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What Can You Use to Cut Plastic?

Plastic melts at high temperatures, and is a bit unique to other materials because it can be quite brittle. Plastic comes in many different shapes and sizes, and if you need to cut it there are a range of tools and machines you can use. Here’s a rundown of what can be used to cut plastic.

As a general rule, a hack saw, chop saw, circular saw, table saw, jigsaw, dremel, grinder, and a laser cutter, can be used to cut plastic. Plastic can also be cut with scissors but only plastic up to about 1 mm in thickness. A piece of string can also be used to cut plastic pipes.

Tools to cut plastic

Each of these methods has their pros and cons. Some work about as well as each other, whereas there are also some tools/machines that don’t work. Below, I will explain how well most of the things you would think of that could cut plastic.

What Can You Use To Cut Plastic?

You can need to cut plastic roughly, or need a really precise cut. There are a range of things that can be used to cut plastic. This is what they are.

In general, a dremel, hack saw, table saw, skill saw, circular saw, jigsaw, grinder, dremel, laser cutter and a chop saw can be used to cut plastic. Scissors can also be used but only on thin plastic, and a piece of string can also cut plastic but only plastic pipes.

Some do a better job than others, it does depend on how dense, and thick the plastic is. Below is a summary of how well each of these work to cut plastic.

Can You Cut Plastic Using Dremel?

Tools to cut plastic

A dremel is a multi purpose tool, and is small and compact. Plastic is a unique material that behaves differently when cut and is prone to melting or cracking. So, can a dremel be used to cut plastic?

It’s possible to cut plastic with a dremel. However, it doesn’t create the most precise cut. It’s a good idea to put the piece of plastic in a vice when using a dremel because it’s easy to lose control of a dremel because it’s small and light. But, it’s very effective at cutting plasting

Very dense plastic does require quite a few passes to cut through it completely. This requires quite a bit of skill because a dremel is very light weight, and it’s easy to get the angle off slightly.

Therefore, if you have access to a saw, or a machine saw such as a chop saw they are in general a better option.

But, if the cut doesn’t not need to be perfect, or you don’t mind spending a bit of time smoothing rough edges and imperfections, a dremel can be a great option to cut plastic.

Can You Cut Plastic Using Laser?

Tools to cut plastic

A laser cutter is a specialized machine used for making very precise cuts. It can cut a range of different materials. This is whether a laser cutter will cut plastic.

Overall, you can cut plastic using a laser. A high powered laser designed for cutting materials is very effective at cutting plastic, and only requires only about 25% of a second to cut through plastic that is about a ¼ of an inch (5 mm) thick.

It’s also incredibly precise and requires next to no finishing after being cut. Unlike other cutting methods such as a dremel, or a skill saw. For typical plastic thicknesses of about ¼ of an inch, it only requires one pass, rather than many back and forth cuts.

Can You Cut Plastic Using Scissors?

Tools to cut plastic

Pretty much everyone has a pair of scissors in their home, they can be used to cut a range of things around the home. There are various types of scissors, but here’s a summary of whether scissors can cut plastic.

Generally, scissors work for very thin plastic. Typically soft plastic that is less than 1 mm thick. Such as, a plastic soda bottle, or a plastic margarine/butter container. If you try to cut very thick plastic using scissors it will break the scissor hinge before it will cut the plastic.

It’s often required to first make a hole in the plastic using the end of a sharp knife and then insert the scissors and begin cutting. But poking the end of a sharp knife into a bottle is very difficult, and can be dangerous. It’s important to be extremely careful when doing so.

But, this is only generally necessary when there is nowhere to begin cutting with the scissors such as with a bottle. It also depends on the type of scissors. Some scissors have a very sharp tip that can be poked very hard into the plastic to create a place to begin cutting.

Can You Cut Plastic Using Circular Saw?

Tools to cut plastic

A circular saw is a common tool in a workshop. It’s very effective at cutting very large pieces of material that are often difficult to access using hand held saws. However, is it possible to cut plastic using a circular saw?

In general, you can cut plastic using a circular saw. Some blades have been designed based on testing to be better and have fewer or more teeth on them, and are a certain size. Ideally, use a blade used for the specific type of plastic you’re cutting.

