safety gloves and eye wear.