acrylic 101

printmaker

CGF II, Certified Grumble Framer Level 2
Joined
Mar 4, 2003
Posts
356
Location
Richmond Hill, Ontario, Canada
Yes, I've done a search but, this time of year we're swamped and don't have time to research so, for now, HELP!

We have a new opportunity for large orders of framed artwork, but these have to be shipped. Acrylic seems to be the answer but, having framed for many years, we've NEVER used it.
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1)a) On a Fletcher 3000, is it difficult to cut? (This would be our only means of cutting right now.)
b) Should we expect a lot of waste, miscuts etc?

2) Special cutting problems?

3) Special cleaning problems?

4) Avoiding scratching?

5) Brands: the good, the bad, the ugly?

6) Any other tidbits and gems of info?

Thanks, in advance!

Hope everyone is enjoying a profitable season!!!
 
With the 3000 its hard to snap off anything smaller than 1 1/4 inch. You have to be sure that the "wheels" can provide even pressure on both sides of the score to get a good snap.

Plexi is a drag to "clean" as it can be scratched easy. The static is annoying so you have to use a plexi cleaner/ anti static spray, kind of a catch-22!

When unrolling the "big" ones I use a broomstick to roll the paper onto. It pulls the paper off easier and seems to produce less static than just yanking it off. (got that hint from a Decor book, wish I could claim it as my own!)

Even with the issues I use it quite often.

BTW Grumblers what is the difference between OP-3 and OP-2. I have a great source for OP-2, but it has a definite yellow tint to it (to my eyes).
 
1. Easy to cut on 3000. Cut with covering still on.

2. Pick a moulding if possible with a larger rabbet, do not fit tight allow 1/8" clearance on one side minimum.

3. I like plexi brand, check with Modern Plastic or Comercial Plastic and fight for a deal.

4. I prefer paper wrap and use a print tube to roll it off fast.

5. Thickness of the plexi matters I prefer .125 but on small items .093 is fine and the price it less.

6. Good Luck.

framer
 
If the frames are all the same size find a local plastic distributor and let them cut the acrylic.

The cost is lower than you might think

Doug Vieau
Metro Photo & Frames
Wayzata, MN
 
It used to be that acrylic was the only reasonable UV-filtering glazing available (before CC) and we got used to using it.

It was an exciting day when I bought my Fletcher 3000 and could cut my own plastic.

A Kinetronics anti-static brush is a wonderful thing when dealing with plexi in cold and dry seasons, or anytime, really. United has them.

We will strip the paper off using any available tube (fabric tubes work nicely, also) and most times just brush it with the brush and use it without even having to use the cleaner/anti-static spray.

I like working with plexi and have no beefs with it. I use it routinely for pieces that will be shipped or are part of a travelling show or hang in very busy public places or even those that will hang in children's rooms. I can't wait to try anti-reflective acrylic next.

edie the youtoocanlearntoloveacrylic goddess
 
I've found that if you scrape a slight bevel on all 8 edges before you remove the protective paper or film that you will remove any of the burrs created by the saw. If you don't remove these first, they will likely end up as dust in the frame as they break off. Also, after de-burring the edges but before you remove the film or paper, wipe down both sides and all the edges with a damp rag. this really helps kill the static.

Remove the paper or film slowly (best if wound up on a tube like mentioned above) because if you pull it off quickly... you'll generate a lot of static.

The bevel scraper I made for my shop was just a piece of sheet metal that I filed a 90° notch into. Scrape both edges at the same time without the risk of slipping off and scratching the surface. Contact me and I'l be glad to FAX a drawing.
 
The difference between OP-2 and OP-3 is OP-2 is cast and OP-3 is extruded. I believe the cast material is more expensive but they both have that slight yellow tint to them. I only use plex because I live in earthquake country. The scratching issue can be resolved somewhat by getting the abrasion resistant plex. I would most definitely get your plex suppier to cut it for you. Good Luck.
 
And now for something completely different.

When you say large orders, how large? If you are talking about more than 50 pieces a year framed with Acrylic, then you might want to consider what I have done. My web site framing orders are 99% done with Acrylic. When I first started my web site I considered using my Fletcher 3100 to cut Acrylic. After using the 3100 for a bit, I abandoned it and went to cutting Acrylic on a Panel Saw and Table Saw as described below.

Pros.
1. Quicker.
2. Perfect professional looking clean edged cuts.

Cons.
1. Inital setup cost
2. Acrylic "saw" dust

If I were making a decision today on using saws, I would say that if you are using Acrylic on more than 50 frames a year, you should consider saws.

I have posted pictures of my setup below.

My setup consists of the following.
1. Panel Saw. I used a kit from rockler.com that you can see at http://www.rockler.com/ecom7/product_details.cfm?&offerings_id=5311&objectgroup_id=293&catid=7&filter=panel%20saw
2. Hand Power saw with 8" No-Melt Acrylic Blade
3. Table Saw with 10" No-Melt Arylic blade.

I use the panel saw to do rough cuts and the table saw for the final cuts.

The saw sits in a removable panel on the track. I made an extra panel for a saw with a wood blade so I can also cut wood. It takes a couple of minutes to swap out the saws.


Costs. I did this 3 years ago so the costs are estimates.
1. Panel Saw kit. $350.
2. Wood. $50.
3. Hand Power Saw. $150
4. Table Saw $150.
5. No melt Acrylic blades for both saws. $250.
Total Cost about $950.


<img src ="http://www.thePaperFramer.Com/images/Saw1.jpg"</img>

<img src ="http://www.thePaperFramer.Com/images/Saw2.jpg"</img>
 
One of the posts above mentioned that it is hard to break off small pieces with the Fletcher. With the saws I can trim off as small as 1/64" and still leave a perfect edge.
 
