Proven Glass Cutting Techniques

"How do you cut the glass and what tools do you need?"

Basic glass cutting techniques are taught in stained glass classes, and fusing classes.

It takes practice, and sometimes overcoming the fear of being cut.

Once you have mastered your cutting skills, you can move on to cutting circles with a circle cutter , using a glass ring saw , and even drilling holes in your glass with a drill.

Don't expect your first cuts to come out clean and even.

You will only become more skilled as you continue scoring and breaking glass.

Purchase some float glass.

This is common window glass, and is about the easiest to score and break.

It will save you some money and frustration.

It's best to practice on window glass (float glass) in the beginning.

You are going to be practicing, and why waste your expensive glass.

Become familiar with different cutters and how they work.


As you practice, you will become more proficient with your basic glass cutting techniques.

Safety First - Eye Protection

Before we start with the basic glass cutting techniques, let's talk about safety.

First and utmost always wear eye protection.

Glass usually breaks clean, but it only takes one little piece to damage your vision or permanently cause blindness.

Purchase eye goggles and wear them religiously.

Clean Glass for Easy Glass Cutting

glass cutting

When you use a cutter, it's very important to clean your glass first.

Dirt and particles can dull the cutter, and cause interruptions in your score line.

Clean glass breaks easier and usually where you want it to, but even the slightest bit of dirt can cause a little break in the score and allow the piece to take off in another direction.

You can clean your glass with any commercial ammonia-free glass cleaner, vinegar or even soap and water.

Use a lint-free towel to dry glass.

Glass Cutters

A glass cutter doesn’t actually cut the glass, but scores it along a line of molecules.

Be sure to purchase a cutter that is comfortable for you to use.

Please see the Tools and Supplies section for a description of a cutter.

Because the cutter scores the glass, it allows the glass to break in a preferred place.

So, it makes sense to use a sharp cutter.

The sharper the cutter, the finer the score and the most likely that the glass will break where you planned.

Making the Score

glass cutting

Before making your score, place the piece of glass on a piece of folded newspaper.

The newspaper will hold your glass in place, and also helps to catch any small pieces of glass.

Now lubricate your glass cutter.

Usually this is done by just dipping the tip into an oil reservoir.

This can be kerosene, motor oil, or cutter oil.

Occasionally lubricate your wheel with the cutting fluid.

This will keep the wheel rolling and your score better.

You can use a ruler to make straight controlled lines.

Be sure that it is firmly held so that it doesn’t slip and you can control your cutter along the edge of the ruler.

When deciding which side of the glass to make the score, look for the shiny or smooth side.

When making a score, your wheel should be perpendicular to the glass.

Now apply a moderate pressure as you move the cutter from one edge of the glass to the other edge.

It takes about 3-5 pounds of pressure to score the glass.

You are disrupting the surface integrity along a thin line.

You should hear a distinct scratching noise as you move across the glass.

If you don't use enough pressure you won't hear this scratching noise.

But, don't use too much pressure or you will cause the glass to throw small chips off the score line and this can dull your cutter.

Practice doing a few cuts so that you will become familiar with this sound and the feel.

Make only one score from the beginning of your movement to the end of your glass.

Don’t stop or hesitate.

Your score should look like a fine hair across your glass.

Now, break the glass right after you score it.

Running Score Line and Breaking Glass

glass cutting

Try to run the score line before you actually break the glass.

Sometimes while running the score line, the glass will break anyway.

To run the line, you can make your hands into fists with your thumbs pointing slightly up.

Place the glass between your bent index fingers on the underside of the glass, and your thumbs on the top side of the glass.

Have your knuckles almost touching, and begin bending and pulling apart in the same motion.

This takes practice, so don't get frustrated.

This is only good for pieces that you can get a secure hold on with your hands, and also are straight or have a slightly curved score line.

Do this on the beginning and ending sides of your score line.

Another way you can run the score line is with the use of running pliers.

Running pliers are centered on your score line.

The bottom part is placed on the line.

As you squeeze the pliers, the glass is forced to bend slightly and break.

There are many ways to make a straight line break.

  • Put a pencil or other long thin item to either side of the score line and press down on both sides of your glass. This works great for long straight lines.
  • The glass can be place on a table edge, placing the score line right on the edge and while you hold on to the glass that is on the table, you apply pressure to the part that is hanging over the edge.
  • Remove the newspaper and clean up your area with a soft shoe polishing brush.

    The polishing brush is great to clean off your work area, using it to sweep tiny pieces of glass into a trash can.

    Basic glass cutting techniques can only be accomplished with practice and patience.

    Don't expect your first attempts to be successful.

    I had such a fear of getting cut that I thought I would never make my first break.

    Become familiar with the basic glass cutting techniques and tools and how they work.

    Use inexpensive glass to practice on, and remember to use your safety glasses.

    Try making curves and straight lines before you move on to cutting circles.

    Here is a YouTube video that shows a couple of cutting methods. It can be found at Creative Glass Guild

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