How To Cut Lexan (Using a Utility Knife, Jigsaw & More)
Lexan is a thermoplastic like acrylic or Plexiglass that has some very unique durability features. You may find it used in car windows, football helmets, DVDs, aquariums, and a range of other products. If you are using Lexan for your own project, it is important to know how to cut it correctly without damaging it.
Lexan does not crack or splinter when you cut it. However, it can scratch and dent quite easily. Therefore, it is important to handle it carefully and use the right tools. You should always protect the Lexan with a cloth, clamp it in place, and use the right circular saw blade.
Additionally, make sure you cut the Lexan at a moderate and even pace. Finally, it is important to protect yourself with goggles and gloves when working. All of these tips and more are covered in detail below.
The Right Tools for Cutting Lexan
First, there are two options for cutting Lexan. The proper tool depends on the thickness of the product. As you will read below, Lexan comes in thicknesses ranging from 1.5 mm to 12.7 mm. Figure out what product you are working with before you get to work!
If you have a sheet of Lexan that is thicker than 3 millimeters, you should use a circular saw to cut it. To get even more specific, it is best to use a carbide-tipped blade. This will help to reduce the blade’s vibrations and provide a more precise cut. Additionally, crosscut blades with teeth close together and 45-degree bevels will help prevent damage to the Lexan sheet.
If you have a sheet of Lexan that is thinner than 3 millimeters, you can use a standard utility knife to cut it. You could also use shears if that would make sense for the cuts you are making.
Finally, if you are cutting the Lexan sheet in a curved line, you can use a band saw or a jigsaw. Make sure the blades are strong enough to cut metal and have teeth between 2 and 4 millimeters apart. Again, the teeth cannot be too far apart or you might splinter the Lexan at the edges.
A Good Tip for Marking Your Measurements on Lexan
When you are measuring out where you make the cuts, you may use a pencil to mark it. Of course, this might be sort of hard to see. One great tip is to use that utility knife to cut a little mark at the pencil mark. That way, you will better be able to see and follow your markings as you go.
When you do this (and cut at all), you want to be very careful. As noted above, Lexan does scratch very easily. Unfortunately, there is no way to cover it up either. It will show easily and probably ruin your sheet for good. Therefore, make sure to make your utility blade cut exactly where you will be cutting it.
Take Safety Precautions When Cutting Lexan
When you have the proper tools and have measured your cuts, you can get ready to begin. First, make sure to wear the proper protection!
You need eye protection of some kind – goggles are best – in case the blade throws a chip of Lexan at you. Also, you should wear gloves because the blade and cut Lexan will be hot at first from the friction. You do not want to burn yourself!
Prepare Your Work Station and Secure the Lexan Sheet
There are two important final precautions to take before you can begin cutting the Lexan. These will help keep the Lexan protected from damage.
Use a Blanket to Protect the Lexan Sheet from Scratches
First, you will want to put a cloth or blanket down under the Lexan. Especially if you have an older worktable, the dings and imperfections in it can easily dent the Lexan. You do not want to put all the pressure of the saw on the Lexan when it is sitting on this surface.
Use any linen, like rags or old bedsheets, to protect the face of the Lexan sheet during cutting. Since it is transparent, you do not want to dent or scratch either side. Therefore, make sure you do not lay anything down on top of it (like your tools). When you hold or clamp it in place, put something soft between the Lexan and clamp.
Use Clamps to Secure the Lexan Sheet to the Table
Second and finally, you will need to secure the Lexan sheet in place. As stated above, you should clamp it to your worktable. Alternatively, you could hold it down using a piece of wood with cloth wrapped around it.
Doing this will make a big difference in the final result of the Lexan cuts. You will be able to minimize the amount of vibration and movements that the cutting causes. In turn, the Lexan will come away with a cleaner cut.
Cut the Lexan at a Steady Pace
Do Not Force the Saw Blade Forward through Lexan
When you turn on the blade and get started, make sure to cut at a good, moderate pace. There are a few different reasons that this is important. In short, you can damage the Lexan sheet if you cut it too quickly or too slowly.
First, you cannot cut Lexan too quickly. If you force the blade forward, there is a chance you will damage the Lexan. When you remove the blade, your seam will be very ugly with bits of Lexan splintering off. Make sure to move smoothly and let the blade go at its own pace.
Do Not Let the Saw Blade Linger in One Spot of the Lexan
Second, you also do not want to cut Lexan too slowly. As you will read a little further down, Lexan is very heat resistant, but only to a point. The friction from a saw blade can cause a lot more heat than this if it stays in one place too long.
Therefore, moving the saw along too slowly could overheat the Lexan and cause it to warp. In this case, you would see the edges of your Lexan seams melted and deformed.
These rules also apply if you are drilling a hole into a Lexan sheet. You want to line the drill bit up and move at a steady pace through the hole and back out. Make sure to come back out in a straight line so you do not make a bigger hole than you need.
