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Cutting Plastic

Plastic can be cut on your table saw and band saw, but there are a few things to keep in mind.

Whenever I cut plastic, I use a backer board to prevent chipping. (I like to use 1/4″ hardboard as you can see in the photos.)

Table Saw

Something else to keep in mind is that plastic is a relatively soft material. It's very easy to scratch while working with it in the shop. But it comes with a masking material on each face. I like to keep this masking in place as long as possible to protect the surface.

Band Saw

Professional shops use a special carbide-tipped blade for cutting plastic. These blades have many small teeth, a modified triple chip grind, and a thin kerf. But you can get great results with a typical woodworking, carbide-tipped blade. Choose a blade with 60 or 80 small teeth.

As you can see in the photo on the right, cutting curves in plastic at the band saw is really no different than cutting wood. I like to use a blade with 10 to 14 teeth per inch for smooth cuts. Even then, the edge will require further smoothing. Here again, use a backer board whenever possible for cleaner cuts.

Good woodworking,

Phil Huber
Editor, ShopNotes

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