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How to Do Stained Glass - Glass Cutting 101: Scoring Glass


Tools and Supplies << Previous          Next >> Breaking Out the Score

Skills Needed
Several skills are necessary for doing stained glass: glass cutting, glazing, soldering, and cementing.

Let's start with glass cutting.
How to score glass
When you attempt to cut glass, you will soon learn that you are not actually "cutting" it, but scoring or scratching its surface, so that it is weakened, and when pressure is applied, it results in a series of tiny fractures along the line of the score which results in a complete cleavage when pressure is applied.

My illustrations and suggestions are based on the use of a common, garden variety glass cutter with no frills. Later on, I will show you other kinds of glass scoring equipment that are available on the market, but if you can master the technique with an ordinary cutter, you will be ahead of the game.

An ordinary glass cutter will last for a very long time if the cutting wheel is kept submerged in a light oil (mineral oil or glass cutter oil, never turpentine) when not in use, and dipped into light oil occasionally during work sessions. This dipping could be easily achieved by having a sponge sitting in a little dish of oil, and simply touching the cutter tip to the sponge occasionally.

The action of the cutter wheel against the surface of the glass generates heat. The oil reduces this friction, and also cools the cutter head. The oil should be kept in a plastic container which can be covered when not in use. If the container is metal, a piece of wadded cloth should be kept in the bottom of the container to protect the wheel of the cutter.
How to hold a glass cutter
How to hold a glass cutter
There are many, many ways to hold a glass cutter. If you had never seen anyone using one before, you might be puzzled at the shape of the tool, wonder what the notches on it were for, and in general, be rather bewildered at the whole scheme. Many people, with no training, have developed a workable way to hold a glass cutter, and miraculously, can actually make it work. The traditional way to hold a glass cutter, as shown in the illustration, is to hold it between the first and second finger. Almost all professional glass workers, including those involved in plate glass and window glass work hold the glass cutter in this manner. The thumb supports the cutter on the underside. There should be a free wrist motion.

The glass must be clean, or the cutter may skip. This is very important. Usually, the glass you purchase will be clean enough, but glass that has been in storage in your workshop may have become dusty. Check it out. Almost any commercial cleaning product, including soap and water is fine for cleaning glass.

Making the score requires that the glass be placed on a flat surface. To make a straight score, hold the cutter as shown in the illustration, and press down firmly on the cutter with your forefinger and thumb. Start at the edge of the glass furthest from you, and draw the cutter toward you. Do this one time only. If the glass is not scored properly at this point, you cannot successfully go over the path of the score a second time without damaging the glass cutter, because the fractured score line will then be rough, and tend to twist the axle of the cutter.

Of course, upon experimentation you may find a way to hold the cutter that is more effective for you.


Tools and Supplies << Previous          Next >> Breaking Out the Score