JAIC 1997, Volume 36, Number 3, Article 5 (pp. 233 to 244)
JAIC online
Journal of the American Institute for Conservation
JAIC 1997, Volume 36, Number 3, Article 5 (pp. 233 to 244)





There are some things that should be considered whenever working with sheets of acrylic. They include: where to purchase the material, how the work can be done, and what the safety precautions are.

1.1.1 Purchasing Supplies and Allocating Work

There are many places to purchase the supplies around the country. The best way to locate a local supplier is to contact the manufacturer and ask for Plexiglas MC acrylic sheets. The acrylic sheet comes in 4 8 ft. sheets. The manufacturer is Rohm and Haas Co., 100 Independence Mall West, Philadelphia, Pa. 19106; (215) 592–3000. Once a supplier has been located, you may want to check whether it can also manufacture all or part of the cradle using your drawn pattern. Unless you are fully equipped, you may want to consider having the supplier cut out the pieces and polish the edges. Control over the fit can still be attained by folding the cradle and making necessary adjustments in-house.

Determine how much of the task you are willing to take on after completing the drawing. If you do decide to tackle the complete job, follow all of the manufacturer's safety precautions for using the equipment and working with the material.

Acrylic sheets can be cut using a table saw, jigsaw, router, or saber saw. As the acrylic sheet is cut, it heats up and may melt back together. If this happens, simply recut. Another problem you may encounter is hot particles from the acrylic sheet shooting back toward your arms. Protect your arms by wearing long sleeves. Be certain to wear a full face shield to prevent these hot particles from reaching your face or eyes. You should also wear a dust mask. Be careful to follow all of the manufacturer's safety precautions while using any cutting equipment.

Acrylic sheets can be sanded by hand or with an electric sander. Another item you could use to smooth the edges is a scraper. This task can become labor intensive if all of the smoothing is done by hand. Be certain to wear a full face shield and a dust mask. Also, follow all of the manufacturer's precautions for using any electrical equipment during this process. If you would like to take this one step further and polish the edges, you will need a buffing wheel and rouge. Use the rouge recommended by Rhom and Haas Co.

1.1.2 Cautionary Note

The safety precautions for working with Plexiglas are clearly written on its masking paper by Rhom and Haas. A brief summary of those precautions can be helpful in choosing how much of the work you can handle in-house. The vapors produced while cutting or sanding and polishing the edges can cause nausea, headaches, or dizziness. They can also irritate the eyes, skin, and respiratory tract. Make sure the above processes are done in a well-ventilated area, and wear a dust mask. If breathing troubles are experienced, stop working and get some fresh air. Wash your skin thoroughly after contact with acrylic sheet. Wear a full face shield while working with the acrylic sheet to avoid having hot particles reach your eyes. Should the acrylic sheet irritate the eyes, flush them with plenty of water for at least 15 minutes.


LINDA A. BLASER began her career in a Library of Congress training program in 1972. Her instructors were Christopher Clarkson, Donald Etherington, Peter Waters, and Robert McComb. By 1976 she was working closely with Christopher Clarkson overseeing the preparation, installation, and monitoring of rare book exhibitions. In 1978, Blaser left the Library of Congress to begin a freelance business. Along with this business, in 1992, she began working as a senior book conservator at the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, D.C. Address: Folger Shakespeare Library, Conservation, 201 East Capitol St., S.E., Washington, D.C. 20003; (202) 675-0332; blaser@folger.edu

Copyright 1997 American Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works