Finally, before making a hole in the Lexan, double-check your measurement! There is no way to plug up a hole in a sheet of Lexan without it being obvious. Therefore, plan well and execute the cuts with confidence.
What is Lexan?
Lexan is a thermoplastic material made from polycarbonate resin. Originally, Lexan was just a brand name, but multiple companies make it now. However, the name “Lexan” has stuck around, and you may hear it used generically for all companies’ products.
Lexan is similar to acrylic or Plexiglas. However, they are not exactly the same product. For example, acrylic is actually more rigid, which means it will crack and break much easier than Lexan does.
The Amazing Properties of Lexan
Lexan is a favorite in the construction industry because it has some highly durable properties. For example, it is 250 times stronger than normal glass. As noted above, Lexan does not crack or break when you drill into it. This makes it incredibly simple to install.
You may be surprised to hear that Lexan is even a better insulator than glass. As a result, using Lexan in place of glass will lower your energy bills over time. Additionally, it is also resistant to chemicals and acids, where some can cause any normal glass to corrode.
Finally, Lexan can withstand temperatures of up to 250 degrees Fahrenheit before it begins to deform. Its preferred temperature range is -40 degrees Fahrenheit to 180 degrees Fahrenheit! On this same note, it is also very inflammable.
The Downsides to Lexan
Despite these very useful properties, there are a few things to keep in mind when choosing Lexan. You may find that these disadvantages outweigh the pros, depending on your personal taste.
First, UV rays will discolor Lexan over time. Lexan is not treated with any UV protection, so it will turn yellow from the exposure. Unfortunately, once this has happened, there is no way to undo it.
Next, Lexan scratches more easily than normal glass. Plastics do not stand up to normal glass in this regard. Though it does not crack when drilled into, it does scratch.
Also, as mentioned previously, it is possible to dent Lexan. This is something to keep in mind during construction and installation. Because it reflects light and looks shiny, you will be able to see scratches and dents in it.
The Cost of Lexan
Finally, Lexan is more expensive than glass in most sizes. It also tends to be more expensive than acrylic, Plexiglas, and other plastics. The cost varies based on thickness (1.5mm to 12.7 mm thick). Below is a chart showing the price ranges for Lexan.
|12” x 12” sheet||$4 (for 1.5 mm) – $26 (for 12.7 mm)|
|12” x 24” sheet||$8 – $52|
|12” x 48” sheet||$15 – $104|
|24” x 24” sheet||$15 – $104|
|24” x 48” sheet||$30 – $207|
|48” x 48” sheet||$61 – $421|
As you can see in the chart above, the cost of Lexan can become quite high very quickly. A 12” x 12” sheet at 3 mm costs $6. For a comparable sheet of acrylic costs $4.50, and a comparable pane of glass is less than $3.
While these differences are very small now, they get much bigger at larger sizes of Lexan. A 3-mm sheet of Lexan that is 48” x 48” is $96. A comparable sheet of acrylic is around $40, and a sheet of Plexiglas this same size and thickness is $75.
The difference in cost also gets more drastic with thicker pieces. This is because of the method of construction. For example, a 48” x 48” sheet of Plexiglass at 6-mm thick is $125. A slightly thinner sheet of Lexan (at 5.5 mm) is $175.
Therefore, you should do your research on the different materials available to you before settling on one. Acrylic, Plexiglas, and Lexan are all great options with very beneficial qualities. Depending on the size and thickness of the product, the cost differences could be small or very drastic. This will help inform your decision, as well as the properties of the materials that you value most for your project.
Can you score and break Lexan?
Yes, if the Lexan is not too thick, this is a perfectly fine way to cut Lexan. As noted above, you can score the Lexan with a utility knife, being careful not to make extra marks. You should score it on both sides so it does not splinter when you break it.While you do not need to cut all the way through with this method, you do need to score the Lexan well. Go a couple of millimeters deep and be sure to score fully both sides of the entire length of the Lexan. This is the best way to keep the sheet intact and with a clean seam when you break it.
How do you polish the edges of Lexan?
There are a few ways to go about cleaning up the edges of Lexan after you cut it. The easiest way would be to use fine-grit sandpaper to even out the edge. Then, you can rub it down with a polishing compound.You can also use a small flame to gently soften the edges. As noted above, this will happen around 300 degrees Fahrenheit. Be careful not to get the flame too close or you will damage the face of the Lexan, too. As a practice round, you should begin on an inconspicuous area (or extra sheet) to get a feel for it.Finally, you can use a chemical cloth that will slightly break down the Lexan and clean it up. Methyl ethyl ketone, or MEK, is a harsh solvent that degrades the surface of Lexan. You can wipe a MEK cloth on the edges to get a polished look. Just be sure not to get it on the face of the Lexan.
Benjamin is a freelance writer and graphic designer. He is passionate about DIY projects and finding creative ways to upcycle things headed for the landfill. Based in Oakland, CA, Benjamin enjoys playing guitar and gardening.
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