Welcome to Learn How to Cut Glass

While you learn how to cut glass, you can stay here as long as it takes to learn to cut accurately.

By accurately, I mean it should be exactly the size and shape it is meant to be. "Almost right" isn't good enough. "That's good enough" isn't good enough! It has to be precisely exact. It will take some practice to get to that point when you are learning how to cut glass, so follow the stained glass mantra...Practice, Practice, Practice, then practice some more!

You should just cut and break random straight lines to start with. Don't get too fancy until you're comfortable using a glass cutter and have gained some knowledge of how to cut glass.

You will hear some people call it scoring glass, others will say cutting glass (I use both terms). Score and cut are synonymous with each other. We don't actually "cut" anything...it's not like cutting paper with scissors.

What happens is a line is scored/scratched on the glass with a glass cutter, just enough to disturb the molecules on the glass surface. If the score is done correctly, the glass will break, with little effort when the proper pressure is applied to that score line. That pressure can be applied with your hands or special tools all of which are shown in the video below.

Please Note Have some adhesive bandages near by. You will probably get a few cuts as you're learning how to cut glass. Everyone that works with stained glass gets cut once in a while. When it happens we wipe the cut off with some alcohol, put on an adhesive bandage and keep working. The cuts are usually small nicks, they don't hurt, and they heal fast. Make sure you have read the page on Safety Tips before you begin.

Tools You'll Need to Learn How to Cut Glass:

1. Glass Cutter The 2 most popular glass cutters are:
The Comfort Grip, also called a pencil cutter...It is comfortable to hold and use. You hold it like a you'd hold a pencil.
The Pistol Grip is held like..you guessed it...a pistol.

If you can, go to your local stained glass shop and try the two different types of cutters that I have recommended. Don't let the shop owner sway you one way or the other. Try them and see which one feels the most comfortable in your hand. Don't forget, it's a tool that you'll be using more than any other stained glass tool you have, so you must get it for comfort as well as ease of use. It's especially important to have a cutter that feels comfortable when you are learning how to cut glass.

I understand that you haven't even learned how to cut glass yet, but you can still tell which glass cutter feels the best in your hand.

2. Oil for your glass cutter. Any kind of household oil will work, such as sewing machine oil, 3-1 Oil, lamp oil, kerosene, or cutting oil which is available from your local stained glass shop (but much more expensive than the other types of oil mentioned).

Many people, including myself, don't like to fill their cutter's reservoir with oil. We prefer to dip the cutter wheel in oil by putting a sponge in the bottom of a small container, like a baby food jar, and soaking the sponge with oil. Then just wipe the cutter tip on the sponge every few cuts.

It's not necessary to dip the cutter in oil for each score you make. You can go up to 10 scores or more before needing to dip again. The length of the score will determine the actual amount of oil used, so for long scores, usually 12 inches or more, you will need to dip more often.

3. Running Pliers

4. Breaking/Grozing Pliers

5. Marking Pen

6. Goggles

7. Dustpan and Brush

8. Coffee can or other container to hold scraps of glass

10. Newspaper

11. Have a folded paper towel close by to occasionally roll the cutter wheel back and forth on. It gets rid of small bits of glass that can get stuck around the wheel.

You can see a pictures and description of each of these tools and supplies at Stained Glass Tools and Supplies

How to Put Oil in an Oil Cutter

If you're going to fill your glass cutter with oil, unscrew and remove the brass cap on the end of the cutter.
Fill the barrel 2/3 to 3/4 full with oil.
Replace the brass cap.
To regulate the flow of oil, open the brass cap 1/4 to 1 full turn. If you totally unscrew the cap, the oil will run fairly fast (not a good thing). If it's completely closed you will get very little or no oil at all. Experiment with your cutter to find the rate of flow that will give you just a fine line of oil as you are scoring the glass. Each oil cutter seems to flow a bit differently, even within the same style and brand. When your cutter is not in use, tighten the cap so that oil doesn't leak out.

The Basics of How to Cut Glass

Use ordinary window glass while you are learning how to cut glass. Save that beautiful, and more expensive, colored glass for your first project.

If you are able, you should be standing up to cut glass. Stand 2 to 3 inches away from the cutting table so that you have room to move. Stand with your legs slightly apart for good balance and the ability to move your body as you are cutting the glass. The movement of your body and your shoulder will give you the best control over the cutter.

The height of the surface you will be cutting on should come between your hips and your waist. That will put you in the most comfortable position for cutting glass.

