How to Shape Acrylic

By Daisy Cuinn

Acrylic's lightweight, shatterproof properties make it less difficult to shape than glass, which requires extremely high heat and specialized cutting tools to shape. While you should never use a kitchen oven to mold acrylic unless it is specifically designed for such use, you can use smaller heating tools that, with practice, provide good results in a home workshop. Acrylic is also soft enough to cut and drill with standard power tools fit with plastic-cutting accessories, which may be found at any home and garden center.

List of Items Needed

  • Clamp
  • Acrylic sheet
  • Dry erase pen
  • Jig saw or handheld multipurpose tool with plastic-cutting accessory
  • Acrylic edge scraper
  • Fine-grit sandpaper
  • Tape heater
  1. Clamp the acrylic sheet to a work table and draw your desired shape on it with a dry-erase pen Allow about 6 inches to extend past the table.

  2. Attach a plastic-cutting accessory to the handheld multipurpose tool or put a plastic-cutting blade in the jigsaw.

  3. Turn on the jig saw or handheld multipurpose tool to its lowest speed setting.

  4. Cut along the line slowly. Hold the tool at a 90-degree angle as you cut, and apply only enough pressure to move it forward.

  5. Shape the edges with an acrylic edge scraper. Sand the edges of the acrylic with sandpaper, starting with a medium-grit paper and switching to fine and ultra fine paper, until the edges are smooth.

  6. Bend the acrylic using a tape heater, which can be found online from acrylic retailers. Lay the acrylic sheet across the strip so the heating element is exactly where you want the bend. Lift the edge slightly as it heats to test the pliability. When it's very pliable, remove the acrylic and bend it to the desired angle, holding it until it cools enough to stay put.

Tips and Warnings

  • To cut thick sheets of acrylic, use electric power tools such as a band saw, table saw or handheld cutting tool.
  • Do not try to melt or mold acrylic sheets on the stove or in the oven; they will release fumes that can ignite.

© Demand Media 2011