Working in Stained Glass – Part 1: Cutting Glass


I often get questions about working in glass. This is the first part of a more in-depth look at the steps that go into creating a stained glass project.

When I purchase my glass it comes in large sheets, like the ones pictured on the left, which are 2 feet (60 cm) square. Glass can come in sheets up to 4 feet by 8 feet, but that’s generally too large for me to handle. Even with the 2 foot square pieces, the first thing I usually do is cut them down to 1 foot (30 cm) square pieces for easier handling. Almost all the glass I use is made by Spectrum Glass, which I love because ┬áthe colors are beautiful even when the glass isn’t held directly to the light.1editIMG_4212


Because I tend to create smaller pieces, I prefer to work on multiple projects at once, so I will cut the pieces for 20-40 projects at once. I usually will pull out all the colors that I want to use so that I can cut as efficiently as possible.



Cutting glass is actually a misnomer. “Cutting” glass actually involves scoring the glass with a carbide cutter and then breaking the glass along the scored line. I use a glass cutter that has a built-in reservoir that can hold a lubricant. This means that the carbide cutting wheel lasts much, much longer than an ordinary cutter.


My glass cutter is the yellow tool in the above photo. I use the pliers to break the glass after I’ve scored it, by tapping along the score line and then snapping the glass with my pliers. Some stained glass artists use a light table to draw their patterns onto the glass, but I’ve always preferred to trace a paper pattern onto the glass, partly because I feel that it gives me more control and partly because I use a number of opaque glasses that wouldn’t work on a light table. Many of the items I make involve straight lines, so I have lots of rulers. The brush keeps my work top free of glass splinters which can scratch the glass (and cut me!).


As I’m cutting, I stack up the different pieces for the different projects into the appropriate piles to await grinding, which is the next step in the process.


I save any leftover pieces that are large enough for other projects.


Pieces that are too small to be reused go into my throw-away bin, although I generally have been able to give them away to people who are doing mosaics.

Part 2 of this series will talk about grinding glass, which is the next step in the process of creating a stained glass project.