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theseeker 08-02-2009 11:23 PM

How to cut acrylic light diffuser panels
I am replacing 20 florescent light diffuser panels that I need to cut to size. Bought the diffuser panels at Home Depot but they do not cut them. I bought the hand cutting tool (sort of like an exacto knife) that was recommended to use to cut them but I am having trouble getting a smooth cut and keeping them from cracking and breaking. The panels keep cracking and breaking along and across the cut line rendering them useless The instructions said to score the line first, which I did. Does anyone have any experiences with cutting these panels? I know their must be an easier, more appealing method. The one I cut which fit took forever to cut and the sides, which are hidden are really a rough cut. I really would appreciate any help or suggestions. The ones in which I am replacing have nice smooth cut sides.

SULTINI 08-03-2009 06:44 AM

Make sure its a nice flat surface put a metal straight edge at the cut line score, score, score, score, score a lot put pressure at the metal straight edge and snap like drywall it should be good.
The heck with the rough edges as long as they are covered by the fixture trim.

Remember keep scoring maybe even score both sides.

Scuba_Dave 08-03-2009 06:57 AM

I use a blade for my skil saw for alum/plastics (marked that way too)
It has 150 teeth
I also sandwich it between boards
The problem is the plastic will chatter up & down & cause breaks
If a detail cut I will cover w/tape 1st
Go slow, might end up w/sharp edges as plastic melts

InPhase277 08-03-2009 08:36 AM

I have marked them at both ends then tightly clamped the whole stack between two 1x4's. Placed a 1x4 under the waste side so it wouldn't flop around, and cut the whole stack slowly with a fine blade in my sawzall. You have to find the best speed, but it worked fine.

frenchelectrican 08-04-2009 12:33 AM

This what I do is reverse the saw blades the reason why I say reverse it due it will just ride it instead of tearing up the panel.

That one of few items I will run the saw blade in reverse the same thing with larger and thicker plexiglass.


RippySkippy 08-04-2009 06:47 AM

try a hand saw, the Japanese type that cut on the pull stroke...with a light touch, they work very well. Sandwich the panel between 1x4 for support and cut away. I love these saws...

J. V. 08-04-2009 12:02 PM

I have always used a utility knife with new blade. Clamp a straight edge along the line and pull the knife towards you until you go almost through, or all the way through. It will snap just as a piece of drywall will snap. Takes a little elbow grease and patience.

I use this method for lexan and similar products.

Yellow Gaigin 11-22-2009 07:08 PM

Cut arylic lighting panels
Dremel has a new tool on the market, the mult-max which has an oscillating action. I put the panels on a plywood surface and used the drywall blade. I worked great and can cut curvy lines if you want !! Beats my old method with the carbide laminate cutter.

Dougs 09-12-2010 08:24 AM

cut acrylic ceil panels
Tried the razor blade approach on ice crystal diffuser panel , had trouble keeping the blade in the same groove, and cracked the edges. Pulled out the multi-function power tool from Harbor Freight and used the circular serated edge blade. Used a long thin straight edge as a guide, only a few back-and-forth moves and the panel was cut. Since the power tool occilates at 11,000 cycles, this process will melt the acrylic if the blade is moved too slowly. Worked out well, cutting the full length of a 2x4 ft panel in less than 60 seconds. Had to clean some burrs off

-use gloves to clean up the burrs
-when the blade cuts through the acrylic, the cutting does not stop, so
a smooth but does-not-matter backing board is needed.
- did not clamp the straight edge, still got a clean straight cutline.
Other: Played around a bit with the scrapped piece, found that
- can cut freeform, meaning curves and circles.
- can cut/remove almost any width of trim, as tried cutting 1/4 inch the length of the piece, worked pretty good.
- can remove a triangular piece say the length of the piece, the trim being removed started at 5/16", going down to 0.0"...

(p/n 67256 or )

AllanJ 09-12-2010 09:31 AM

Don't cut too fast or the plastic may melt and become gooey and gum up the saw. It is okay to do short bursts of high speed sawing with waits to let it cool down.

When scoring with a knife, be sure the score goes through all hills and dales, not just across the high points.

bluene 03-02-2011 04:37 PM

Cutting Acrylic diffuser
I used a combination of techniques from this thread and it worked great. I sandwiched the plastic between 2-1x4's and screwed them together to keep the plastic held tightly. Then I turned the blade around on my table saw so it cut with the back side of the saw teeth. That resulted in nice cuts of both pieces with a small burr, probably from a little melting of the plastic. The only blade I had was a combination blade, very coarse, which caused much chipping when running forward.

bpage 03-09-2011 04:37 PM

USE Masking Tape!
After running into the same problems described here, like the jagged edges or big cracks, I tried masking tape. I taped the edges I wanted to cut with masking tape on both sides of the panel. I then used a utility knife along a straight edge to cut through the panels to fit my light. No clamping, just cut straight through with light cuts until your all the way through the panel. This technique worked great and was quick for me, especially if your careful. On the last few panels I was rushing it and had a few more burrs and cracks, but over all this method worked well.

Here is what I used:

Utility knife
masking tape
plaskolite 2'x4' sheets (home depot)

Hope this helps

RiverPaPaw 03-20-2012 12:27 PM

I just had very good luck using a 1/4 straight bit in a laminate trim router

Hardway 03-21-2012 08:52 PM

1 Attachment(s)
I use one of these Red Devel scoring tool, I have cut a lot plexie glass and light panels. Use a straight edge and score several times.

Writer’s information is for discussion purpose only and should be confirmed by an independent source.
I am not an expert and don’t claim to be, these are just my views and opinions.

hammerlane 03-22-2012 07:12 AM

Many years ago while on summer break, I helped out in a building where my uncle worked. One job they had me replacing the 2x4 diffuser panels for hundreds of light fixtures.

The one maintenance guy at the building made a contraption for easily cutting them.

I believe he took apart a space heater with a wire filament heating element, and set it up on a table in a way where I would slide the diffuser panel under the wire, turn on power to the element which was stretched, then use the element to melt the panels where they needed to be trimmed.

I know this is a little much for doing 20 panels but the question brought back an idea.

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