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GLASS CUTTING TIPS

There are dozens of different kinds of cutters and lots of opinions about the "correct" way to cut glass, but there's only one key to getting it right: practice, practice, practice.  

The first thing you should do is stay away from the cheap glasscutters you can buy in hardware stores. Instead, get a cutter especially made for cutting stained glass. There are two major types: the pencil grip and the handle grip. There are also two major manufacturers, Fletcher and Toyo. Both make cutters in each style. It's best if you can try each style to find the one that feels most comfortable to you.

Now that you have the right tool, it's time to get ready to cut. Start with scrap glass;  inexpensive window ("float") glass is just right for practice.  It's better to cut standing up than sitting down. Many people are slightly afraid when they first cut glass; as a result, they cut timidly, rather than with an even stroke. Good cutting considers all of the factors listed below.

  •   The right stance. It's better to cut standing up than sitting down. You want to cut using your body, shoulders, and arm, not just the wrist.
  •   A good work surface. It should be level, firm, clean, and at the right height for you. Some people find that a slightly lower table helps them do a better job.
  •   Clean, smooth glass. Dusty or dirty glass can interfere with good cutting. Check to see if one side of the glass is smoother than the other side. If possible, cut on the smooth side. Also, glass tends to cut better at room temperature, rather than when it is cold.
  •   Steady, even movement of the cutter. Jerky starts and stops won't work. Neither will allowing the cutter to wobble. 
  •   The right amount of pressure. You should hear the cutter scratch the surface of the glass. If no mark is left behind, then you're not pressing hard enough.  If you see flaking slivers on the score line, then you are pressing too hard.
  •   Cutting at the right angle. Don't let the cutter drift to the right or left. If the cutting wheel is tilted, you won't be able to get a good score. 
  •   Only cutting once. Never correct a mistake by cutting again. Never go over the scored line a second time. Not only will it fail to cut the glass, it also can dull your cutter. If you have to, turn the glass over and cut on the other side. If that doesn't work, then use a grinder to grind the glass into shape.  
  •   Just a touch of lubricant. Some people cut without oil, others lubricate their cutters generously. For fusing, the best amount of oil to use is the least amount you can use and still keep the wheel from freezing up. Excess oil means more time cleaning the glass before fusing.  Also, using mineral spirits is a good idea; they are inexpensive and also burn off cleanly when firing.

Once you've scored the glass, it's time to break it. You may want to use a pair of pliers (glasscutters, not household) to do this or you might choose to tap along the opposite side of the score with the cutter. You can even use the edge of the tabletop to coax the glass to break along a scored straight line. Whichever method you choose, breaking the glass should be done firmly, holding the glass securely, and immediately after making the score. If you wait too long, the score will begin to "heal" and it will be difficult to get a clean break.

The key to good breaking, just like good cutting, is practice. So use scrap window glass until you feel comfortable with the cutter and how to use it. If you have a grinder, you can also use it to trim up your mistakes, but with practice and time you'll cut the glass perfectly every time.

Finally, be careful when disposing of glass. One safe approach is to wrap the small slivers and chips in scrap newspaper and tape together. This quickly tidies up the workplace and also avoids accidental cuts.