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Glass Versus Acrylic

Issue: TW11 May '13

THESE TWO MATERIALS can look very similar but have quite distinct characteristics, manufacturing methods and usage. Both materials are used for furniture making, screening and
for staircases.

Glass can be prone to chipping at the edges and is heavy which makes it delicate to handle. While ‘acrylic’ which most of us know by the trade name Perspex is less delicate to handle but can scratch more easily.

In the past, I have had a bespoke desk made by the glass sculptor Danny Lane. He bolts sheets of glass together to form a laminated block and then chips away at the edges so that they are jagged then sands them down to a smooth finish. He is actually using the brittle nature of the glass edge in a decorative way. His furniture and decorative walls get their beauty from light reflecting off the edge of the layers and the green transparent glow. This is quite unique and stunning furniture but not the sort of thing you would choose if you had toddlers around or are planning a move, as the desk we had made was supported by a steel beam and bolted to the floor.

As acrylic is more flexible it is generally considered a better material to use if you have young children around. An unfortunate bump is a little less painful and acrylic is less likely to shatter.

We’ve designed a child’s two storey bed/playroom with a slide that had an ‘acrylic glass’ balustrade, upper barrier and gate which our client and their child loved. The acrylic barrier allowed the infant to play, sleep and
slide safely.
Glass has a beauty to it as it is far more reflective than acrylic. This adds a precious quality in its natural green colour or in the ‘low mercury’ option where the glass edge appears more clear.

Acrylic and glass are often used together so that both of their qualities can be maximised. For example in the elliptical glass stairs we had made for a penthouse apartment the entire stair was glass, with laminated treads to increase the glass strength in compression and sandblasted for grip. Acrylic was used for the ninety degree curved balustrades as these would have been incredibly expensive to produce from glass.

Fusion Glass make some incredible screens where fabrics are laminated in acrylic between glass sheets to make wall panels. They also make panels where any pattern can be imprinted into the screen with sand to create a beautiful textured panel or wall.

Tanya Dunbavin is a local
designer and owns Amok
Tel: 0774 784 3566