What glass cutter?

ms_minnamouseApril 19, 2009

I wasn't really sure where to post this but I figured there must be some handy people in here.

The glass cuttings tool I have sucks. It doesn't cut glass very well and it makes it very difficult. Can you recommend one? Or, in general, what kind should I be looking for? And can you also use it on plexi-glass and acrylic (same thing?)? If you can't what's a tool that will make cuttings that easier? Thanks.

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I do stained glass projects as a hobby, at least one project a month. The cuts require a cutter that will cut precisely on curves as well as straight lines. I use a Fletcher glass cutter....green with a silver or gold top. I've been using the same one for several years and it still works great. I have a diamond tipped one but like the Fletcher better. It is imperative to keep the cutting wheels oiled (and the diamond tipped one also). Get a glass jar with a lid. Put about a 1/2 inch of lamp oil in it and store the glass cutter, wheel down, in it. Try that on your old one and it might do better for you. If you are doing a lot of cutting, dip the tip in the oil every few cuts. I bought a cheap Red Devil cutter from the hardware store just to see how it would work and using the above process, it worked out well.

Technique also plays a big part in keeping the cutter in good shape. NEVER go back onto a score in the glass with the cutter, it will certainly dull the wheel quickly, even a diamond tipped one.

I hope this helps!!!

    Bookmark   April 19, 2009 at 8:09PM
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Having a good cutter and keeping it oiled is important, but you need have good technique to successfully cut glass. Remember, the cutter isn't really cutting the glass - it's just creating a score line (or weak point) so that when you put the proper pressure on the glass, it fractures along the line. Plexiglass and acrylic are different, they are not a glss but a plastic. They have much more flexibility than glass and won't break evenly along a score line. They are usually cut with a saw blade (scroll saw, circular saw, etc.) since they won't chip like glass if cut properly.

    Bookmark   April 20, 2009 at 1:41PM
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You have received very good advice on cutting glass in the previous posts. To follow up just a bit...

You can use pretty much any oil on your cutter. Professional glaziers often use mineral spirits or mineral oil. Both are cheap and readily available.

Probably the number one mistake that inexperienced folks make when cutting glass is pressing too hard on the cutter. To repeat - don't press to hard on the cutter when making a score line.

You are only trying to "scratch" the glass, not trying to cut thru it.

When you score glass correctly you are driving fissures straight down thru the material at 90 to the glass face.

Too much pressure on the cutter and the fissures will run at lower angles realtive to the glass face which will result in poor breakouts.

If you see tiny chips along the edge of the score line you have applied too much force. If the line looks at all "raggedly" then you have applied too much force.

The line should look clean and sharp. The very best glass cutters that I know (and I know a good many) score a line that is barely even visible and looks almost like it was drawn with a VERY SHARP pencil...they apply pressure barely above that applied by the weight of the scoring tool alone.

It takes a bit of practice, but it works.

Also, make sure that you break the glass as soon as possible after scoring. Glass "heals", meaning that the score line will close in just a few minutes if the glass isn't broken.

One of the reasons for using oil when scoring glass is that it prolongs the time that you have to break the glass before it heals.

Plexiglass is a brand name for an acrylic sheet and as has already been mentioned you can't cut it with a glass cutter.

    Bookmark   April 20, 2009 at 9:29PM
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Is any of the above different for cutting a mirror? I have a large bathroom wall mirror I need to cut down some.

    Bookmark   April 29, 2009 at 6:50AM
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From reading different posts on the GW it would appear that "Maryland irisman" and I are about the same age and we seem to have a number of similar interests.

I too, have been doing stained glass projects as a hobby for about 25 yrs and if I have learned nothing else from the hobby, I have certainly learned that not all glass cutters are created equally and this is certainly one of those areas where you get what you pay for however even an el cheapo will cut glass if the tool is properly used and maintained.

Keep in mind that even though you may be able to buy a glass cutter for $4 or $5 none-the-less, a glass cutter is a fairly precision piece of equipment. Far too often a homeowner or DIY'er will buy an inexpensive glass cutter then just toss it in the top tray of their tool box, where it is constantly slammed around with the other tools then after months of slamming around, no doubt picking up dirt and debris, they have need to cut a piece of glass so they take it out and begin scoring glass without so much as a hint of oil on the cutter, or worse yet, they do properly oil the cutter when using it, but then toss it back into the tool box where the oil will now convert dust into a pasty sludge which totally fouls the cutting wheel. (Hint-stop by a local tobacco shop and ask them for one of the plastic tubes that expensive cigars come packed in. They make an excellent storage case for your glass cutter).