How fast you feed a piece of plastic through a circular saw is important. It can take a bit of experimentation to get a feel for the exact speed that works best for the type of plastic you’re cutting. So, it’s a good idea to do a few practice cuts where possible to see what speed results in the least amount of chipping, or no chipping at all.

As well as, a speed that doesn’t melt the plastic to where it will jam the plastic, or cause imperfections in the cut surface.

Can You Cut Plastic Using Jigsaw?

Tools to cut plastic

A jigsaw is common to have in a workshop, and is ideally suited to cutting rounded edges. The size of the blade makes it better suited to curves because it’s very small relative to other saws like chop saws. But, will a jigsaw work on plastic?

Overall, a jigsaw is very effective at cutting plastic. The main things to watch out for cracking, and the plastic getting stuck to the blade and jumping up. It’s generally very difficult to cut circular shapes/edges. But, it’s one of the best methods for cutting plastic.

There is a bit of skill involved in using a jigsaw. Because the blade is fixed, if you want to cut a round shape in the plastic you need to plan the cut ahead of time. It’s not possible to turn a piece of plastic as you’re cutting because it will bend and potentially break the blade.

However, it’s very precise and will cut plastic to the thickness of the saw blade. It does leave very minor vertical grooves on the plastic similar to the outside of a coin. They require sanding to get the edge perfectly smooth.

Can You Cut Plastic Using Grinder?

Tools to cut plastic

A grinder has a range of uses from cutting various types of materials to smoothing off edges. Because it’s so versatile it’s tempting to use it on anything you need to cut or smooth off. So, here’s a rundown of whether a grinder works on plastic.

A blade used for cutting steel is the best to use for cutting plastic. Other types of blades on an angle grinder can melt the plastic and not do as good a job. The good thing about using a grinder is that afterwards you can clean off the cut edge using the grinder.

The main concern with using a grinder is to make sure the plastic is secure and won’t fly away which can cause it to damage something, or injure someone. Small and light pieces of plastic should ideally be put in a vice, or secured to a workbench or similar using ‘G’ or ‘C’ clamps.

Can You Cut Plastic Using Cutter?

Tools to cut plastic

A cutter is a craft tool that works great for various materials. Plastic is a unique material, and therefore it’s hard to know if a box cutter/craft knife will work on it. Here’s how well a cutter works for cutting plastic.

As a general rule, a cutter is not effective at cutting plastic. A cutter can be heated to be more effective at cutting plastic but even then, it’s still not very effective. It can work OK for very thin and soft plastic. But, dense or thick plastic will be virtually impossible to cut using a cutter.

It’s possible to use a cutter to score plastic so that you can snap it. But, snapping plastic is often not very precise. When you snap it, it can not snap along the score line that you’ve made.

This isn’t a huge deal depending on how it snaps. So, in general it’s best to use something else to cut plastic.

Can You Cut Plastic Using Soldering Iron?

Tools to cut plastic

Working with solder and a soldering iron is a skill in itself. A soldering iron heats up really hot, and a piece of plastic will melt if a soldering iron that’s heated up is placed on it. But, can a soldering iron be used to cut plastic?

In general, it’s possible to cut plastic using a soldering iron. But, it’s very imprecise. One option is to attach the blade from a paper cutter to a soldering iron using a piece of wire. But, this will only work on very thin and soft plastic.

Cutting reasonably thick or dense plastic won’t work at all with a blade attached to a soldering iron. A soldering iron on its own will simply melt the plastic and create a hole. Although this will work, it will take an extremely long time to make a cut, and is not worth it.

Can You Cut Plastic Using Hacksaw?

Tools to cut plastic

A hacksaw is a common piece of equipment to have around, especially for cutting materials other than plastic. But, because it does such a good job on very hard materials it’s possible it could work for plastic. I looked into how well a hacksaw works to cut plastic and here’s what I found.

As a general rule, you can cut plastic using a hacksaw. Hacksaw blades come in different teeth per inch (TPI). A higher TPI blade is better for thinner plastic, and a lower TPI blade is better for thicker plastic. In general, a hacksaw does a very good job at cutting plastic.

