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[Stained Glass Gems] Glass Cutting Tips
March 21, 2010

Issue #16 Glass Cutting Tips

Greetings to all of my stained glass friends, and a belated Happy St Patrick's Day. These Stained Glass Gems have been found during my frequent browsing and deep digging for helpful and or unusual stained glass web sites, as well as other information pertaining to stained glass. I have a long list that I will share with you over the months ahead. I do hope that there's a gem or two that will brighten your day and be helpful during your stained glass journey.

Thank you to everyone that responded to my call for help last month. I am in total awe at the response I got. I have been working my way through the emails and answering each one of them. If you haven't got a response from me, it will come. I still have around 20 to answer. The ideas were wonderful and there were many things I would have forgotten or not even thought of. I know your help will make the information on make my new web site much more valuable to the people that want to learn to do stained glass.

The largest number of ideas were for cutting glass. It looks like a lot of you weren't taught how to cut glass. You were given a short demo then left to your own devices. I have been working hard on the glass cutting tutorial, but there is so much I want to include that it's giving me some problems, so it still isn't ready to put on the web site.

There's so much more to cutting glass than just picking up your glass cutter and running it over the glass. You need to know what will happen when you do this or that, why does it work better this way than that way, how different glasses respond to the glass cutter, etc. That's why I don't advocate using a grinder while my students are learning how to cut glass. If they think they can run over to the grinder and fix every problem area, they'll never really learn how to cut glass.

Glass Cutting Tips

  • The first and foremost rule is ACCURACY. If your cutting isn't accurate, you can bet that nothing else you do will be right. Actually, it starts with your pattern pieces. They must be accurate before your glass can be accurate. And...your pattern pieces won't be accurate if your pattern isn't accurate. In stained glass, every step builds on the step before it. The words "that will be good enough" don't have any place in stained glass work.

  • Cut from a working piece of glass rather than an entire sheet. A working piece is a square or rectangle, a bit larger than the pattern piece, cut from the large sheet of glass. You drawn your pattern on the working piece, or lay the working piece over the pattern if you do trace cutting. That way, if something goes wrong (and yes, things can go wrong), you won't lose the entire sheet of glass.

  • Deep inside curves Deep Inside Curves can be cut by taking out small curves, one at a time (see picture to the left), or they can be removed with running pliers. See the video on the Running Pliers tutorial to see how to do it.

  • When you cut glass you should be standing, not sitting. The height of the surface you work on should be somewhere between your hips and your waist. Stand with your feet slightly apart and your body about 4 inches away from the workbench. That way you can move your body as well as your arm, which makes going around irregular shapes and curves a lot easier.

  • Sometimes it's easier to cut an irregular shape if you have your glass near a corner of you work surface. When you stand at the corner, you have much more area to move around giving you the advantage of cutting the full length of a line or curve in one go. That makes a much cleaner edge when you break it out.

  • I find that it's easier to cut deep curves and circles if I move the glass instead of the glass cutter. I start the score in the usual manner, then when I get to the point where I can't bend my arm to continue the score, I start to rotate the glass with my other hand. I hold the glass cutter still while maintaining the pressure necessary to score the glass. When you use that method, the glass needs to be on a smooth surface that is free of glass chips or you'll end up scratching the glass. A large lazy susan is another thing you can cut on to simplify cutting curves and circles.

  • Impossible Cuts Be aware of impossible or very difficult cuts and change them. Some stained glass patterns have not been designed by people that work with stained glass, and they draw pieces that just can't be cut.

  • If you are breaking the glass with your hands or using breaking pliers, some glass responds much better to being pulled apart as you're snapping it rather than just snapping it apart. I was taught that by the owners of the Bullseye Glass Company many years ago.

  • Cutter head and screwYou can hold your glass cutter any way that is comfortable for you as long as the wheel stays vertical to the glass and the screw on the cutter head is on top. You can tip the handle forward or backward, but never tip it sideways. If you tip it sideways, you'll end up with a beveled edge, making the front side of your glass wider than the back side. I always tell my students that their glass cutter is not like a don't lean into curves. Keep the cutter upright (not leaning left or right) at all times.

  • Cut glass on a pile of newspaper. It cushions the glass, and it's easy to throw away a sheet of paper as it gets covered with glass bits.

