Trace Cutting over the pattern
and over a light box

"Rather than using pattern pieces, Trace Cutting is another, and most times easier way, to cut stained glass."





You place the glass over the pattern, look through the glass and cut. It eliminates all of the time consumed with making pattern pieces. It is also referred to as the English Method of cutting glass.

Double Click on all pictures to enlarge them.


trace cutting over the pattern

If you are using cathedral glass, which is glass you can see through, you don't need a light box. Just lay your pattern on your work bench. With this method, you should have a second, duplicate pattern to lay your pieces on as you cut them.




If you are cutting opalescent stained glass, you will have to do your cutting over a light box. The light will make your lines visible, through the glass, in all but extremely dark colors. For those very dark colors you will have to use pattern pieces.

checking for accuracy




Checking for accuracy as you cut.




all cut, final check


The glass is cut and it fits perfectly. You will
see what looks like a parallax error on the top
edge of the glass. It looks that way due to the
angle of the camera.



I'll bet you're saying "what on earth is a parallax error". Here's a simple way to demonstrate what it is. Hold one of your fingers up in front of your face. Close one eye and line your finger up with something such as a door, a window, a lamp, anything the doesn't move. Without moving your finger, turn your head slightly from side to side. Your finger will seem to move off the object you had it lined up with as you turn your head. The difference you are seeing is a parallax error.

The same thing happens to the line you are cutting along if you don't look straight down on it. It's not as difficult as it sounds, and it's really not an issue, just something to be aware of when you are trace cutting.

Another way to use your pattern, is to put the glass over it, trace the lines with a Sharpie, take the glass off of the pattern and cut it. That seems like an extra step to me and a place to make errors, but a lot of people do it that way.

Using a Light Box



cutting glass over a light box


Cutting over a light box. See how the light beneath makes the lines visible through the opalescent glass.




glass over sunflower


Checking for the right place
on the glass to cut a petal.




tracing the pattern using a light box


Tracing the pattern onto the glass, using a light box.
In my opinion this is extra work and room for error.
Why not use you glass cutter instead of a sharpie
and trace cut the glass instead of tracing the pattern!



dense opalescent glass over the light box


Looking through dense opalescent
glass on the light box.





Another way to use your light box is to lay out glass, over a pattern, to see how it will look with light coming through it. You can see how the colors go together, as well as finding the right streaks, swirls, etc. for a particular flower petal, leaf or whatever.

the lights in light box

My light box is extremely basic, but has been built for multiple uses. I have not put sandblasted or etched glass on top. I've used a piece of clear plate glass instead. When I'm trace cutting, my pattern acts as the "frosting on the glass". The lights are the true light/sunlight type, and I use both incandescent and florescent bulbs.



my light box

When I'm not trace cutting, I have the Morton Maxi Surface on top of the glass and use it as a general work surface. I cut on it, use it for strip cutting, trace cutting without the lights on, just about anything else I do in glass. I really work there more than I do on my work benches. There is a shelf underneath for my accumulated "junk" and an electrical outlet on the front for whatever I might need it for.


That pretty much wraps up trace cutting and using a light box. If you have comments or questions about either one, Contact Me.

To learn about making pattern pieces, go to: Pattern Pieces


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This page was last updated on March 5, 2016