This is part of a series of posts about tips I've learned while working on my projects; hopefully they will be helpful to those just starting out. These lists aren't meant to cover everything, and if you have additional tips, please share in the comments!
This topic should be relevant whether your interest is in stained glass, fused glass, or just in using stained glass sheets in your mosaic projects.
First, lets start out with the tools you need. It's not much! I have found that I can do everything I need with the three tools in the picture. One of these days, I will get one of those fancy schmancy glass saws (and don't worry, I will blog ALL about it!), but for now, I am doing everything the old-fashioned way. I am using a grip cutter, running pliers, and breaker/grozer pliers. Those three tools together will cost about $40.
Glass Cutting Tip 1: A Waffle Grid is Essential
In addition to the tools, I also find that a waffle grid like that in the above picture is super-helpful for keeping glass shards <mostly> contained and to help avoid injuries. I didn't have one at first, and find it to be useful for two reasons. First, the shards fall into the grid, so you're not as likely to end up with them under your skin, on the floor, or underneath the glass you're scoring (and then scratching the bottom or worse, causing your glass to break).
Second, a lot of times, you need to make a long straight score in a piece of glass. If I can see through the glass, I line up where I need to make the cut over one of the lines in the waffle grid - giving me a line to follow.
Glass Cutting Tip 2: Take Your Time
Go slow and don't try to do too much in one cut, unless it is a straight line. This doesn't come naturally if you're impatient like me, so I've had to learn this lesson a few times. If you're cutting any kind of curve, make sure that any one score isn't too complex.
This also goes back to your design-- don't make the same mistake I did and draw a first design that involves cutting half-circles into your glass! It's definitely possible to be able to do that with the tools I have, but it's tough and requires a LOT of patience to slowly score more gradual curves and chip away the glass, a piece at a time - and wasn't easy for a beginner. That glass saw will open up lots of new possibilities, but I have found that with a combination of careful design and patient cutting, I have been able to accomplish almost everything I want.
Glass Cutting Tip 3: Beware of Curves
Too many sharp inner curves in one piece of glass has been a recipe for disaster for me. I always do a final pass over the drawing to look at each individual piece, after all the lines are in place to double check for anything that would be un-cuttable. Even after doing this, I'll sometimes still find a hidden scary curve when cutting out the pattern. This happened with my alien panel, I'd originally had the sides of the face drawn as one piece instead of two. This one worked just as well with cutting each of them in half, so I did.
To the right is a photo of the lemon rind from the lemonade panel - I wasn't sure if I'd be able to make this cut or not, and had a backup plan of splitting the rind into two pieces if needed. But by slowly scoring and chipping away at the glass, it worked out!
(BTW, pay no attention to the red smudge in that pic; every project needs a little of my DNA in it to personalize it...)
Glass Cutting Tip 4: Curves Part Deux
Lastly, if you're cutting an inner curve that will end in a point, I find that it usually works better for me if I cut the curve first, while there's still some extra glass hanging out on the other side of the point. This is hard to explain, so see the pic at the right.
I first started working on the inner curve, then removed the glass to the right of the point. Scroll thru the pix below to see the order of my steps.
That's it for today - if I think of more essential cutting tips, I'll add another post. If you've got anything to add, please share in the comments!
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