  • Cutting TechniquesWhen cutting a piece with a point, such as a triangle, start scoring at the narrowest end and finish the score at the widest end. That way, you will have a much better chance of keeping the tip of the glass when you break it out. It's not so important with lead work, but it is essential for copper foiling to have that tip there. I'm assuming that you know to start the break from the edge you finish the score on.

    Always do the most difficult cuts first. The more glass you have around those cuts, the easier they will be.

  • To cut textured or seedy glass, cut on the smoothest side. If you want to the texture or seeds to show on the front of your panel, reverse your pattern piece before you start cutting. When you're finished, turn the glass over and the texture or seeds will be on the front.

  • When you use pattern pieces and draw around them with a marking pen, always cut on the inside edge of the marking pen line, not down the middle or on the outside edge. Make sure there's no black line left on the piece you cut out. If there is, the glass will be too big. On the same note, don't go way inside the line, the cut has to be right along the edge of the line. That's where practice comes in. Practice cutting along lines until your cutting is absolutely accurate.

Miscellaneous Stuff!

I thought it would be interesting to find out what you use, from around the house, to replace tools or supplies for your glass work? For instance, some people use old record racks or old dishwasher racks to hold square foot pieces of glass. I use a dowel to burnish foil, and wooden clothes pins to hold small pieces when I'm edge beading. So...what do you use?? Let me know at Contact Me. I'll publish the results in the next ezine.

I'll be attending the Glass Craft and Bead Expo in Las Vegas, April 9 and 10 (but will be in Vegas from April 1st through the 11th). Going there was not in my plans for this year and the opportunity came up suddenly, so I'm scrambling to get things wound up before I leave in less than 2 weeks. If any of you will be there, let me know and perhaps we can get have a "Free Patterns" get together for a chat or even a meal. You can email me at Contact Me.

This is a "totally unrelated to stained glass" web site that I enjoy. I know that many of you do other crafts, as well as stained glass, and I think you might have fun with what The Toymaker has to offer.

Here's the latest Score from Spectrum Glass. It includes several nice Easter patterns.

Have a look at Robert Oddy's web site for some unique patterns, plus a free pattern to show you what the patterns and instructions guides are like.
All designs feature:
Three-dimensional layering that creates depth in your designs - taking you well past the two dimensions of basic stained glass.
Full-color instructional guides for every step in the construction process.
Full-scale patterns ready to print as many times as you need for your project.
Supply lists for each design to help make sure you have everything you need.
Extra construction tips take you beyond the simple skills you learned as a beginner!
By the way, Robert will be in Vegas for the Glass and Bead Expo, so if you're there stop by and say hello to him.

Go to How-To DVDs to find hundreds of "How To" DVD's for rent. They have some very interesting stained glass tutorials that can be found at Glass

book Working With Lead eBook.

It contains everything found in my Lead Tutorial as well as larger pictures and a practice pattern to use while learning the techniques. Use ordinary window glass while you're learning and save your colored glass for when you're ready to make some windows.
It only takes a minute to order, and you can download it right away, as an Adobe PDF document. Get it today for only $9.95
Buy Now If you're not completely satisfied, it comes with a 30 day, no questions asked, money back guarantee.


"Make a Box With a Hinged Lid"
is an eBook that will walk you through making a stained glass box. Read about what is included in the book and how it will simplify box making. You'll get a free gift, Learning the Copper Foil Technique, when you buy this eBook.
Go here "Make a Box With a Hinged Lid", to buy now.

Since there is occasionally some confusion, I want to clarify that an eBook is an electronic book that is downloaded on your computer. You will need Adobe Acrobat Reader to be able to read it and/or print it out.

Best deals in art glass suppliesDelphi Stained Glass Supplies is a place where I have bought supplies online and over the phone for many years. Some very helpful people work there, and I recommend Delphi as a reliable place to order your supplies.

Just in case you don't know, the Stained Glass Gems ezine is mailed out the third Sunday of every month. Be on the look out for [Stained Glass Gems] Issue 17 on Sunday, April 18th.

I want to encourage you to have fun and experiment with your glass. Try new things and different techniques. It's amazing what you can do when you "think outside the box."


Stained Glass Patterns and Tutorials

This is where you can Contact Me

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