Acrylic, Metal and Biker Chicks: New Twist on the Basic Cuff

Actually there were no biker chicks (that I know of) in last weekend’s class on “Acrylic Cuffs”. Many of the spikes you see in the photos below are unfinished bolts – still a little work to do on some of them, but an easy final step.

Students And Their Work - Cuffs And Acrylic Class

Students And Their Work - Cuffs And Acrylic Class

Additional Student Work - Cuffs And Acrylic Class

What a joy it is to change up the materials we use in making jewelry – seems to bring along stimulating ideas and fruitful challenges. Do you feel like playing with acrylic in your work? The following information may help you……

Are there any safety issues in working with acrylic?
Heat under a fume hood or stand upwind outside – the fumes are not good for you. Wear a dust mask when sanding and sawing. When heated, the acrylic is very hot – use thick leather garden gloves or thick kitchen mitts (not to be returned to the kitchen). The garden gloves make it easier to pick up the acrylic.

Where do you get sheets of acrylic?

Ridout Plastics in San Diego and online. A 4×6” sample set is a good option. You won’t likely need large pieces for jewelry making unless you do production work. You can also get rods and other interesting shapes.

If you live in San Diego, check out the Ridout scrap bin at the front door. It is refilled every Monday morning. 5535 Ruffin Rd., San Diego California 92123, 858.560.1551 or 800.383.1551

How do you cut the acrylic?
A #1 saw blade for the jeweler’s saw works well cutting fairly thin sheets (this is what we used in class). You can also consider using spiral blades – the teeth resist clogging with plastic particles. If you are cutting large sheets consider using a blade.

How do you shape the acrylic?
We used a Chicago heat gun from Harbor Freight. The gun heats up to 1100 degrees so be very careful when using it. On top of a fire resistant surface (i.e., fire bricks) heat the acrylic until it slumps. Place it immediately on a form (the top of a cuff, in a metal mold such as a dapping dieor a swage, etc.) The acrylic will take the shape of the object you subject it to (within reason). When it is flat you may have to guess when it is soft enough to form. If you end up with a shape you don’t want, reheat. Avoid overheating as the acrylic can blister.

Can you join two different pieces of acrylic together?
This information is from the Ridout website:

“Plastics that can be dissolved by a chemical are generally glueable, while those that are not dissolved cannot be glued.

A quick test you can do at home: Find some nail-polish remover (acetone) and test a very small area on the plastic you would like to glue. If it gets sticky, then Ridout Plastics has a solvent adhesive that will work! If the acetone simply dries up, you have a problem. Your choices will be: mechanically fasten the plastic, ultra-sonic welding, or hot-air welding (that should be interesting – CF comment). Most chemical tanks are made of polypropylene or polyethylene and will not glue. PVC and ABS will glue (like your sprinkler pipes). Engineering plastics for the most part cannot be glued with adhesive, unless a contact adhesive is acceptable for your application”.

I have had mixed results with gluing different pieces together. In several pins I made that are flat, I had no problem. The cuff you see below cracked as I cinched down the acrylic to the cuff. It is not obvious by looking at the cuff that this occurred.

The glue needs to set up for 24-48 hours.

What adhesives work with Plastics?

Check out this link to the Ridout Plastics website.

What do you do to get rid of scratches?
Solution from the Ridout website:
“Sand the affected area with 400 Wet/Dry, then 600 Wet/Dry. Use a buffing wheel on your drill with the Plastic Buffing Compound or White Diamond (note from Connie – wear a particulate mask because WD contains silica) as Rouge is too fine, to restore the shine. Let the compound do the work – do not press hard or you will “burn” the compound into the plastic.”

You can use sand paper to achieve a frosted look.

How do you connect the plastic to the metal?
There are a number of cold connections that you can use: mini bolts, tube rivets, tabs and wire rivets.

Have fun and if you decide to give this a try please send your experience or images along to me at

Additional Resources:

Look for directions for Deb Jemmott’s acrylic bracelets in a new book coming out. I will post the information on my blog when it is available.

The Art of Jewelry: Plastic & Resin: Techniques, Projects, Inspiration – Debra Adelson.

500 Plastic Jewelry Designs: A Groundbreaking Survey of A Modern Material – Lark Books

Acrylic And Sterling Silver Cuff By Connie Fox

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