How To Cut Stained Glass
When it comes to getting started with stained glass, there are a few options for how to go about getting a hold of the glass pieces you need. Some people like to start with a pre-cut pattern, where all that’s left to you is to join the pieces they sell you. Our recommendation (and certainly something you’ll want to switch to before long if you do start with pre-cut), is to get your hands on a glass cutter and start mastering it ASAP!
The added creativity, craftsmanship, and sense of accomplishment you’ll find when creating a whole piece start to finish just doesn’t compare to what you get with a pre-cut kit. This video review will give you a quick overview of the basic skills you need to know, and should be plenty to help you get started.
Check out this awesome video guide from Youtube User Glass Crafters. She covers:
- Types of cutters, and how to hold them.
- General tips for making your first cuts.
- How to break your scored pieces.
- Making curved cuts.
- Using a curved jaw grozing pliers.
- Cutting strips and squares.
Glass Crafters : How to Cut Stained Glass
Types Of Cutters and How To Hold Them
In the video, several different types of hand held stained glass cutters are shown. An in-line (or “pencil grip”) cutter is used throughout, but they also show a pistol grip. You can check out our detailed Stained Glass Cutter Buyer’s Guide for more info on how each type is different. The basic point though, is that pistol grip cutters can provide more leverage with the palm of your hand and are easier for people with joint or finger strength problems.
As she demonstrates in the video, there are a few ways to hold the in-line cutter. Either between your middle and index finger, or like a pencil. We generally recommend the former for most beginners, but feel free to experiment.
Similarly with the pistol grip cutter, she demonstrates 2 different hand positions you can experiment with, especially if you have trouble with hand strength.
General Tips For Your First Cuts
Before making their first cut, it’s explained that oil or other lubricant for the cutting wheel should be used. Most cutters have an internal reservoir you can fill with oil and automatically dispense as you work. Some people (including the folks in this video), don’t bother with that and just have some sitting in the bottom of a cup and dip the cutter in it as needed.
Once your cutter is ready to go, the next step is to make some actual cuts. As mentioned in the video, each cutter is different, and knowing how much pressure to apply can take some getting used to. If you’re completely new to stained glass making, it’s a good idea to have a few scrap pieces you can practice making cuts on early in the process, so you don’t make mistakes on your real cuts.
You’ll know you’re using too much pressure if you see tiny shards of glass being thrown off as the cutting wheel travels. Likewise, too little pressure can result in uneven score lines, or unclean breaks.
Once you have your pressure dialed in, the video recommends pulling the cutter towards you for straight lines, and pushing it away (more slowly) for curves. Again it’s a great idea to practice both of these types of cuts on some scrap glass.
How to Break The Scored Glass
Believe it or not, there is a technique for properly breaking glass! As they explain in the video, once you have a good score in the sheet, you want to grip it on both sides of the mark. Your hands should be made into a fist so that you’re using as much surface area as possible to apply the pressure (rather than just your fingers for instance).
Once your hands are set, apply pressure evenly with both hands and the sheet should break cleanly along your score mark. If the break is unclean, double check:
- You used enough pressure when making your cut.
- You applied pressure evenly on both sides of the score mark.
- You’re not attempting to make curves that are to sharp (see below).
How to Cut Curves In Glass
The next topic they demonstrate is how to cut a curved section out of a glass sheet without breaking it in unexpected places. The recommended approach is to make your first cut where you want it, and then make smaller concentric cuts moving inward away from where you want the “real” cut to be.
Once the smaller inner cuts are made, a pair of grozing pliers can be used to progressively break each inner chunk away, leaving you eventually with just the original desired curve.
The other tip she gives for cutting curves is to move the cutter away from your body slowly, instead of towards you at higher speeds like you might do when cutting a straight line. This is great advice, but again, experiment and see what works best for you.
Using Grozing Pliers
In the video, they demonstrate how to use a pair of grozing pliers to make smaller curves and clean up larger ones. The basic idea is to take very small chunks of glass away, a bit at a time, as you round out the edge.
This is a good alternative to using a grinder, if you haven’t taken the plunge and purchased one yet. It’s more labor intensive, but it’s a good way to start out until you’re ready to make the purchase. Once you are, check out our Stained Glass Grinder Buyer’s Guide for a thorough review of the different options, and our top picks.
Cutting Strips and Squares
There are a few ways to cut strips and squares. The hard way, is to use a straight edge with your traditional glass cutter. You have to be careful when using this method, to allow the right amount of spacing between the cutting head and the edge, so your cuts aren’t off their markby the width of the head.
The other option they spend a lot of time on, is the strip cutter. This thing is great for making consistent straight lines, and the model they show in the video also happens to work for circle cuts as well. Not surprisingly, that same model was on top of our Stained Glass Cutter Buyer’s Guide recommendation list for circle and strip cutters.
The technique for cutting strips is fairly straightforward. Just line up your material, set the width of the cut you want, and then press down firmly as you move across the glass. This technique is highly repeatable and consistent, and works great for cutting squares as well.
Cutting glass is a fundamental skill for stained glass making, and one you should start to work on early and often. The sense of satisfaction you get from creating a work from start to finish just can’t be beat!
This awesome video tutorial has some great nuggets of wisdom to help you get started with the most common types of cuts you’ll be making early on in your stained glass making endeavors. We’ve summarized the key takeaways, and leave the next steps up to you! Go get started!!