How to Cut Plastic Panels for Kitchen Fluorescent Lights

Written by anne hirsh
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How to Cut Plastic Panels for Kitchen Fluorescent Lights
A C-clamp will hold your panel in place when you cut it. (Thomas Northcut/Photodisc/Getty Images)

Fluorescent lights provide energy efficient bright white light to your kitchen. Modern fluorescent fixtures may be placed above dropped ceilings or flush-mounted to standard ceilings. A variety of acrylic panels are available to fit these fixtures. The panels diffuse the light and provide a uniform look to the fixture, but only if the plastic fits properly. Plastic lighting panels are thin so they remain lightweight and able to transmit more light. This means they are thin enough to cut with a household utility knife, as long as you work carefully and prepare the plastic properly.

Skill level:
Moderately Easy

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Things you need

  • Straight edge
  • Dry erase marker
  • 1-inch wide masking tape
  • Utility knife
  • 2 by 4-inch lumber
  • 2 C-clamps
  • Tissue

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  1. 1

    Lay out your lighting panel on a workbench so the smoothest side faces upward. Set a straight edge along the panel where you want to make your cut and draw a line with a dry erase marker. Set the straight edge aside.

  2. 2

    Tape along one side of your line with masking tape. Pull the tape tightly and pressing it firmly to the plastic. Wrap the tape all the way around the back side of the panel, following along the same line, until you have covered the front and back of the panel with two layers of masking tape precisely along one side of your line. Repeat the process with the other side of your line, so you only leave about 1/16 of an inch for your cut line. This can reduce the risk of cracking and chipping the acrylic, which can appear unsightly in kitchen fixtures.

  3. 3

    Press the straight edge along one side of your cut line and drag a utility knife down the full length of the cut about eight times. Use moderate pressure and keep passing the knife along the line until you have cut a little more than halfway through the panel.

  4. 4

    Place part of the panel you want to keep for your fluorescent light on a work table. Line up your cut with the table edge so the part you are cutting off hangs off the table.

  5. 5

    Place a piece of 2 by 4 lumber on the table side of your cut so it runs along the full length of your kitchen light panel plus a few inches beyond each end. Clamp this lumber to the table with a C-clamp on each end to provide even pressure that will hold your panel in place.

  6. 6

    Put sharp pressure on the excess portion of the light panel until it snaps off at your cut line.

  7. 7

    Remove the C-clamps and masking tape and wipe off any remaining marker with a tissue.

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