What's the best way to cut acrylic?

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Q:

I make a lot of bird feeders with clear acrylic walls. I cut pieces 12" or narrower on my bandsaw, and for wider ones, I use my tablesaw with an 80-tooth veneer blade mounted backwards. This is hard on the blades and doesn’t work very well. Is there a better way?
—Dick Webber, East Jordan, Michigan

A:

For cutting large amounts of acrylic, go with a plastic-cutting specialty blade, Dick. These include 80-tooth, 10" blades, such as the Freud no. LU94M010; the Forrest No-Melt; and the Infinity Cutting Tools Multi Material.

The teeth on plastic-cutting blades have a negative hook angle and beveled sides that cut cooler and smoother, especially on the bottom surface. Compare the negative-angle teeth on a plastic-cutting blade with the teeth of tablesaw blades made for woodworking, which usually have a positive hook angle for an aggressive cut. However, that angle leaves a rough edge on plastic, and the sides of the teeth can rub against the plastic enough to melt it. For best results with a plastic-cutting blade, set the height so that just half of the uppermost carbide tooth is above the acrylic, as shown above.

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