help with cutting glass?


Grumbler in Training
Apr 27, 2006
I'm trying to open my own business by starting out in my basement and making lots of mistakes....
I tried to cut glass with a self oiling carbide handheld glass cutter. I have a pair of glass pliers. I cut a 6"x8" piece no problem by scoring the line and then instead of putting the glass pliers on the score line (perpendicular to the line as it indicates on the pliers' instructions), I put the pliers parallel to the score and snapped it off no problem. THEN I tried it on a larger piece (a 15" score line) and it just breaks the glass in chunks. I tried it first by putting the pliers as it says and gently squeezing and it just chomped off a horrid broken chunk. (I DID squeeze gently!) Then I tried it the way I did it on the smaller piece - by putting the pliers parallel and in the center of the "negative piece" and just snapping off. Same thing - huge chunk. When I bought the pliers, I had a choice of 6" or 8". I bought the 8" not knowing the difference. What's the difference? Do I need a different size for larger glass? Thank you!!
Hey Bluehorse - if you do a search on glass cutting I believe you'll find a wonderful thread from maybe a year ago on the fine art of hand cutting glass.

In the mean time - I only use glass pliers if I am breaking off an inch or less. For anything larger I float the glass over the hard edge of my workbench and give it a "snap." I line up the score line exactly with the counter edge.

Make sure your score is unbroken all down the length - that the wheel has not skipped any places, and NEVER re-score a line!
I've always been curious...... WHY aren't you supposed to re-score??
It "confuses" the line that makes the break. Glass is fluid, and if you score twice it will create more than one run, and could break in several different directions. Also, I think Mar is right about it not being good for the cutting wheel.I don't think it will ruin it, but certainly shorten the life of it.
thank you - I knew that it was bad - but I didn't know why!
Take some pieces of scrap glass - sounds as if you might have some - Practice straight cuts without a straight edge - you have to get a feel for the cutter and how it sounds when you start to cut properly - just keep scoring and cutting strips off the glass until you have the pressure and speed of cut right.
Keep the cutter upright and try and maintain an even downwards pressure - dont apply too much pressure - your scoring the glass not ploughing it. When you get it right you dont need anything else but your two thumbs - either side of the score line - confidently apply pressure and the glass will just break - you will know when you have got it right as the breaking glass just gives easily - it takes time but you will get it.
once you have got the feel of the cutter move on to cut against a straight edge.
I just use a Fletcher Scoremaster handheld glass cutter to cut my glass. My glass pliers are 6" long, but I don't think the length would make any difference as I use them on all sizes of glass. Like Framar, I only use my pliers when I'm trying to snap off a strip of glass that is less than 1" wide (I've even managed to take 1/4" strips off without too much difficulty).

Like, Wolfy, I use my hands on either side of the score line to apply pressure and snap the glass. I will score the line, then grasp the piece of glass at its edge. My thumbs are on the top of the glass and the rest of my hand is underneath the glass; the glass is resting on my index fingers. This method has worked great for me. I think the only time that I've had a problem occurred when my scoreline wasn't completely unbroken.

For safety reasons, you should be wearing protective eyewear and gloves.
when you run out of up your pennies (keep looking here on HH and a few other framer oriented sell sites to find a used one) & get a wall mounted cutter!!! Best investment in the place & worth every dollar(oh yes, it also does FC & mats)
So Bluehorse, welcome to the G!

Says you're from CT ... not too far away from Worcester. Stop up and I'll give you a demo.

My guess (based on the mistakes I made!) ... you're pushing too hard. Causing a jagged score, then, you're putting your plyers too far from the score line. (see Framar's post)

Good Luck!
I know I have used our wall cutter a few times in the last 4-5 years, but I think it was only for cutting 40x60 sheets.

If you master the hand tool, you will never have to tie-up valuable wall space. I never have liked the idea of glass chips in the track that can be picked up by matboard and transfered to the face of a print or photo or your hand.

Score, flip score down onto table and push thumb down on the backside of the score. If you are working on a hard surface, stick a little piece of matboard under the waste corner then push.

Order a reprint of March 2005 of DECOR magazine and a complete How-To is on page 141.
Welcome to the grumble BlueHorse!

I was thinking it may be possible that you are holding the pliers upside down. Meaning that the curved edges are squeezing the score together and not apart.

Baer is right in that you can flip the glass upside down and chase the scoreline to break it. I like the wall cutter because it cuts a really straight line, when I score by hand I gets curved graceful lines that poke out from under the rabbet. But that may be because I learned to cut glass for stained glass windows and straight lines weren't required!
One common mistake is to score the glass with too much pressure on the cutting wheel. The lightest score that leaves a line is best.

If the cutting wheel skips it will not score properly, so be sure to lubricate it often.
There are a couple kinds of glass pliers. Make sure you arre using the correct kind for the application. There are "running" pliers and "nibbling" pliers. They are not interchangable.
I'm with Baer on using the hand cutting technique. I've never been able to get the knack of cutting glass on my KeenCut 4000. It just seems easier to cut by hand and I feel much more confident and controlled. Of course I've been cutting glass this way for 40 grandfather kept me working in the back of the store until I was fourteen to avoid the child labor police.

I think the hardest part of learning to cut glass is to ignore the phone ringing, dogs barking, trains rumbling down the tracks and the stack of moulding falling...especially when cutting 40X60 museum glass.

It's kind of a Zen thing...meditation does a shot of Jack Daniels.


Dave Makielski
Bluehorse as has been suggested there is ,I Know, archived threads on theis subjest .Maybe you'll have to search the Before 2004 archives or both it and the current.

I used to belive that Glass was a liquid ( avery Viscus liquid ,but now Iam not so sure.

However from what i reme,ber from my days of stainned glass,when you score a lite of glass you are actually causeing a Fissure .It isn't always straight as it may seem .So if you rescore it or just cross over an exsisting score the two fissure will intersect and where they go is anyones guess. Also rhe resulting chips or micro schardes can and do damage the wheel on your cutter. It doesnn't take much ( it may not even be visible ) to cause the whell to skip or just plain not cut.

Also as Wally said there are differnt glass pliers the "RUNNING" pliers have a flat squred off edge on bothe sides and are used to secure one side of a fissure while apllying downward and outward force to seperate tha score.

The "NIBBLING Pliesr are more used to chip away short irregualr segments ,sort of what you might want to do when rounding off a cut as in a circle or oval. You can use them in place of a RUNNINF Pliers but they have less control since they are narrower and the bottom jaw is curve so as to faciliatae short choppy strokes.

On large fissures you can sometimes just press on the opposite side to cause them to run. I have even seen glazers reat the fissure on a yard stick and press. I have even been taught to forego the pliers on smaller fissure by curling my forefingers over my other curled fingers against each other and holding the top with my thumbs and poping down and out .But do this carefully while watching for sharp edges . Marie ( My wife ) went to the ER for a Butterfly in oredr to finish a stained glass piece.

Hope this helped. But as others have suggested Get a wall cutter and maybe a C+h or Fletcher circle cutter for the cirlces and ovals. It save a lot of time and some bandades and stitches to boot.LOL
Hi BlueHorse,
If you are short on space, I would master the handheld cutter. Twenty years ago on my first attempt I went through an entire case of glass (regular back then.) I was miserable with frustration and even more miserable when I had to carry the broken glass to the dumpster. I quickly got the hang of it, and stuck with the handheld cutter. I would also suggest using the wall space for a CMC instead of the glass cutter. I job out the circles to a supplier to cut. Circles and ovals don't come up too frequently. You might also job out long, skinny pieces until you are used to the cutter.