Art Glass - Basic Glass Cutting Instructions

The following glass cutting instructions can be used in making all of the art glass jewelry that we discuss on our web site. In fact, they also apply whether you are cutting common window glass (NOT Tempered) or expensive art glass.

Start with Window Glass
- Art Glass will come later

Cutting glass is simple but requires practice and patience. I suggest that you purchase some inexpensive glass to practice your cutting techniques. Common window glass can be purchased at a hardware store and it is probably the easiest to score and break. Soon you will have the confidence you need to begin to work with expensive art glass.

We think that dichroic glass is one of the most beautiful art glass types you can buy and we love to work with it. Experiment with the different types of art glass and don't be afraid to make mistakes. Even mistakes can be used to make works of art. Save those "mistakes" - they may become "treasures".

Very Basic Supply List for Glass Cutting

You will need

  • Glass – base, decorative (art glass) and clear
  • some glass cleaner
  • a glass cutter
  • safety goggles with clear lenses
  • cutting oil
  • a clean cotton cloth
  • a ruler
  • newspaper (if you do not have a grid pad)

We suggest purchasing a set of glass working pliers, a glass cutting grid system, and a shock resistant floor pad for the floor when you can afford them. In fact, there are countless other tools and supplies that will make your work much easier, but they can be purchased at a later date.

Eye Protection

If you have read other portions of our website, you have probably seen this before. We cannot say this too often. You must take care of your eyes. Wear goggles with clear lenses while cutting glass. (These goggles are not the same ones you wear when fusing glass.) Please read our Safety Article.

Let’s Start Cutting
Scoring the Glass

1) Make sure your glass is clean. Even a small particle of dirt can keep the glass from cutting the way you plan. Place the clean glass on the folded newspaper (or grid pad). You will need to clean the glass several times in this process of making your art glass masterpiece. Keep the glass cleaner handy.

2) Dip the cutter into a bit of oil. I keep a piece of felt that has been saturated with oil in a tiny Tupperware container. All I have to do is roll the wheel onto the felt before each cut. When I am through with the cutting phase, I can put the lid back on the container. Be sure and check the felt before cutting and add more oil when needed. It is important to run the cutting wheel over a clean cotton cloth occasionally. This will keep the powdered glass from sticking in the wheel well.

3) The cutter should be held like a pencil and it must be perpendicular to the glass. Apply pressure (not so much that bits of glass are flying off the cut) to the glass as you score from one edge of the glass to the other. Maintain this even pressure through the entire length of the glass. You should hear a smooth scratching sound. A loud gritty sound means that you are pushing too hard or you forgot to oil the cutter. If you don’t hear a scratching sound, then you are not applying enough pressure. Using your inexpensive glass, experiment with varying amounts of pressure and you will be able to see the difference.

4) Using a straight edge (a desk ruler is good), score (cut) the glass. Be sure that you end the score going the entire length of the glass. Some professional "glass cutters" advise to end before getting to the edge of the glass, others say to roll over the edge of the glass. As you experiment, you will find what works best for you. Do not stop or hesitate and do not go over the same cut again. The score may look like a small scratch or a fine hair across the glass – but that is good.

Breaking the Glass

Always begin breaking the glass “running the score” on the edge that you ended the score. When you began the glass “cutting” or scoring process, you start on top of the glass (usually about 1/16” from the very edge). However when you end the score, your blade went to the edge or you may even run over the edge of the glass. Therefore, the edge that ended the score has been scored to the very end and it will break more easily.

Some of the textured dichroic art glass can be more difficult to break. Don't be discouraged. Continue to practice.

There are lots of ways that you can break the glass, but these are the ones that we have used and can recommend.

Breaking the Glass by Hand

Hold each side of the scored glass. Remember always start on the edge that you ended the score. Rest your thumbs on top of the glass one each side of the score. Your index fingers (curled up) should be under the glass. This doesn’t take a great deal of pressure – simply twist your wrists (like you would snap a twig in two). With the cut facing you, simply twist your right wrist clockwise and your left wrist counterclockwise. Your elbows should not move – the break is done entirely by the action in your wrists. As you “snap your wrists” pull your hands apart.

Nail Method

Place a nail or any small round object (golf tee, small crochet hook, etc) under the score. Remember to start on the edge that you ended the score. Place your thumbs on either side of the score and firmly press down.

Ruler Method

Place a wooden ruler, a yardstick, a pencil, or paint stirrer under the score. Place your hands gently on the glass on each side of the straight edge. Press firmly.

Running Pliers

Always read the manufacturer’s directions and instructions on the running pliers. The screw on the pliers should always be on top of the glass to be scored. Place the center of the top jaw on the score line at the edge of the glass that you finished the score. Squeeze the handles gently until you hear a click. If the glass does not separate, squeeze the handles again.

Breaking Pliers

You should read the manufacturer’s directions and instructions on using these pliers. This method is much like the method we explained in the "Breaking Glass by Hand". You can use one set of pliers to take the place of your dominant hand or you can use two sets – one in each hand. The pliers have a curved jaw and a flat jaw. The flat jaw goes on top.

Place the jaws next to the score. Snap your wrists and pull your hands apart.

Clean the Glass Again

Now that the glass has been cut, you must clean the glass again. The oil used in the glass cutting process must now be removed. Any oil residue will show up in the finished art glass so make sure the glass is clean before placing in the kiln to fire.

Practice Makes Perfect

We have given you several ways to break the glass. Continue to practice your glass cutting skills with the inexpensive glass until you feel comfortable enough to begin your first project. Most important is to relax and have fun.

Don’t get discouraged if you make mistakes with your more expensive glass – some of our best art glass projects were designed from small pieces of glass that we called “mistakes”.

Glass Cutting - Small Items

When you are making small pieces for earrings or dichroic angel faces, you will find some challenges during the glass cutting and fusing stages. The small pieces sometimes slip during firing and do not turn out the way you had planned. The easiest way to deal with these problems can be found in our special instructions -- glass cutting with a saw.

Visit our Angel Pin Store.

Visit our Jewelry Store.

Examples of our art glass projects

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