This glass cutting guide takes you though five different ways of cutting a straight line. You might be wondering why you should spend time learning five different methods, when you can cut stained glass with just one? Very good question!
And the answer? Because all five together will give you the foundation skills needed for creative freedom. Once you've got the hang of these techniques, you can adapt them to cut any shape in stained glass you want.
Glass is 'cut' in two stages. First , you make a cut or score line across the glass from one side to the other with the wheel of the cutter. Then you break it apart, safely. Don't be alarmed! 'Separating' is a better description than 'breaking'.
Cutters can be pulled or pushed
The cut is made in exactly the same way for each method, so you only have to learn it once! It's how you break the stained glass apart that differs.
I always wear safety glasses and use a dustpan and brush for the shards. I cut on scraps of linoleum, it's cheaper than the cutting mats you can buy.
Cutting sheetglass with plastic cutting square
Once you've made a cut you're happy with, you're ready to separate it.
Tools. This technique uses the least amount of tools. Just a cutter and two thumbs.
Using thumbs to separate glass
When to use Method 1. Best used for smaller hobby-sized pieces. Works well with straight or slightly curved lines. There needs to be enough room on either side of the score for you to be able to get a good grip, so this isn't any good for removing small narrow slithers.
Tools. For this technique you only need a cutter and two hands!
Cutting stained glass over side of table
If it doesn't work first time, your cut is either not consistent enough, or you haven't brought it down hard enough. It's a short, sharp 'snapping' movement.
When to use Method 2. This technique is the one to use for large sheets. Stand holding the stained glass with both hands and bring the sheet sharply down over the edge of the table. The weight of the glass on the bench will keep it in place.
Good for medium sized pieces when there's a reasonable amount of stained glass either side of the cut, but you will need to use your spare hand to weight it down, as above. No good for curves or taking small slithers off.
Tools. A cutter and a rule.
Using a rule to snap stained glass
When to use Method 3. Good for medium-sized hobby pieces. You need a fair amount of glass either side of the score to hold it safely. Straight lines only.
Tools. A cutter and breaking pliers. These are sometimes called cut-runners or cut-running pliers. They can be bought in any stained glass suppliers - like DelphiGlass - for about $10. They're optional, but very useful.
Using cut running pliers
When to use Method 4. Very good for smaller pieces as well as larger pieces. Works with curves once you get the hang of them. When doing curves, use the pliers at both ends of the score and gently squeeze to ease it apart if it doesn't break straight away.
Tools. A cutter and breaker/grozer pliers. Sometimes called grozing pliers. They cost around $9 from any stained glass supplier. They're an essential item for your cutting toolkit.
Cutting with grozing pliers
If it doesn't snap off in one piece, you can move along, repeating the action. If this happens, you'll be left with a jagged cut, and need to 'groze' the edge.
Unlike the breaking pliers, grozer pliers have more than one use. With the serrated jaws you can 'groze' the nubs off if the cut hasn't been a clean one. You need safety goggles for all cutting, but particularly this process as bits do ping off.
If you have a grinder, you can use it after grozing to get the edges smooth and safe.
Grozing with pliers
When to use Method 5. Use for cutting small slithers off when the breaking pliers are too wide. Good for all inside and outside curves. Very versatile method for easing tricky shapes from glass. No good for whole sheets.
If you'd like to adapt these techniques for cutting more difficult shapes, then 'Cutting Perfect Curves' is for you. It's a free e-book that shows you how to cut the most difficult shape - the inside curve - easily.
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Q. Should I pull the cutter towards me, or push it away from me? (see first picture above)
A. You can do either.
Q. Is it best to use a rule or can I do it freehand?
A. You can cut straight lines either way. Some people find it easier to use a rule, some freehand. It doesn't matter, as long as it's straight!
If you're using a metal rule, make sure it has rubber grips on the underside so that it doesn't slip. Otherwise you can use a plastic cutting square especially made for cutting, and available from stained glass suppliers. These are held in place over the top edge of the stained glass by a ridge.
Q. I haven't got a cutter yet. Would you recommend a certain type?
A. Yes, there's different types of cutters, the main ones being pistol and pencil grip. The pistol grips are good if you have trouble holding things tightly with your hands and exerting pressure at the same time.
Make sure you buy a cutter with a carbide wheel. Lubricate the wheel with oil or get an oil-filled one and put oil into the cavity. There's a page explaining the different types of cutter and what they're best for here.
Q. Which end of the scoreline do I start the breaking from?
A. Always start opening the cut from where you finished the score line
Q. When I use my thumbs the score starts running where my thumbs are, and then stops half way. Help!
A. Carefully turn the stained glass around and try the same technique from the other end. This adjustment works for breaking pliers, too.
Q. Do I need to groze if I have a grinder?
A. Yes. It's always best to use the grinder as a final tool to finish the cutting off, rather than using it to grind your mistakes away! You'll save money on grinder heads if you get used to grozing.