hand cutting glass, assistance needed


Grumbler in Training
Jan 17, 2006
I'm using a green handheld fletcher, you know the one with the ball on the end and a graphite wheel on the other with a few teeth on it. I've use three of these little tools, so it probably is the user that just doesn't know how to use.

I have an oval frame that the glass and the 8x10 soon-not-to-be-square mat will be going in. I am using the frame as a guide to draw with magic marker the score line.

I've tried going over the score line several times...I've tried scoring while firmly pressing attempting at a single continous score line...and then tapping the scoreline with the ball...or tapping the "negative" space of glass...
and alas, the glass breaks!
so 7 sheets of glass later,
I come back to you guys...please help.

thanks in advance,
Never rescore a line. It is hard on the wheel. Are you oiling the tool? If so and it is not making a good line, it could be worn out.

The best hand cutter I've used has an oil reservoir in the handle for self oiling and a 135 Deg. cutting wheel. Cuts glass like butter.
Score your oval all the way around, make sure your start and end scores meet together. NEVER go over a score, it ruins your cutter.

Make a score that runs from one side of the oval score to the edge of the glass. This must be a parallel meeting of the scores, no right angles. Repeat this score on all four sides of your oval or circle.

OK, I know you have been wondering what that little ball is for, haven't you? This project is exactly why it is there. Go around your oval score while lightly taping the opposite side of the glass from the score with the ball, using it like a little hammer. Hold the cutter at the opposite end from the ball. This process will help to loosen up the cut.

Now go to the scores that meet your oval scores and snap them with a twisting motion from the edge of the glass, just like breaking a straight score.

You may need some glass nipping pliers to clean up some areas.

This is hard to explain without being able to draw it. Perhaps some more computer savvy Grumblers can give you a diagram or even a better explanation.

For a small piece of glass like that you might want to try what I have discovered - set your pane of glass onto a piece of corrugated or foam core and score with one hand and turn the cardboard with the other - this makes the score line smoother - sometimes I also just set the glass on top of the frame and cut it that way without a marker line. Sometimes I think a marker line seems to interfere with the scoring.

When you tap the glass from the underside with the ball end you will see the score "run" - it becomes deep and clear and you can actually see the progress of the run.

Practice straight cuts first to see this phenomenon.

Good thing it's only and 8x10!!!

Another approach that I have used for almost 40 years is to make the oval score on one side of the glass, tap it to make it run, and then turn the glass over to make the diagonal scores. Then tap them, turn the glass over again and press down in the middle of the short score lines with the ball end with the glass sitting on the aforementioned card/foam board which has some "give." This usually results in the oval just popping out!

You can do it!!! It just takes practice!
okay, thanks everyone.

Framar, that sounds like it will work for me but where do I tap, on the score line or in the triangular shapes between the oval score and the square edge?
Tap under the score line.
Uh, rocksbreaksglass...maybe you need a different screen name? You could be jinxing yerself!
Make sure your glass is spotlessly clean where your are going to score., I use meths.

Score your oval,then score from the edge of the oval to the outside edge of the sheet on all four sides.

Turn your glass over so the score line is underneath onto something with just a bit of give like a piece of blanket and press around the inside edge of the oval then the same along the four lines,you should see the cuts run.it should come away clean.
Use a good quality cutter
Oil the wheel of your cutter or use an oil filled one
Use about the same pressure as when drawing a line with a pencil
The cutter should barely make a noise when scoring
If you see powdered glass on the surface ,you are pressing to hard and the glass will break all over the place.
Keep the cutter almost upright and at right angles to the glass.
Never try and redo the score line
I score the oval, as Mick does, then I turn it over and press along the score line. You will see the break 'run'. Then I scratch in 4 lines in rays from the edge of the oval. The rays only need to be about an inch long, as the glass will break along that flaw, and I don't care exactly where it goes. I find that if I score the ray lines before I break the oval, occasionally one will take off on its own and run into the oval area that I am trying to preserve. That's why I charge more for oval glass!
Ellen's method works best if the surface you are working on has some "give". It will produce the cleanest results and the highest success rates of all the techniques described. Tapping the glass with the ball end of the cutter can cause conical cleveage on the edge of the glass creating a lot of small, sharp glass shards and possibly rendering the lite useless.
We usually cut 18"x 18" round glass (2mm to 6mm thick) at least 12 times a month with the same basic procedures but with a slight twist, we use a diamond tipped glass cutter instead of the graphite wheeled one. Diamond tipped glass cutters give you a better feel of the score since it lightly scratches the glass making it easy to cut evenly throughout the process. Use a wide tipped marker pen to draw a score line using the round frame as a guide. Make sure you have plenty of space to move while scoring so you don't have to lift the cutter until you reach the starting score. Table corners work great! You can opt to apply turpentine with a small brush to the score guide to lessen friction on the cutter. Start scoring at the inner side of the marker line till you reach the starting point. Tap lightly with the metal ball on the end starting with the starting score till the glass pops out ( this is sometimes unnecessary with a diamond tip). Like what John said, never rescore a line, but if you ever have to redo it, turn the glass on the opposite side and carefully score using the first attempt as a guide.