Place around 20 to 30 sheets of newspaper (in a pile) on your work surface. You will be cutting your glass on the newspaper. It gives you a way to keep your work area clean. When one sheet of paper gets small slivers of glass on it, you can fold it up and throw it away, leaving a clean sheet to work on.

Make sure you're wearing goggles/safety glasses, long sleeves and closed toe shoes, not just when you learn how to cut glass, but every time you cut glass forever more.

Are you ready? Watch the following video to learn how to cut glass. This video only shows the very basics. You need to learn them and get comfortable using your glass cutter before you go on to more advanced cutting techniques. Practice, then practice some more, until you feel like you could cut and break glass in your sleep. Once you feel comfortable cutting straight lines, cut some gentle curves and S shapes.

Make sure you read the rest of the tutorial, below, after you have watched the video.

To play the video, click on the white triangle.

Scoring Your Glass

  • If you are using a comfort grip/pencil grip cutter, hold it like you would hold a pencil or hold it like a pistol if you're using a pistol grip cutter. Keep the wheel absolutely perpendicular to the glass. You can lean the cutter handle forward or backward (whichever is most comfortable for you), but do not tip it from side to side. Doing that will cut the glass at an angle, making it wider on the top side than the bottom side. That's not a good thing!

  • holding a pencil grip cutter

    Holding a comfort grip or pencil grip cutter

    holding a pistol grip cutter

    Holding a pistol grip cutter

  • If you are using glass other than window glass, determine which side of your glass is the front. The front is usually the smoothest or shiniest side. Lay it on your cutting surface, front side up. Starting at the edge of the glass nearest to you, place your cutter wheel on the glass, approximately 1/16 to 1/8" away from the edge.

    Applying light, even pressure to the cutter, push the wheel across the surface of the glass, maintaining the same pressure until you get to the other edge. You want to hear a zipper or static type sound as you roll the cutter across the glass. Roll the wheel over the other edge, still maintaining the same pressure. Try not to ram the wheel on the work surface, which will take some practice to accomplish when you're learning how to cut glass.

  • Cut slow and steady. Speed doesn't count. The important thing is maintaining the same pressure from start to finish.

  • While scoring, do not go over the score a second time, and don't move your cutter back and forth with a scrubbing motion. This will result in a score that won't break along the line, which will end up breaking a nice piece of glass into unusable pieces. It can also ruin the wheel of your cutter.

  • Watch your score line. If you see small flakes of glass flying up or white powder along the score line you're applying too much pressure on the cutter. With the next score use a little less pressure. If you can't see where your score line is you're not applying enough pressure, so try pushing a bit harder with the next score. It will take practice to learn how hard to push down on your cutter.

Breaking Out the Score

Breaking glass with hands When you learn how to cut glass, the first method you should learn to break out the glass along the score line is to do it with your hands. Always start the break from the edge you ended the score on. To do this, pick up the glass and turn it around so the back edge is now in the front. Make sure you keep the score line on the top side of the glass. Put the glass back down on your work bench.

Pick up the glass from the front edge, but leave the back edge touching the work bench. That will support the glass so it doesn't fall when you break it along the score line.

Put your thumbs on either side of the score line on top of the glass, and curl you fingers to form fists under the glass with the knuckles of your index fingers and middle fingers touching. Hold the glass firmly, apply even pressure with your thumbs. Next you will apply a quick snapping motion with your thumbs as you roll your knuckles down, from your index fingers to your little fingers. This action causes an up and out motion which will make the glass break along the score line.

Pull your hands apart as the glass separates so you don't accidentally cut your knuckles. I've seen that happen the first time a student breaks the glass, only because it surprises them when it breaks and they push the glass down as soon as it separates rather than pulling it apart.

You should also learn how to use running pliers to break the glass along the score line. To learn about using running pliers you can read about them and watch a video at How to Use Running Pliers

How Are You Doing?

Well...how are you doing? Are you having any problems learning how to cut glass? You can ask me questions and get answers by using the form below. By asking questions there, other people that are having the same or similar problems can read my answers.

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If you don't feel comfortable asking questions on-line, you can email your questions to Contact Me

For more helpful tips and techniques on how to cut glass go to Glass Cutting Tips

To learn how to cut the different colors and types of glass, go to Cutting Stained Glass

Return from How To Cut Glass to Free Patterns For Stained Glass

This page was last updated on March 5, 2016

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