A hacksaw can be used on wood, and metal. But, it’s best to not use them on wood, because there are saws that are better for cutting wood.

It’s important to note that a hacksaw only cuts on the forward stroke and does cut on the backwards stroke. It’s easier to cut well using a hacksaw by doing long strokes rather than really short strokes.

Can You Cut Plastic Using String?

Tools to cut plastic

A piece of string can be used for many different things, but in general it isn’t used for cutting things. However, I heard there was a way to cut plastic using a piece of string and wanted to know if it actually worked. Here’s a summary of whether it’s possible to cut a piece of string with plastic.

Overall, you can cut plastic using string. However, it generally only works on circular pieces of plastic. The reason is string can be kept in constant contact with the plastic while you’re rubbing the string back and forth against it. Cutting plastic pipe using string cut through it very fast.

The best way to do it is to secure the pipe close to the ground, and put a piece of string underneath it. After that, you pull the string up to a comfortable height and pull each side of the string up and down very quickly.

Can You Cut Plastic Using Chop Saw?

Tools to cut plastic

A chop saw which is very similar to a miter saw is a go to piece of equipment for chopping wood. Plastic is a different material altogether, and behaves very differently. So, here’s the long and short of whether a chop saw can be used to cut plastic.

Overall, a chop saw can be used to cut plastic. It works for both plastic pipe, and sheets of plastic. A chop saw makes very light work of plastic. The one issue is a chop saw blade is generally quite thick, so it’s not as precise as using a hack saw, or skill saw.

These are generally better options. The main thing with using a chop saw is to use a blade with the most teeth possible. This will remove the smallest chunks of plastic and reduce the risk of chipping.

Can You Cut Plastic Using Miter Saw?

Tools to cut plastic

A miter saw offers more precise cuts than a chop saw. It’s ideally suited to reasonably narrow and long pieces of material. So, how good a job does a miter saw do at cutting plastic?

In general, plastic can be cut using a miter saw. A miter saw works very well to cut circular plastic such as plastic pipes, as well as flat pieces of plastic. It doesn’t require anything special, simply cut the plastic as you would a piece of wood.

Because a chop saw is stationary it’s very difficult to cut large pieces of plastic with precision, and will require multiple cuts. For anything other than pipes, and small pieces of plastic a hacksaw, grinder, or jigsaw are better options.

Can You Cut Plastic Using Table Saw?

Tools to cut plastic

A table saw is primarily used for cutting wood. But, due to its design it’s reasonable to assume that it can also be used to cut plastic because plastic has a similar hardness and density to wood. I looked into whether it’s possible and a good idea to cut plastic using a table saw, and here’s what I found.

Overall, plastic can be cut using a table saw. A blade with 50 to 60 teeth works best, any more than that and it will tend to melt the plastic. A zero clearance insert is also mandatory to provide stability to the plastic. A push block is also very helpful for reducing chipping.

The grind of the teeth is very important as well. It’s been found by people that have cut a lot of plastic using a table saw that ATB grind works the best. A blade with over 60 teeth causes friction which creates heat.

This can cause burn marks on the sides of the plastic. Therefore, a blade with about 50 to 60 teeth is best.

How To Cut Plastic Properly

Man confused while sitting

Plastic behaves differently to other materials, thin plastic is quite soft and easy to cut, but the thicker it is the stronger and more difficult it is to cut. But, with the right tools, and know-how it’s still relatively easy to cut. Here’s how to cut plastic properly.

In general, mark out the cut using a pencil, or marker. Then use either a chop saw, hack saw, table saw, jigsaw, dremel, grinder, or circular saw to make the cut. Ideally, use a blade that has the most amount of teeth and cut it very slowly. This will reduce the risk of chipping, and melting.

There are various blades that are designed for specific types of plastic, and specific saws. For example, there are special saw blades for table saws that have been found via testing to be the most effective at cutting PVC, and acrylic. It’s generally best to do a sample cut to see how the blade performs for the specific thickness and type of plastic you’re using.

In general, a chop saw, circular saw, jigsaw, dremel, grinder, laser cutter, a laser cutter, and a table saw can be used to cut plastic. Very thin plastic that is 1 mm in thickness or less can be cut with scissors, and a piece of string can cut plastic pipes.