Practice makes perfect!
Originally posted by EllenAtHowards:
I score the oval, as Mick does, then I turn it over and press along the score line. You will see the break 'run'....
Ellen and Wally Fay both have the technique down, where letting the glass bleed will make a nicer and cleaner oval.

As Ellen mentioned, the radial cuts need to be only short...they can actuall run to the edge of the glass but definitely start short of the oval shape itself.

Make sure to bleed the oval shape before creating the radial cuts. Once you get this down, you should be able to get a perfect oval almost every time, the first time! ;)

For those of you without a professional Oval cutter and just the occaisonal need to cut oval glass, I would recommend the Fletcher-Terry Oval/Circle Glass Cutter, item No. 05-221. This little tool sells for about $80-$110...


It just works too easily to not have one!

I've been framing for over fourty years, today I learned something. My method has always worked OK for me, now it's going to change. I am also ordering one of those cutters. Thanks Grumblers.

Not to lessen the value of the FT cutter...
You can make a template for cutting the glass with your CMC that works great. Couple spots of ATG to keep the template in place while cutting and you're good to go.
I would add something here, but in as much as this VERY subject came up in 2004, I publish a photo article in DECOR on exactly How-To, and without spending that extra $100 or wasting time with a templet.

The templet is the frame... cut the glass to the frame. If you spending more than 5 minutes, you're wasting time.

Score the oval and tangent relief cuts. Remove from frame, turn over scored side down.

With thumb, lightly apply pressure to backside of oval scores. When oval is free, apply pressure to relief cuts. Clean up.
I use my boat anchor to cut my ovals. Bought a C&H Oval master, and I love the glass scoring wheel!

Like Baer, after scoring I flip it upside down, and chase the score lines, freeing the oval.

Oh yeah and after pressing my thumb down on the scored glass I have to "clean up", and apply a bandaid or two!
STOOOOOP! You don't either. You're just trying to scare the kids...

It's OK kids, uncle Bob is just having a hard time adjusting to his new dosages of Ritalin... :D
Baer, the dosages are not new, I'm just taking them regularly now ;)

OK I don't cut myself on the glass, I also don't tap the scores to get the glass loose. I actually drop it pretty hard on the countertop or the floor. I mean if the glass is going to break... go for it!

Prior to getting the boat anchor I too used a marker and the frame to get the glass lines. Worked great. But now that I have the tool I use it freely! Biggest advantage is that if the glass needs to be recut it is much faster than having to use the marker and frame method.
I'm with Ellen and Wally. I almost always use the frame as a template. Sometimes I'll make sure my glass leaves me some room so I can tape the glass down to the back of the frame in a couple of places. Score the oval, take it off, flip 'er over, press on the score till it feeds its way around...usually pretty fast. Flip 'er back over scaore my 'rays' tap them and tha oval usually falls right out. I've had great success cutting fan shaped glass with the same method.

Did I mention I love cutting glass by hand

I can't imagine using glass cutting equipment to make it easier. I'm still basking in the glow of my Wizard and Lifesaver. If I had a nother piece of equipment to make my life easier I'd faint
Oil filled cutters? Bah Humbug! Whatever next you wimps?
Take Raymond's advice and learn to use a diamond.

