Re: Aquatic Plants Digest V2 #517

>      Any steel bit will work*.  I have had better success using a forstner 
>      bit though.  Stay away from the flat wood working bits.  I don't have 
>      a drill press but I would definitely use it if it was available.
>      *The CRITICAL thing with acrylic is heat generated from the bit.

OK, I've seen a few replies to the question on drilling acrylic, and I'm
concerned.  You guys make it sound really scary.  In fact, acrylic is a
wonderful substance to work with.  Glass is difficult to cut, to drill,
to glue -- it's horrible, except that it doesn't scratch -- which is why
we tend to use acrylic despite its higher cost for everything except the
simplest shapes, or for items that will get scratched (such as the walls
of a tank.)  I think we would have many more new and interesting designs
for aquaria and aquarium equipment if people weren't afraid to

I've done aquarium and non-aquarium work with acrylic (done some 3-d
dragnochess sets), and my brother-in-law does scale models of custom lift
trucks he designs in acrylic.  My advice for people who want to play:

1. Don't sweat it; it's fun stuff.  
2. Wood bits will work fine, but use sharp bits.  A dull bit doesn't cut
anything well.
3. Measure three times, cut once (acrylic is more expensive than wood.)
4. You can buy scrap pieces of acrylic to work with at plastics shops;
4'x8' sheets are expensive, but cut-offs are sold by the pound.  Unless
you're making a (scratch-prone) acrylic-walled tank, scrap pieces will be
easier to work with, anyway.
5. If you can buy extra scrap as "experiment" pieces, to develop a feel
for the right pressure to use when drilling, you'll feel more comfortable
when it comes to the actual holes.
6. As when drilling anything else, lay the substance you're drilling on
another drillable substance.  This will give you a clean exit hole and let
you apply the proper pressure.  If you're drilling a pre-assembled box,
hang it on the corner of a workbench with some scrap wood underneath.
7. If you're concerned about the heat, or are poor at developing a "feel"
for the material, use a cutting fluid.  It's not necessary; my cleanest
holes were done >without< cutting fluid.  Mind you, they weren't the first
holes I ever drilled.
8. If you're trying to cut straight lines of any serious length, and don't
have a table saw, have the plastic shop make the cuts for you, or you may
have a rough time gluing later.  Or you'll need a lot of silicone to fill
the gaps.  8)
9. Have fun, and if you come up with any efficient, usefull, or
easy-to-maintain designs, let us know!