Sunday, February 20, 2011

How To Cut Stained Glass Suncatchers Correctly

Learning how to cut stained glass suncatchers correctly is not difficult, so long as you have the proper tools and guidance.

Although suncatchers are relatively simple projects that do not require many cuts, there are some suncatcher patterns that require a huge number of cuts like the lionfish project I am currently working on.

Regardless of the amount of cuts in your project, it is important that you learn how to cut glass properly.

The cutter is your primary tool and there are many designs for you to choose from.

Oil filled glass cutters are popular but not really necessary. The purpose of having an oil filled handle is strictly to help lubricate the cutting wheel and keep it rotating smoothly.

Contrary to popular belief, having oil on the glass does not help the cutting process one bit. The cutting wheel actually scores the glass easier and better without cutting oil on the surface of the glass.

I have beginners tell me that when oil is not used, the glass will crack.

I tell them that you want the glass to crack; that's what glass cutting is all about.

You apply a steel wheel to the line you want to cut with enough pressure to score the glass; then once scored, you crack it along the scoreline.

The reason for using oil is to lubricate the wheel and keep it turning if it gets clogged with fine glass dust particles.

Professional glaziers seldom use oil and most of them consider it a waste of money.

There are two basic types of handle designs to choose from when selecting your glass cutter.
  • The pistol grip
  • The regular long straight handled grip
The pistol grip, as the name implies, is a bent handle that resembles a gun grip.

It requires less pressure to cut stained glass with the pistol grip cutters than it does with the regular grip cutters. Elderly people and beginners with weak wrists normally prefer this type cutter.

Regular grip glass cutters have a long straight handle and are generally preferred by professional glass cutters, instructors, and tradesmen. The choice is entirely up to you. Both types work well for almost all projects.

What is important is that the sharper the cutting wheel, the finer the score line will be and the most likely your glass will break where you planned to break it.

When learning how to cut stained glass suncatchers correctly, you will need to get a good set of stained glass cutting pliers.

You will need two types of pliers to cut stained glass suncatchers correctly:
  • Running pliers
  • Drop jaw pliers
Running pliers are used to “run” a curved or a straight cut made with your glass cutting wheel. They have a slightly concave and convex curve and are adjustable to the thickness of the glass you are cutting.

When the running pliers are centered on your score line, the bottom part is placed directly on the line. As the pliers are squeezed, the glass is forced to bend slightly and breaks along the entire score.

Drop jaw pliers have one jaw of the pliers set lower than the other and are used to increase leverage when making longer or circular cuts.

Generally, serious glass cutting artisans prefer purchasing steel pliers to the plastic ones however, sometimes plastic cut runners are better. It just depends on the type of glass that is being cut.

It is not always necessary to use cut runners, especially when you are in a hurry; just use your hands.

This YouTube video shows three glass cutting methods that should help you with cutting straight lines.



To cut stained glass suncatchers correctly, place a piece of newspaper under the glass you intend to cut before you score your line. The newspaper keeps your glass from sliding and helps catch small pieces of glass when you make your cuts.

Always look for the shiny or smooth side when deciding which side of the glass you want to score.

Always keep your cutting wheel perpendicular to the glass when making the score.

Apply about three to five pounds of pressure as you move your cutter from one edge of the piece to the other.

Make a single smooth crisp score across the glass. Don't hesitate or run your cutter back and forth over the piece. All this does is dull your cutting wheel.

A smooth score should look like a fine hair line across the glass if you use moderate pressure and a single smooth scoring motion, from the beginning to the end of Your line.

When done properly, you should hear a distinct scratching noise as you move your cutter across the glass.

Too much pressure on the cutting wheel will cause the glass to give off small chips along the score line which will dull your cutter. Not enough pressure on the glass and you won't hear the distinct scratching noise.

Usually when you do a few practice cuts you will get the hang of it and recognize the distinctive cutting sound.

Break the glass immediately after you score it.

This can be done using your running pliers, your hands, by placing a pencil or dowel under the score line and applying pressure to both sides of the score, or by placing the score line on the edge of a table and applying pressure to the part hanging over the edge.

Don't expect your first attempts at glass cutting to be perfect. Use cheap glass to practice on until you become confident with your cutting ability.

Learning how to cut stained glass suncatchers correctly can only be accomplished with lots of practice and patience.

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