How to Make a Custom Hat Rack By Heat Bending Acrylic

How to Make a Custom Hat Rack By Heat Bending Acrylic

Heat bending acrylic can unlock a lot of potential when it comes to creating products. There are a lot of weighs to bend acrylic without the need for expensive and specialized bending machinery. One of the most common ways is to use a heat gun. Although this isn't easy to use on larger pieces, it works well for small bending projects.

For a while, I've wanted to successfully make a project that involved heat bending acrylic. In past heat bending projects, I usually became impatient and tried to rush the bending process which led to breaking the final product. I decided that this time I would make it a point to be more patient and be more careful. 

A friend of mine sent me some new hats and I didn't have anywhere to hang them up. I didn't want to just screw hooks into a board to make a hat rack because there is no challenge in that. I started sketching out ideas and ultimately came up with a challenge project to make a hat rack out of a single piece of acrylic. This meant that I would have to form the hooks myself by heat bending the acrylic.




Laser specs: 60 watt Epilog Fusion M2 40 
Engraving: 60% speed, 40% power 
Vector Cutting: 4% speed, 100% power, Frequency: 100% 
Engraving time: 16 minutes

STEP 1: Design and Cut the acrylic shape

For this project, I designed the hat rack using Adobe Illustrator. The challenge for this project was to make the hat rack out of one single piece of acrylic. This meant that I had to design the hat rack hooks as a 2D tab that will be heat bent in a later step. This is a similar design style to sheetmetal design where everything is designed in two dimensions and bent into shape in a second step. 

If you're using a laser cutter, I recommend leaving the paper masking on for the cutting process. 

STEP 2: Add custom design if desired

Making a hat rack by itself just felt like it would be missing something, so I decided to add my logo. There are a lot of ways that this can be done. You can do this with:

  • Laser engraving
  • CNC engraving
  • Vinyl sticker
  • Etching cream
  • Sand blasting
  • Paint
  • Etc

You do not need to have a laser to create a project like this. Depending on how you choose to add your design, you may need to prep the surface. In my case, I am laser engraving my logo. To get the best results, I recommend removing any type of masking and engraving the design. Cast acrylic gives the best results when laser engraving. Click here for more information on using cast vs extruded acrylic.

For this design the black in the image above is the engraved portion and the red is the vector cut portion. 

To clean off the engraving, simply wipe the acrylic clean with a dry cloth. The blue shop towels from Home Depot work well for this.

STEP 3: Heat bend and form the hooks

For this design, I had to bend the hooks in two steps. The first bend was a short bend of about 1" of material length. The second bend is located where the tab meets the rest of the hat rack material.

I used my heat gun at its highest setting and kept the heat gun about 4-6" away from the acrylic. It took a few minutes to heat the 1/4" acrylic enough to be able to bend it. My method for this was to try bending the acrylic every minute to see if it was easy to bend or difficult. For the best results, make sure the acrylic bends easily and bend it slowly and with patience. 

The acrylic has memory and will attempt to return to its original state. You will need to hold the bent acrylic in place until it cools enough that it stops moving. The good part about this is if any bends don't work out the first time, simply heat the acrylic back up and bend it again.

STEP 4: Attach Quick Snap Fittings

There are a lot of ways to hang acrylic items. I didn't want to add holes to the design because I felt it took away from the aesthetic that I was going for. In lieu of adding holes, I decided to use quick snaps to hang the hat rack.

The quick snaps come in different sizes and each one has a different weight rating for how much weight they can support. If more weight needs to be supported than a single standoff can support, you need to add multiple standoffs. In my case, I decided to use four of these.

The best way to attach these is to use an acrylic adhesive. DO NOT use a normal CA glue as it will not work as well. For this application, I recommend using Weld on 3 or 4.

STEP 5: Hang and Enjoy!

 When hanging your hat rack, be sure to use the standoffs to mark the hole placements for the wall. These quick snap standoffs have a small point on the back of them that will make a small impression in the wall that will make securing it to the wall easy.

Once the spots have been marked, drill pilot holes and secure the quick snap fitting adapters to the wall. Then, simply secure the hat rack to the fittings!


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