Acrylic is a strong, lightweight material that is used as a shatter-resistant substitute for glass. It is crystal clear, distortion free, comes in many colors and finishes, and is easily joined together. Transparent acrylic is used to make airplane window glass, signs and displays, furniture, light fixtures, skylights, aquariums, and eyeglasses. And because it is benign when in contact with the human body, it is used to make contact lenses, dentures, and bone implants. Acrylic is available in many forms such as sheets, rods, tubes, circles and balls, and can be custom cast into other sizes and shapes as desired. If you are an artist or craftsperson and wish to work in acrylic, here are some basic things to consider:
- Cutting Acrylic - In order to join two pieces of flat acrylic together, the joining edges must be smooth and fit together perfectly without any gap, roughness, or surface texture. In order accomplish this, it is best to mechanically cut the acrylic with a router and a very fine blade set to a precise angle. Once the acrylic is cut, it can be mechanically sanded with a flexible shaft rotary tool with different sanding discs and stone bits. When sanding flat acrylic surfaces, take special care not to round or soften any edges if you plan to join those pieces to other pieces of acrylic.
- Joining Acrylic - Two pieces of acrylic can be joined together with a chemical solvent cement. Once the pieces are shaped to fit together perfectly, they are cleaned with soap and water, wiped dry, and then joined together with clamps or braces. Solvent cement is then transferred into a syringe and applied to the areas to be bonded together. The solvent cement dissolves the surface of the acrylic that it touches and the two acrylic pieces instantly fuse together. The bond is almost immediate but should be allowed to set completely for 24 hours before any stress is put on the join.
- Sculpting Acrylic - Acrylic can be cast into large shapes and then carved to create pieces of sculpture. Shaping and carving acrylic can be done with a flexible shaft rotary tool with different metallic and stone carving bits. After the initial shape is attained, the acrylic piece can be sanded and buffed with different bits to smooth and refine the shape. Another method of smoothing the shaped acrylic can be accomplished with a very hot torch that is used to carefully melt the surface of the acrylic and remove any tool marks or cutting scars.
As an artist or craftsperson, you can easily manipulate acrylic to get just the look and finish that you want. Sculpture and other objects that are made in acrylic can look like glass but they not as heavy or fragile. Try working with the different standard forms and finishes of acrylic to see how the material works and then move up to larger and more complex pieces. You are only limited by your imagination when you work with acrylic.
For more information on acrylics, contact local companies like Crown Plastics Inc.