Practice makes perfect.
Any time anywhere.
Why settle for less?

Time to grow up and be a true framer,not just a machine minder.
No one has mentioned it, but it is easier to cut your oval out of a lite an inch or two larger than the required size.
Bob, I was showing off one day for another framer who wanted an oval glass, but didn't have time to order it :eek: !?!?!

I told her that I would do it for her.... grabbed her 11x14, slapped two dabs of ATG top and bottom, settled the glass, and cut.

As I went to flip the frame and glass over onto the table top, the glass came loose and fell to the table top, shattering into all of the cuts like magic.

One oval, and four corner pieces. I was just as surprised as her... but instead I just turn to her and quietly asked "anything else you need done around here?" :D

Did I mention I love this industry?
Oh baer - I would have loved to have been there to see that!!! LOL!

And I have never used oil on my cutter at all - just try to keep from throwin' it on the floor!!!
Hang it back up when finished using it so wheel is free from contact with anything. And try to remember to cut only very clean glass!
The only oil a cutter should ever need is 10 drops of kerosene on a small little sponge or wad of cloth, in the bottom of a baby food jar. The green Fletcher should last about a year... then pitch.

I wish I could re-produce that scene, time after time.. but truly think it was a once in a lifetime thing.... I can just picture her showing someone else... "and then you just throw it over like....****. . . well, it's supposed to work. :D
My method to cut oval glass

I tried my first attempt at cutting an oval glass yesterday, following several of the suggetions from you many Grumblers with more experience than myself. Well I just couldn't get the hang of it. (I do all of my glass cutting on the Fletcher 3000, so just don't have the hand thing down) I had a problem with being able to score a single smooth line around the oval, especially making the start and stop points line up, and then causing the line to run on the oval and the the relief cuts.....

Any way I am sure that the suggestions given are no doubt more efficeint than mine, but for the cutting challenged maybe it will work as it did for me. I will post a drawing that I think explains the steps that I took.


Works for me, at least until I can get the other way down, if needed.
J. Paul...

I wish I could give you drawings...

I just finished successfully cutting an oval museum glass in the following manner:

1.) Cut the glass rectangularly to the size of the oval frame with straight lines.

2.) Take each corner and cut an arc to match the frame.

3.) Cut straight radial cuts out from the arc if the corners are large. The one I just did I didn't bother...it was only an 11X14.

4.) Use glass pliers lining up the arc to the outside of the oval for support (that's assuming the outside of the frame is also oval...otherwise I do whatever I can to give a curved support).

5.) Take a deep breath and snap a section off.

6.) Since you can't begin the line right at the edge of the glass you often have a little dimple protrusion you can carryfully chip of with a flat nose piers. Make sure to wipe away any stray glass fragments so that you don't get scratches on the UV surface.

I admit that the edges of my oval cuts are not the prettiest, but the rabbet hides any lack of geometric perfection.

Dave Makielski
John, come to PPFA in March... my class is hands on, and you'll never have to clean glass shards out of a wall cutter again.

You have a good start... now figure out how to cut that inside curve on a Fan Case


Meanwhile, DECOR 2005, page 141 :D
I've never tried cutting all four corners at once...one corner at a time has worked well for me all my life.

I haven't done a lot of fan cases, but have successfully cut some of them by doing it much the same way I cut a standard oval...section be section...the more intricate the smaller the sections you cut.

I don't know how confident I would be cutting a sheet of museum glass for a fan case though...I ditto that I would just wait for Baer to darken my doorstep again!

Dave Makielski
OK, Baer...you got me on this one..."PNW" ...acronym for:

"Pictueresque North West"?

"Professional Nut Whiskers"?

"Panting Newborn Wanabees"?

"Perennially Not With-its"?"

"Portland No-Wins"?

"Phat Naked Women"?

Help me please...

Dave Makielski
Well...Duh? Thanks, Val...after all...

I'm still leaning!...or...I mean "learning"!

After all..he could've meant "Polish National Weightwatchers'!

Then I would have really been offended!

Dave Makielski
I don't know Dave, living in the PNW, that's what I assume Baer meant, however....you never know....it is, afterall, Baer!! Let's wait to hear from him....we may all be mistaken!! He's full of - uh - weird acronyms!