Introduction: How to Cut Polycarbonate Tubing Using a Table Saw
Some things in the shop are just a little harder than you expect. For me, cutting thin walled (1/16”) plastic tubing was one such thing. It seemed like a simple task, but it was actually very tricky. Use a bandsaw? Not a true 90 degree cut. Use a cold saw? The vice bends the tubing creating insufficient clamping.
I couldn’t find anything online about how to do this… Fortunately, Josh Myers of the Pier 9 shop staff showed me this nifty method using a table saw, which can be used for nearly any diameter plastic tubing of nearly any thickness.
Step 1: Set Up the Table Saw
Yup, you’ll need to use a plastic blade. If you’re at Pier 9 (like I was), you’ll need to find a lovely Shop Staff member to do this for you.
Raise the blade so it’s just high enough to cut through the thickness of the tubing.
Also, you'll need a sled!
Step 2: Fixture a Guide
To get that nice 90 degree angle, you’ll need a true surface to press the the tube against. An easy way to do this is to grab a scrap piece of wood with a 90 degree angle and clamp it onto the push table.
Step 3: Test Cut!
Always start with a test cut!
Step 4: Start the Cut
To start the cut, push the tube onto the blade using the push table.
Step 5: Rotate the Tube
Once the tube is centered on the blade, rotate the tube while keeping pressure on the guide.
Stop rotating when there’s about 1 cm left to cut.
Step 6: Finishing Pass
If you finish the cut by rotating it, there’s a tendency for the very last part of the cut to snap off rather than cleanly cutting.
When there’s 1 cm left to cut, back the tube off the blade, rotate the tube such that the last section to cut is at the bottom, and then cut the remaining material by pushing it through the blade.
Step 7: The Real Cut
For your real cut, measure it out and the clamp the guide in the correct place.
Then just repeat the same method used for the test cut!
Step 8: Debur and Sand the Ends
Polycarbonate cuts like butter. I added a little chamfer to the inner edge of each end using a circular deburring tool and then hand sanded the ends to get a smooth finish.
Yay! Celebrate! You’re done. A perfectly cut tube with a nice flat bottom. Woo woo.