Glass Cutting Freehand

jwthawkins

Grumbler
Joined
Oct 12, 2023
Posts
34
Location
Bristol, England
Business
Hawkins Framing
Hi all!

Hope all is well, it's been a minute! I've been struggling lately to cut glass freehand. I use a straight-edge and one of those manual glass cutters and I think I have it set to the correct depth (2mm) for this type of glass. My understanding is that you shouldn't have to score the glass twice, but I'm having trouble breaking it once I've scored it once. Maybe I'm just being too timid and worrying about it shattering, but maybe it's a technique issue. I'm getting that sweet sound as I score, but maybe I'm not putting enough pressure.

I would not be opposed to not cutting glass myself, at least until I can get one of those wall-mounted cutters that make it look ridiculously easy. Anyway, advice, tips and tricks would be greatly appreciated.

Cheers!
 
Hi jwthawkins,

Cutting glass by hand can be mastered. The machines are great but all they really do is speed up the process. Your description leaves me with some questions, but I’ll tell you what I do and maybe it will help.

First, use a good cutter, preferably carbide. Oil the wheel well. Some use an oil/kerosene mix, but I find 3 in 1 works fine. I put some paper towel in a jar, make it damp with oil and store the cutter there, wheel down in the oil.

I lay the glass flat on a table, over a mat board. Line up your cut using the edge of the board to guide you. Support the other side of the cut so the glass doesn’t flex.

Score by drawing the cutter from the far end toward you. Apply enough pressure to get a nice “zipper” sound. Score only once.

I hold the cutter between my first two fingers. That’s why it has the shape it does. Use your thumb to steer and your hand to apply pressure.

After scoring, pull the glass slightly off the edge of the table, keeping it flat. Run the score from the very end by grasping both sides of the score with your finger tips and “unfold” the glass. It doesn’t take much effort. If you try to snap by grasping in the center and forcefully slamming the glass, your results will suffer.

The score will “heal” if you wait too long before running the score. The heat generated by the wheel is your friend.

What you’re doing is distressing the surface of the glass and kindly asking it to break along the score. By running the score from the end, leverage and not force is at work.

After some practice you won’t want to use a straight edge, you’ll just draw a line. You’ll be able to cut shapes like ovals and impress your friends.

I hope my description is clear. It took me 45 minutes to write, I could have shown you in two.

Good luck!
 
I agree with Scott, but you may want to try pushing the cutter as opposed to pulling it. You get a better visual on the line if your hand isn't in the way. It's one of those "whichever works best for you" things.

There are many that cut the glass directly into the frame. Nesting two edges in the rebate, then drawing a score down one side and using the edge of the rebate as the fulcrum for snapping the glass. Repeat with 4th side. This was a skill necessary to work in some high volume shops as it was a huge time saver.
 
I may cause my Fletcher hand held cutter to fail sooner, but as a picture framer I don't want oil, of any kind, on the glass I'm going to put on top of a mat. I would need extra cleaning cloths to get the oil off and then use another to do the final clean. Scott, I am very impressed, after 40 years of cutting glass there is no way I could cut a straight line, much less an oval, freehand. You should make a Utube video.
 
JWTHAWKINS,

As you can see, we all have our own opinions/methods.

I pretty much agree with Scott Lewis's description.
Where we differ is I've been using a straight edge to cut for nearly 30 years. I can't cut a straight line to save my life.
Also, I hold the glass cutter like I'd hold a pen, with 2 fingers and a thumb.

The one thing that I am unsure of from your original post is about the 2mm.
I have no idea of any glass cutter with a depth setting. The wall cutters often have a pressure setting, but not a depth setting.
Can you share a picture of the tool you are using?

Thanks,
Brian
 
JWTHAWKINS,

As you can see, we all have our own opinions/methods.

I pretty much agree with Scott Lewis's description.
Where we differ is I've been using a straight edge to cut for nearly 30 years. I can't cut a straight line to save my life.
Also, I hold the glass cutter like I'd hold a pen, with 2 fingers and a thumb.

The one thing that I am unsure of from your original post is about the 2mm.
I have no idea of any glass cutter with a depth setting. The wall cutters often have a pressure setting, but not a depth setting.
Can you share a picture of the tool you are using?

Thanks,
Brian
Hi Brian,

Sure. This is what I'm using.
download (1).png


As you can see, it has a screw that I can adjust the wheel to different depths. Sorry if my initial sentences were confusing.
 
Hi jwthawkins,

Cutting glass by hand can be mastered. The machines are great but all they really do is speed up the process. Your description leaves me with some questions, but I’ll tell you what I do and maybe it will help.

First, use a good cutter, preferably carbide. Oil the wheel well. Some use an oil/kerosene mix, but I find 3 in 1 works fine. I put some paper towel in a jar, make it damp with oil and store the cutter there, wheel down in the oil.

I lay the glass flat on a table, over a mat board. Line up your cut using the edge of the board to guide you. Support the other side of the cut so the glass doesn’t flex.

Score by drawing the cutter from the far end toward you. Apply enough pressure to get a nice “zipper” sound. Score only once.

I hold the cutter between my first two fingers. That’s why it has the shape it does. Use your thumb to steer and your hand to apply pressure.

After scoring, pull the glass slightly off the edge of the table, keeping it flat. Run the score from the very end by grasping both sides of the score with your finger tips and “unfold” the glass. It doesn’t take much effort. If you try to snap by grasping in the center and forcefully slamming the glass, your results will suffer.

The score will “heal” if you wait too long before running the score. The heat generated by the wheel is your friend.

What you’re doing is distressing the surface of the glass and kindly asking it to break along the score. By running the score from the end, leverage and not force is at work.

After some practice you won’t want to use a straight edge, you’ll just draw a line. You’ll be able to cut shapes like ovals and impress your friends.

I hope my description is clear. It took me 45 minutes to write, I could have shown you in two.

Good luck!
Hi Scott,

It certainly was clear. I appreciate the help! Time to try again.
 
Hi Brian,

Sure. This is what I'm using.
View attachment 48022

As you can see, it has a screw that I can adjust the wheel to different depths. Sorry if my initial sentences were confusing.
I can't zoom in close enough, but that appears to be a 6 wheel cutter.
I believe the idea is that once one wheel is ruined, you turn to the next wheel.
I have never seen a depth setting on one before.
 
I can't zoom in close enough, but that appears to be a 6 wheel cutter.
I believe the idea is that once one wheel is ruined, you turn to the next wheel.
I have never seen a depth setting on one before.
That might be it. I may look into getting another one, like the one Louise mentioned above.
 
I, too really like my self oiling toyo glass cutter, although I let it run dry all too often. I have the custom grip version which feels nice and very stable in my hand. I do keep a couple of other tools around to help break glass when it's too thin to snap off under its own weight. One is a pair of glass running pliers. Another is the old fashioned green handle fletcher cutter*. *I do not use the fletcher to cut, I just use the notch on the side to hook the edge of the glass and bend away from the score to help break it, often in a couple of places to remove a 1/8-1/2" shard.

Most of the time, however, I cut glass flat into the frame, then carefully lift and slide the glass to the side so that the score overhangs the outside of the frame. A quick snap down is all it takes to break it successfully.
1707769646343.png
 
I find that Conservation Clear cuts easier than Museum. For me large pieces of Museum are very tricky to cut with my handheld Fletcher cutter.
 
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