On most glass cutters the cutting wheel is on the heavy end of the tool, and if you happen to drop a glass cutter it is almost a forgone conclusion that it will land cutter wheel first on the floor, and as luck would have it, that is more often than not a concrete floor. Scratch one glass cutter!

Keep in mind that the cutter wheel must rotate freely for the entire length of your score line. Before you begin scoring the glass you must first make sure the glass surface is clean. Even a microscopic film of grease or dirt will cause the wheel to momentarily skip leaving an uneven score line which will lead to disaster. Before you begin cutting use a clean paper towel and alcohol to clean the score line then give it a minute or two for any residual alcohol to evaporate.

While you are waiting for the alcohol to evaporate take a moment to rotate the wheel with your finger to insure it rotates freely, then apply a drop or two of oil just before you begin your score line.

When making the score line you must apply a firm even pressure and complete the entire length of the score line in one smooth even motion. Absolutely do not even attempt to go back over the score line because that will introduce a second score line which will cause the break to run erratic and more often than not, break the entire sheet.

Once you have the score line the real trick to glass cutting is how you make the breakout. At this point a good pair of leather work gloves is a must. Now hold both your hands in a loose fist as if you were giving the old "Thumbs Up" sign. Now, holding your hands under the glass with an index finger tight against the underside, one hand on each side of the score line, hold down on the top of the glass with your thumb. If you are right handed you will now use your left hand to hold the glass steady while you begin a slight rotation downward with the right hand as if you were trying to fold the glass down on the score line. (If your left handed reverse the procedure). Within a moment you will see the fracture begin and run down the score line to the opposite end of the glass. When learning to cut glass expect to have problems at first until you get the hang of it. This is one case were practice makes perfect. Before you attempt to make a critical cut I would strongly suggest you get a few old scrap window panes and practice until you feel you have the technique down pat.

It doesn't take nearly as much force to break the score line as one might expect. I have a pair of "Glazers Pliers" that look very similar to a pair of electricians linesman pliers, except that on the glazers pliers when viewed from the end one jaw is convex and the other jaw is concave, and both jaws are covered with a vinyl coating. To use glazers pliers you center the jaw over the score line and squeeze the handles and "voila"" a perfect breakout, even when making those tiny 3/8" or 1/2" edge cuts. (Glazers pliers are about $40 and I would not expect the average homeowner to cut enough glass to justify them, but if you anticipate cutting a lot of glass, or making intricate cuts you may want to consider them.)

My personal preference in glass cutters is an oil filled glass cutter. Oil filled glass cutters have a hollow tubular handle that serves as a reservoir for cutting oil and they slowly feed the oil to the cutting wheel. Here again, these are a bit pricey for the average homeowner but if you anticipate cutting a lot of glass they are worth every penny. Oil filled cutters start out at about $24 and run up into the hundreds. The one I use now sells for about $39, but you can be sure it was not that much when I bought it back in 1984.

    Bookmark   April 29, 2009 at 11:15AM
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Is any of the above different for cutting a mirror? I have a large bathroom wall mirror I need to cut down some.

I had to do the same thing a number of years ago. I put the mirror in the car and took it to a small, local glass guy. I think he charged me $10 to cut 2" off the mirror.

    Bookmark   April 29, 2009 at 12:21PM
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lazypup...I think we're pretty close...you might have a few years on me....I have one of those oil filled cutters you mentioned. I use it when on a large project so I don't have to keep dipping the others.

Turnage..you can cut the mirror using the techniques described by all the posters above. If you don't have a cutter, Mike Kaiser has a good idea...for about the cost of a cutter, you can get someone with experience to do it!!! If you want the experience, go for it!!! I know when I first started cutting glass, there wasn't a piece of spare glass safe in Maryland. I practiced on all kinds until I got my technique down. Just ask Ventupete, Oberon, Lazypup....it's fun and once you learn how to do it, it becomes routine when working with glass. Now, when it comes to safety glass...whew!!! A different animal. My first time with that ended up in about 2 million square pieces of glass.

    Bookmark   April 29, 2009 at 6:00PM
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Appreciate the feedback. I had thought about taking it in to town and getting it cut, but its 46" x 42" and I'm not sure it would make it in one piece.

    Bookmark   April 30, 2009 at 6:12AM
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