How to Cut Plastic With a Dremel – A Step by Step Guide

Dremel tools are fantastic for a lot of activities such as grinding, carving, cutting, etc. It’s nice to have one tool that you can use on many random activities around the house. For example, if you are doing some plumbing, you might need to adjust the length of a PVC pipe. What about using a Dremel for that? Is it possible to use a Dremel to cut plastic?

The answer is yes. If used correctly, Dremels are ideal to get clean cuts in plastic. They are very handy when you need to cut small, square slots, for example for cables to pass through. Here are the steps you need to follow to get the best results:

  • Choose the right cutting wheel. There are two possible choices here. Get a wheel specifically designed for cutting plastic, like the EZ476; alternatively, you can use a multipurpose cutting wheel. Even better if it’s a thin one, such as the EZ409. You’ll get a rougher cut with one of these, though.
  • Prepare yourself and the project for cutting: take all the safety measures needed, mark the cutting spot if needed, get yourself a right angle attachment if you can’t reach the object you want to cut.
  • Next, the cutting phase. Use low speed (10.000 to 15.000 RPM) and low pressure to avoid burning the plastic. Do multiple passes. Finally, sand the edges for a smoother finish.

Now, let’s detail each one of them in the following paragraph.

How to Cut Plastic With a Dremel – A Step by Step Guide

“Dremel 3000” by ghalfacree is licensed under CC BY 2.0

1) Choose the Right Attachment for the Job

To get the best results, this step is key. By using the right cutting wheel, you have already done half of the job needed to get a clean finish. So, what’s the best Dremel bit to cut plastic? There are two possible choices here: use a cutting wheel specifically made for plastic, or a multi-purpose cutting wheel. Let’s discuss both of them.

  • For the cleanest cuts, get yourself an EZ476, 1 1/2-Inch, Cut-Off Wheel For Plastic. This reinforced wheel works great on different types of plastic, from ABS to PVC. It can cut up to 14mm deep. The suggested speed is between 10.000 to 15.000 RPM, basically as low as you can get to avoid burning the material you are working onto;
  • If you have a general-purpose cutting wheel, it should work just fine on plastic too. Just don’t use metal cutting wheels. They are very abrasive, so there’s a high chance they will end up burning the plastic, developing toxic fumes. That’s something you want to avoid. If you want to get a wheel that is also pretty good for random jobs around the house, get the EZ409, 1-1/2-Inch Wheel Diameter, EZ Lock Thin Cut. You can use it with different materials than plastic, such as metal.

Obviously, with a general-purpose cutting wheel the results you’ll get won’t be as good-looking. Maybe this is fine to you; evaluate based on the application at hand.

2) Some Preliminary Activities

Before you start cutting, there are some more things you need to do, or at least keep into consideration:

  • As always, make sure safety is your number one priority. Wear ear and eyes protection, and a pair of gloves. Don’t forget to wear a face mask. The latter is particularly important; you want to avoid breathing plastic dust and toxic fumes that could build up.
  • One more thing regarding safety: if you are cutting a “weird” object, make sure it’s not moving around when cutting. Keep your hands away from the cutting wheel all the time.
  • If you are going to cut a slot, it’s better to mark the area you want to cut to avoid going off the road.
  • When cutting plastic, things will usually get messy real quick. Make sure to use an area that you can clean easily afterward.
  • If you need to cut something in a narrow spot, maybe at a weird angle, consider using a right-angle attachment, such as the Dremel 575 Right Angle Attachment. For example, It will come in handy for cutting installed pipes inside between wall studs.

3) Cutting and Smoothing

Finally, let’s get to the cutting! Make sure to do the following to get the best results:

  • When cutting plastic, it’s key to use the right speed, even more than with other materials such as wood and metal. If you use an RPM that is too high, the plastic will start to overheat and it will melt at some point, resulting in an ugly cut. That’s why you should try to go as slow as possible to get a cleaner cut. Be careful though: if you go too slow, the Dremel will start to jump back at you while approaching the surface. As always, you need to find the right compromise here, which will depend on the material at hand and the cutting attachment you are using.
  • Apply the right amount of pressure. Since you will be using very low speed, the applied pressure will also be very little. With plastic, you should apply as little pressure as possible, and let the tool do the job for you.
  • Since you won’t press too much on the plastic, you’ll need multiple passes to cut through the material. Start with a shallow cut that you will use as a guideline; then start to go deeper with the next passes.
  • As I said before, cutting residue and dust will accumulate very quickly with plastic. It’s easy to get sidetracked. You should frequently clean the cutting area to keep things under control.

After cutting, it’s time to do some final touches. Use a grinding attachment to clean the edges and obtain a better-looking finish. For example, you could use a Dremel 411 Sanding Disc. If you want to use something finer, get a Dremel 413 Fine Sanding Disc. Alternatively, if you don’t want to buy one of those, use some sandpaper and do it by hand.

Final Thoughts

As you can see, cutting plastic with a Dremel is a very simple process. Same as other materials like metal and tiles, one of the key aspects is using the right cutting disc. This is even more important with plastic: for example, if you use a disk that is too abrasive, you might end up burning the cutting surface, which is something you want to avoid at all costs.

So use the right cutting wheel and keep a low-speed rate. Be patient with it and let the tool do the job. Don’t worry it will result in a rough cut. Since you are going at such a slow pace, it’s almost impossible to get a clean cut right off the bat. You can always sand it after and get a nice-looking finish.

So that’s it for this article! Let me know in the comments below what are you going to cut with your Dremel after reading this!

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