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Can a hot wire cutter be used to cut shapes in acrylic or perspex? Answered

Is there a tool that's relatively cheap to buy, that I can use at home to cut clean shapes from acrylic, perspex, rubber, thin sheeted wood (any of the above)? I'm thinking of a similar finish (although obviously a bit less pristine) to that produced by a laser cutter.



I've found that, for straight cuts at least, acrylic and plexi can be cut much like glass, with scoring and then careful bending with forces highly concetrated at the score to break. Kinda need a sheet metal bending brake like jig to do really long cuts however but you can make one with a couple of sandwiched with two very square sharp edges (in towards the material to be snapped). I'm sure the best way would be a huge hydraulic sheer press, of course, but who got one of those!


8 years ago

Past summer I cut quite a lot of thick acrylic sheet for my greenhouse. I used 2 blades: one was a quality HSS circular milling blade of 100 mm, the other a 60 teeth carbide blade of 210 mm. I used the lowest speed: 1200 RPM. I could cut about 50 cm at one time, then the blade became hot enough to melt the acrylic. I used a wet cloth to (PSHHHH) cool the blade down, and let is sit for another 5 min. The HSS blade is yellowish brown now, and can't be used for this purpose anymore. A jigsaw blade for steel needs to be used 2x for one cut: the 2nd one to cut trough the melt!
A hacksaw can be used, but not for large sheets. (a  hacksaw blade could be used, but prepare for several days of hard labor + spare blades)

No. The material is far too thick and dense to be cut effectively with a hot wire knife. That tool is suitable only for low density plastics like foam.

cheapest is what Lemonie suggests, a hacksaw (or most effective ime, circular saw, table saw, band saw, or contour router)

Plastic: hacksaw
Rubber: scissors or a knife
Wood: you might manage with a knife, but a wood-saw of sorts.
Not hot wire.
If you go and buy something like a RotoZip, remember that you'll need different blades and attachments etc.



8 years ago

No, not with any satisfactory results, you can't. You can't control the heat, you'll wind up with a sloppy, wandering mess that will most likely cause the acrylic material to frost or discolor along the cut.
For straight cuts, I use a table saw with a plywood cutting blade and for curves, a saber saw with a special blade designed for cutting acrylic.
You can  do a pretty fair job using the saber saw alone, if you also use acrylic cutting blades. Just move the saw through the cut without forcing it.
You can purchase the blades at most hardware stores for a couple of dollars apiece.

A rotozip tool will do a pretty fair job of cutting the materials you mentioned.

The plastics may need some touch up on the cuts since the edge of the cut will melt from the friction of the cutter.