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Plexiglas in a Woodshop

Plexiglas in a Woodshop

Plexiglas in a Woodworking shop?

Plexiglas in a Woodshop. While it sounds somewhat strange, there are many reasons to keep a supply of lexan or plexiglas in your woodshop.

 For woodworkers, the idea of keeping a supply of plexiglas in a woodshop raises some eyebrows. Plexiglas is something we keep on hand in our shop, in several thicknesses. We order it in 4' by 8' sheets. The thicknesses we stock are 1/8", 1/4" and 3/4".

 
 
 
 

I find it to be a valuable asset to us due to the fact that it is easily machined, with standard woodworking tools, and will stand up to repeated use. We often use it to guide a cutting blade such as a scapel or exacto knife. Using a wood pattern would allow distortion, as it too can be cut. The plexiglas stands up to the blade and actually guides it. Applying slight pressure to the blade, towards the jig will result in a perfect duplicate, without damage to the jig.

We use it to make patterns for anything we may build more than once, or if it would be cheaper to make a mistake on it, rather than a part of furniture. For example a veneered pattern which took some time and care in producing. We make a plexiglas pattern, and use it to mark and cut the workpiece. One advantage to this is the fact that it's clear, we can see the workpiece and verify it's being laid out right.

We'll scribe cross hairs or layout lines in the jig to assist us in laying out the finished part. This is very helpful.

Or if the workpiece is a single piece of veneer, we can lay the plexiglas pattern on the veneer, and move it around until we are happy with the pattern showing on the veneer.

Another very big use in our shop is in making guides and jigs for our vacuum system. (see vacuum systems - part five)

These jigs save us a huge amount of layout time. We spend a little extra time when making the jig, to verify it's perfect, and from then on, it's saving time, and lots of it. We use these jigs for dadoing with a router, locating biscuits in cabinet parts, holding parts square, while we fasten them together. When using the jigs for biscuiting, we place a piece of masking tape on the jig, and make our marks on the tape. Next time the layout is different, we replace the tape.

Making jigs out of several pieces require connecting the plexiglas together. This is really rather simple, and can be screwed together with standard fasteners for wood. The holes must be pre drilled and countersunk, but with a little care, it's no problem. Also gluing them together is easy. we'll generally glue them together, and then add screws after the glue is cured. (seconds later). The glue is applied to a butted joint, with a needle like applicator, and is so thin it penetrates the joint. The joint is very strong in a short amount of time.

Cutting plexiglas can be done with a table saw, band saw, scroll saw, jig saw, or even a circular saw. The edges can be sanded or filed, to the exact shape / size you want. If you want polished edges, you'll need to heat them with a torch, by just licking the edge with the flame. There is a learning curve here, so it's best to practice on scraps. We find this step to be unnecessary, in most instances.

If you're not using plexiglas in your shop, you should give it a try. It will soon become a valued tool.      

Written by: Lee A. Jesberger © 2006 - 2013
Inventor of: Ezee-Feed Systems ®  

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