The title may say, “how to cut antique glass,” but it’s really the same process for any kind of glass you would find in windows or doors. The easy way is to bring your measurements to the local glass shop or hardware store and ask them to do it. They’ll do it perfectly and it will only cost about a buck a cut if you bring your own glass.
But for some of us DIYers, there is just no way we’ll pay someone to do something we can do ourselves. And cutting glass is something anyone can do. Here’s how:
- Get a Glass Cutter – This inexpensive little tool is simple to use and makes glass cutting a cinch.
- Mark Your Measurements – Using a Sharpie or grease pen, transfer your measurements onto the piece of glass to be cut.
- Set a Straight Edge – You’ll need to secure a straightedge on top of your glass to ensure a straight cut. I usually use a framing square or drywall T-square depending on the size to cut, but you can use whatever is handy as long as it is straight.
- Lubricate the Cutter – Apply a little dab of piston lube, WD-40, or anything that will allow the cutter’s wheel to spin smoothly during the cut.
- Score the Glass – Apply firm pressure and roll the glass cutter across the entire length of the cut in one pass. Don’t make multiple passes. (This will score the glass and not actually cut it through, that comes later.) One chance is all you get so make sure you have enough pressure and go all the way across your cut line.
- Tap the Line – Lift the glass up and using the metal ball on the other end of the cutter to gently tap all along the score line.
- Pop the Line – This last step may make you nervous. Take the glass and set the score line just over the edge of your work top. Then with two hands, break the cut piece off. If you scored the glass correctly it will snap easily along the score and give you a nice clean cut.
There is one drawback to this method, however. You cannot trim off small bits of glass. If you make a mistake and cut the glass 1/16″ – 1/2″ too big (or somewhere in that range), you won’t be able to score and break off a piece that tiny very effectively.
The process is pretty similar to cutting drywall, and once you’re comfortable it can be just as quick. Plus, it will save you plenty of cash, especially if you have a little league player and BB gun fanatic living under the same roof like my parents did!
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I love old houses, working with my hands, and teaching others the excitment of doing it yourself! Everything is teachable if you only give it the chance.
7 thoughts on “How To: Cut Antique Glass”
“There is one drawback to this method, however. You cannot trim off small bits of glass. If you make a mistake and cut the glass 1/16″ – 1/2″ too big (or somewhere in that range), you won’t be able to score and break off a piece that tiny very effectively.”
So if the glass is just slightly larger, how do you cut off 1/16″-1/2″?
So trying to cut some 1/8 old glass, would the same process above be best?
Most of the time I just place the glass on top of the sash, square it up, score it free hand, and drop it in. No measuring required.
Fred, that’s the way I do it most of the time now too. Used to measure and cut when I wrote this post so maybe it’s time for an updated post! 🙂
Once you learn to lay a good score, I don’t recommend using the ball to tap the score line. It isn’t necessary and you risk breaking the glass – especially if it’s antique single strength glass (1/16″ thick).
You actually can break off narrow cuts. I routinely snap off cuts as thin as 1/8″. What you need is a good glass plier. Here’s a good cheap one:
After a little practice you can usually skip the ball but for a first timer it never hurts. Agreed that you will need to be gentle! 🙂