Plexiglass Acrylic Bending Tools

Written by dr. samuel helms
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Plexiglass Acrylic Bending Tools
Creating bends and angles in acrylic is easy to do at home. (box image by Nicemonkey from Fotolia.com)

There are a number of tools you can use to help bend Plexiglas acrylic sheets. Many of these tools are easy to find and inexpensive. Since bending acrylic requires high heat, always make sure you keep a fire extinguisher handy and work in an area where you are not at high risk to cause fires. Additionally, using heat proof gloves will save you from burnt fingers.

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Strip Heater

A strip heater is a long heater designed to heat up acrylic along a straight line. They work well for creating an even, straight bend in the acrylic. Depending on the quality and type of strip heater, they can cost between £26 and £260 GBP. For hobbies and crafts the inexpensive models will suffice.

Blow Torch

If you do not have a strip heater, you can use a propane or butane blow torch to heat the acrylic. If you use this method, be sure to keep the flame moving across the acrylic at all times to ensure even heating. If you leave the torch on one spot, it will cause the acrylic to melt too quickly and crack. Since blow torches create a lot of heat that is not isolated to a single area of the Plexiglas, it is advisable to use moulds and clamps to help shape the bend.

Shaped Edges

Depending on the size a shape of the curve, many easy-to-find moulds are available. To create smooth, even curves, wooden dowel rods of different diameters can be laid on the inside of the curve to guide the acrylic bend. This will give a professional looking bend to the acrylic. For squared edges, a standard rectangular board can be used, again placed on the inside of the curve.

Clamps

While hot, the acrylic is still flexible. If you use a mould such as a dowel rod or board to shape the acrylic bend, clamps will be needed to hold the acrylic in place while it cools and hardens. For one bend, you will need four clamps; two on each side of the Plexiglas sheet. To speed cooling and hardening while clamped, you can wipe the outside edge with a damp cloth. Be careful when doing this as the acrylic is very hot.

Square

Even if you are using clamps and a mould, an angle square is handy for making certain the bend is at a perfect right angle. Before clamping the Plexiglas sheet, place the square on the outside of the bend and adjust the mould and acrylic so that the angle is a perfect 90 degrees. A square is an important tool if you are trying to make square or rectangular acrylic containers.

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