My Views On Cutting Glass

Last week I penned an entry about the similarity between dovetails and glass cutting. I wrote about confidence being a large part of success. One comment listed cooking in that mix, too. The writer also added that you have to learn the skills before the confidence kicks in to play a part. That’s true for dovetails and I can only assume for cooking. However, I don’t believe that glass cutting fits into that category. Simply pick up a cutter, etch the line and snap. There’s not much else to learn about the basics.

This week I’d like to share a few simple ideas to get glass cut for your projects. Keep in mind these are not tips from a seasoned cutter, but from an ordinary Joe just scratching the surface. (Get it?)

It all starts with the right tool. For years I tried to cut glass with the regular cutters you find at  hardware stores. The task was iffy at best. Frustrated, I visited a stained-glass store where the clerk recommended a Fletcher Designer II Pencil Grip Oil Cutter. This tool costs nearly seven times what the hardware-store cutter cost. Did they see me coming when I walked through the door? Looking for an answer (or at least being a pushover when it comes to purchases), I bought the cutter and went straight for the shop. I was amazed by how well it worked. So yes , the price of a quality glass-cutting tool is worth it.

To fit glass, you have to begin with a straight edge. Position a straightedge tool onto the glass and roll the cutter from end to end, then snap the glass at the etched line. This is where confidence pays off. If the glass doesn’t snap like a good bakery cookie, tap the cut on the underside with the ball end of the cutter. You’ll see the crack start. Then use a framing square, one that’s really square, to make a second cut resulting in a 90Ã?º corner.

Don’t try to fit a piece of glass too tight. Measure the opening and transfer the layout to the glass with a Sharpie Permanent Marker (the best marker I’ve found to write on glass). I leave about an 1/8″ of gap when fitting panes into a cupboard door. That’s a 1/16″ per side. Line up the square and etch the line. Have confidence and snap the glass (sometimes you’ll have to tap with the ball end). Continue until the pane is sized.

Tombstone panes (seen in the door from the previous blog entry) present a problem. I paid someone to cut the first pane. The glass vendor had a sander that he used to get the sharp corner detail. It got the job done, but I wasn’t impressed. After that I tried it myself , got my confidence up.

The secret is no sharp corners. In the Authentic Shaker Clock article, August 2007, I rounded the corner of the rabbet to make the glass fit more easily. Another method is to round the cut of the glass.

Here’s what I do. Cut the pane to fit the opening by cutting the width and the height at the apex of the arched or tombstone top. Position the pane into the opening and draw the tombstone onto the glass with the marker. Freehand the cut making sure to round the corner of the tombstone. The cut starts at the side and terminates at the middle of the arch. Two waste pieces are removed to make the profile.

Once the lines are etched, tap the cut line from the bottom and watch the crack begin. Apply a small amount of outward and downward pressure with pliers as you tap. When the break happens the waste will be in your pliers. Don’t forget to wear your safety glasses.

For the four panes of the door on the corner cupboard shown in the previous entry, I made five attempts. One piece of glass was lost. I must have been thinking about something else and my confidence dipped.

Glen D. Huey