How to work with PVC sheet material

Coprid/iStock/Getty Images

PVC is a versatile thermoplastic used in a variety of industries for a wide number of purposes. It can be made flexible with the addition of a plasticising agent, but without one it remains rigid. Its uses range from making home furnishings to roofing material to marine parts.

PVC resin was first commercially produced in the 1920s.

Cutting PVC sheets is not unlike cutting wood or metal, and you can usually use the same tools. When machining, avoid sharp edges that can lead to stresses and future breakage. When the cutting edges of tools are sharp, cooling isn't typically necessary.

Buff with felt buffing wheels to obtain a glossy finish.

Saw PVC sheets that are 3 mm (1/8 inch) thick or less with knives or blades. Sheets thicker than 3 m (1/8 inch) can be cut with handsaws or circular saws. For circular saws, alternate between trapezoidal tooth, flat tooth and rigid metal. Whatever the method, be certain to fasten the sheet securely while cutting and avoid vibrations to get a nice clean-cut edge.

Drill PVC sheets with conventional high-speed carbide-tipped metal bits. Keep cutting edges sharp to avoid undersized holes or a poor finish on the surface. The speed of drilling and feeding the sheets will depend on sheet thickness: The thicker the sheet, the longer it takes to process it.

You can bond PVC sheets to other materials. To bond to flexible PVC sheets, use a plasticiser-resistant adhesive. To join edges of PVC sheets, use a fresh PVC solvent. To bond to plastics or metals, use polyurethane or other synthetic rubber-based adhesives.

Painting PVC sheets is simple when using vinyl, acrylic lacquers or two-part polyurethane-based paints that are rigid PVC compatible. Clean the sheets to make certain they are dirt- and grease-free prior to painting. Clean the sheets with isopropyl alcohol on a clean cloth.