How to Cut a Polycarbonate Sheet

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Polycarbonate sheeting can be cut with a basic pair of hand shears if the thickness of the sheet is less than 0.125 inches (1/8 of an inch). Thicker sheet material will have to be cut by means of a mechanical saw. Straight cuts can be performed by using a circular saw. Curved cuts are made using either a vertical band saw or a hand-held jigsaw. In all cases for mechanical cutting of the plastic sheet, a fine-toothed blade must be used or else severe break out will occur to the plastic's cut edges.

Things You'll Need

  • Black marker
  • Tape measure
  • Straight edge
  • Fine-toothed blades (ranging from 8 teeth to 10 teeth per inch of cutting surface)
  • Circular saw
  • 2 pieces of wood, 2-inch by 4-inch (2---4), 8 feet long
  • Hand-held jigsaw
  • Table supports for the vertical band saw
  • Vertical band saw
  • Blue masking tape (if needed)
  • Keep the polycarbonate sheet material's protective plastic cover intact. Do not remove the thin clear plastic from the sheet material until you are ready to install the sheet into place. The thin plastic will protect the sheet from any mechanical damage that may occur during the cutting process. If for some reason the thin protective plastic is missing, read the "Tips" section before cutting the polycarbonate sheet.

  • Use the black marker and the tape measure to identify the cuts you want to make on the polycarbonate material. Make two marks on either edge of the sheet material. Lay the straight edge between the two marks. Draw a small black line to join the two end points.

  • Install a fine-toothed saw blade into the circular saw for making the straight line cuts. The blade should be in the range of 60 teeth to 80 teeth for a 10-inch- to 14-inch-diameter blade. The saw speed must be approximately 3,400 RPM. Lay the plastic sheet so it is well supported during the cutting process. This may entail having to use two 2---4s to support the plastic sheet on either side of the cut. Start the saw and cut into the sheet material. Do not stop the saw until the cut is finished. Allow the blade to perform the cutting; do not force the saw through the material or else the polycarbonate material may crack.

  • Use the hand-held jig saw to cut curves in the plastic sheeting. Install a metal-cutting blade into the saw, with at least 10 teeth per inch of blade. Set the polycarbonate material on a cutting platform, as described in step 3 above. Adjust the saw speed so the blade is moving at approximately 12,000 strokes per minute. Again, allow the blade to perform the cutting; do not force the saw through the material.

  • Adjust side table supports for the vertical band saw so the sheet material can ride on top of the support members. This is more critical for large pieces of material that can be a bit tough to handle on a small band saw table. Install a metal-cutting blade that has approximately 10 teeth per inch. Set the saw speed to a rate of 7,500 feet per minute. Band saw blades will come in various overall lengths, and adjusting saw speed for a feet-per-minute value may require consultation with the saw manufacturer's operational instructions. Move the material into the blade at a steady rate. Pushing the material too fast will cause the polycarbonate to prematurely heat up and melt. The melting plastic will clog the cutting teeth and may break the band saw blade.

Tips & Warnings

  • If the protective thin plastic sheet cover is missing from the polycarbonate sheet, apply some blue masking tape to the surface of the clear sheet material. Position the tape in such a way so that the saw's table will ride on the protective surface of the blue tape. This will keep the sheet protected from any mechanical scratches caused by the saw's cutting table.
  • Always wear safety protection whenever using any power tool. Follow the tool manufacturer's instructions for all operations.

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