How to Cut a Plastic Barrel Top

Elton Dunn

Hard plastic can be a challenge to saw, since the material bends under pressure. You'll need to know how to cut a plastic barrel top when you're making a rain barrel. If you have scrap plastic around, you may want to practice on that. Careless errors could ruin the top of your 55-gallon rain barrel or, at the least, present you with an interesting project to patch up. When working with tools, always use care and wear eye protection.

Step 1

Determine how large you want your hole to be. To adequately harvest rainwater, your hole should be at least 3 inches in diameter. You may choose to expose half of the barrel or you might prefer a small hole. Whatever your preference, you will need to cover the hole with mesh screen to prevent debris from falling in and contaminating your water harvest.

Step 2

Draw a guideline directly on the surface of your plastic barrel using a permanent marker. You may wish to trace a round object, such as a paint can or wine bottle, to obtain a perfect circle.

Step 3

Drill a starter hole using a drill fitted with a small bit. Make sure to drill inside your guide line, not outside or on the line. This will allow you to slip your saw's blade inside and begin cutting the barrel top.

Step 4

Insert an electric jigsaw into the barrel using the hole you just created. Place one hand on the side of the saw to guide it and the other on the top of the saw. Before you begin, make sure the barrel is steady and will not move. Work your way around the barrel top, cutting on the guideline. Stop your saw just before you have made a complete circle, then turn off and remove the saw.

Step 5

Grasp the cutout, which should be hanging by a small plastic bit. Pull up to remove the plastic. If it doesn't come out readily, work a small utility knife along the connected edge until it comes loose.

Step 6

Clean up any rough spots with your utility knife. If any plastic pieces fall into the rain barrel, turn it upside down and shake until they come loose. Once you have finished cleaning up the hole, you can tape mesh screen over the inside lip.