Larry will your panel cutter cut regular glass or matboard as well?


Serious question if you cut plywood on hte panel cutter are the corners square? The lumber ysrd near me has a panel cutter and the corners aren't always square.

I did the math at one point and the price from my distributor for plexi cut to size wasn't appreciably higher than the price of buying a single sheet of plexi and cutting it.
 
Bob,

Setup, Setup, Setup. Or to quote Tom Leherer.

"Life is like a sewer. What you get out of it depends on what you put into it".

Building a saw like this requires a moderate amount of woodworking skills. Setting it up and squaring it isn't difficult but like any other setup work, requires precision and good measuring tools.

This isn't for someone who has an occasional need to cut Acrylic. It's for someone how does it alot.

I use my Fletcher 3100 to cut glass and matboard. With the panel saw I can cut anything that a circular saw will cut.
 
I don't believe OP-3 Acrylite has a yellow cast. One of it's best features is that it is naturally "water-white." There is no coating and no front-and-back.

I find it easy to cut with the 3000. I use one of those 3M special cleaning cloths (or equivalent) spritzed with a bit of distilled water to remove any dust and, temporarily at least, kill the static.

It will only scratch if you scratch it. Take a little extra care and you'll have no problems.
 
Larry, that's a fine looking set-up. Thanks for posting the pictures.

One question: Why do you make finish cuts of your acrylic on the table saw? Is the wall mounted saw not accurate enough?
 
DVieau2,

I don't know how long the blades last. I have been using mine for 3 years and they are still cutting like the day I installed them. I have never checked to see if they can be resharpened but I have assumed that they can be.

Jim,

I use the table saw more as a matter of convience. I could get accurate cuts on the panel saw if I set it up for that. Most of my frames are in the 12x15 range and cutting a small piece on the panel saw is inconvient. Bending down to cut a small piece on the bottom of the saw is a pain but I could set it up for it. I have a measure built in at about the 3 foot level on the panel saw and could build in a lower one if I made my final cuts on it.

Typically I will put a 4x8 sheet in the panel saw and rip off a 12 1/4" slice (Most of my frames are 12 1/8" wide - most magazines are 8 1/8" plus 2" mats). I will leave the Acrylic in the panel saw for the next slice to be cut. I will then move to the table saw to cut the 12 1/4" slice to the proper height and then trim the width. With the table saw I don't event bother to measure before cutting (well not really). I already have the foam core cut to size and use that to set the table saw fence. I used to measure but it's very convient and accurate to just use the foam core already cut on my Fletcher.

BTW, I also have an Acrylic fact sheet on my web site if anyone is interested at http://www.thepaperframer.com/ChoosingGlassAcrylic.php . I offer all 4 varieties of Cyro. I would guess that the ordering percentages would fall out to be about FF3 (comes standard) 60%, OP3/P99 20%, P99 10%, OP3 10% and glass being neglible.

Another BTW. I only offer the .118 Acrylic, the .098 is really too thin even for the typically small frames I make.
 
So....am I getting this right that acrylic can be cut on a table saw?....

How well does it work? Also, where can I get the blades? Any vendor you suggest?

Steven
 
The VERY best way to cut Acrylic is with a saw. Using a no-melt blade the edges are just as perfect as the edge of the sheet when you get it from your distributor.

The right blade is everything. You can cut Acrylic with a regular saw blade but the Acrylic melts along the cut and you get a raggedly raised edge with the melted gunk sticking to it. Even after you scrap off the gunk, it's not a very good edge.

With a no-melt blade the results are amazing.

Here two links to vendors that sell no-melt blades. I'm not in the shop, but I believe that one of my blades (in the tablesaw) is the tenryu 10" 120 tooth blade.

http://www.forrestblades.com/nomelt.htm

http://www.mytoolstore.com/tenryu/propla.html

They ain't cheap but they sure work well
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While doing a search for no-melt blade vendors, I came across this link;

http://www.craftics.com/cp000017.htm

They offer saber saw blades for cutting Acrylic. They claim to cut a smooth edge. I may give them a try.

This site also has a number of other tools for working with Acrylic such as drill bits, heaters for bending, router bits and adhesives. I've been thinking about making some of my own Acrylic shadowboxes and this place seems to have all the things I need for that.
 
Larry,

Great wealth of informationa and timely for a large quote I've got coming up with 1400 frames shipping individually over a two year period.

Your quite a handsome devil aren't you... :D

Dave Makielski
 
Ron,

I use OP-3 almost exclusively and I could swear it has a yellow cast to it. I trust your information though Ron so I'll have to check myself tomorrow when I'm in my studio. I'll let you know what I find.

As far as saw blades are concerned I also use the Tenryu 10" 120 tooth acrylic blade and it is awsome. I spent $165.00 for mine.

Danny
 
Larry--
Thanks for some wonderful information. I cut most of my acrylic on my 3100. I do, however, have to let one of my suppliers cut sheets for the larger pieces that can't be done in-house. Problem for me has been lots of delay--normally at least a week to two weeks in getting the cut materials delievered. I thought about purchasing a panel saw last year to use for both acrylic and large sheets of gatorfoam. Have to take a good look at the info you provided.
 
I framed a piece today with OP-3 and it definitely had a very slight yellow cast. I checked a piece of regular acrylite FF and it is clear or water white.

Danny
 
Thanks all!!!

We're tied up until next week but, in the meantime, we've located one major local supplier.

The saw sounds like the way to go but unfortunately is not possible in this situation.

We'll try cutting on the Fletcher. Each piece is a different size so it may not be feasible, but we will also be looking into having the pieces pre-cut to size. If it's not too much more costly
faintthud.gif
, this may be the route to go for us. In any event, it's always good to have options.

Thanks again everyone, and keep framing!$!
 
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