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Acrylic plastics first came on the market in the 1930s.  Early applications took advantage of the new material's transparency, and acrylic is still most widely used as a light, tough substitute for glass.  Acrylic was first used for pens in 1939 by Waterman, for its original Hundred Year line (shown below), and shortly thereafter for the classic Parker 51.  

Hundred Year pen c. 1939

In various colors and forms, acrylic remains a popular material for applications ranging from furniture to jewelry.  It is a quite hard plastic, enabling it to take and retain a good polish, and it is highly impermeable, making it extremely resistant to staining (including deliberate coloring with dyes).  It is also resistant to many chemicals that will attack other plastics, such as cellulose acetate and celluloid -- but keep it away from popular glass cleaners, such as Windex.  Acrylic's hardness makes it rather demanding to work, as it is prone to chip and catch when being machined or drilled.  It is important to use cutting tools and drill bits that are specifically ground for use with acrylic.  They should be kept very sharp, and used with lubricant and/or coolant.  If acrylic is not properly  cut, the workpiece may be left with residual internal stresses that can lead to the development of internal fissuring even months later.  Since acrylic is such a widespread material, detailed information on its use is easy to come by and should be consulted before any work is begun (one example here).


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