Cutting thicker Styrene?


Master Member
I have some 1/4 of an inch styrene and it has proved too thick for my toughest scissors. How do you guys cut such material? I would like to avoid using a saw for now if possible. I also think "scoring and snapping" might not be precise enough.
Well, my first thought was a saw... even a plastic cutting blade in a table saw. 1/4" is pretty darned thick.

Scoring and snapping is not precise enough? What are you trying to make? Perhaps getting a laser cutter to do it? Do you already have the 1/4" material?
I ordered some styrene at different thicknesses to experiment, and it seems like I missed the middle size (I have super thin and super thick). I live in an apartment building where the use of power tools is extremely limited.
Hey fellow builders - any locals willing to lend a hand... or a saw and some ship time? :lol
I use a dremel diamond circle blade from harbor freight. Works well. For straight lines I use a utilty knife and a staight edge than snap like drywall.
Score and snap method. You shouldn't be using scissors on styrene to begin with as it warps the edges. Get the rough shape cut using this method, then use files, sandpaper, or a dremel with a sanding drum to do any contours the shape has.
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I'm always like to see what I can do with simple hand tool. It's quieter, usually cleaner. I've cut thicker plastics like styrene with hand saws. A coping saw with finer teeth will go through and allow curve cuts. A hack saw blade also deals with Styrene fine. Head to Home Depot!
I use a lot of 1/8" styrene which I cut using a ruler and the back of an old dull blade.
Basically it "scrapes" a thin "coil" of the plastic the thickness of the blade so you have to make sure to cut on the outside of your line. I will keep doing this till I am threw the plastic.
For something as thick as 1/4" you might want to cut part way threw then use a saw to notch the edge so that it can be aligned on the reverse side. Then use those marks to cut the other side till you are threw.
I have found this works fairly well but it does leave a bit of uneven excess which can be sanded smooth.
Hope this is helpful, Petseal
petseal, once you scrape about halfway through, you can just snap it in two. You'll get a perfectly straight line, no need to scrape all the way through.
Scribe and snap, that's how the pros are doing it that trim out their TK armor. It is fast, and doesn't kill your hands like the scissors method will.

Dave :)
petseal, once you scrape about halfway through, you can just snap it in two. You'll get a perfectly straight line, no need to scrape all the way through.

I will have to try that but I have my doubts that it would be a clean brake on something 1/4" thick!
At the very least it will probably brake in the middle of the notch created by the blade which would mean more sanding to even the edge out.
I have never needed 1/4" material before so I really can't say for sure.
Later, Petseal
I know you said no saw, but I've had good luck using a jewler's hand saw cutting thick styrene, particularly if the piece has a lot of curves in it.
TAP plastics will tell you circular saw for .80 and a plastics blade. Or at least that's what they told me.

Question for the scribe&snapperers. Does the snap raise an edge on one side?

You can't use power tools anyway: it'll melt. If score and snap isn't working, I think it'll have to be a razor saw.
There are dremel-like powertools that work at slow speeds, that are especially catered for plastic model builders. On the other hand, the same machines are worthless when you need power.

For plastic up to 1/8", I use a "scoring knife" and a metal ruler.
A scoring knife has a blade that points backwards. I hold the knife horizontally and pull it towards me to make a score. (Just google for images of "scoring knife" and you will see).
First, styrene that thick CAN be cut on a table saw. Do not try to cut it with a band saw, though, as it will melt and bind the blade up. I cut everything from .060 up on a table saw. I don't know how big your part is, but if it is small enough, use a handsaw. The thing to remember here is that you really can't score and snap this stuff when it is that thick. Actually you can, but it is dangerous. The resulting edge can be as sharp as a razor and you can get a nasty cut when the plastic suddenly breaks along the score line.

It can be cut on a table saw, to avoid chipping get a carbide plywood blade (high tooth count) and mount it BACKWARDS on the table saw so it runs in reverse... You can also place masking tape along the cut line on both sides to help get a cleaner cut...

Running the blade in reverse even though it is illogical will almost entirely eliminate the blades ability to "grab" the plastic, this is what causes chipping and cracking... I was shown this reverse blade technique by a vinyl siding guy on his slide chop saw and never looked back...

Take the cut at a moderate to slow speed, too slow and it will start to melt too fast and it can melt or jump...

You can also use this saw technique to simply score the sheet for hand snapping, just cut half way through...
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