Stained Glass Art Tips

Cutting Glass

Copper Foil

Lead Came


Pricing Work


Cutting Stained Glass

Probably the most difficult stained glass skill to master.
Many changes in glass cutting tools over the years have aided the beginner glass student.
Glass Cutter Styles
stained glass cutter
Photo: Traditional glass gutter with groziers and tapping ball end.

  • Traditional Hand- Known as the original or standard glass cutter. Some styles have tapping ball ends and grozier teeth. Early cutters had diamond cutter heads which have been replaced by steel and carbide wheels. Made from steel, brass and wood with solid brass, steel and or rolled steel bearings. Greatest flexibility and accuracy in template cutting.


  • Pencil Style- Longer version of the original hand cutter which may contain a ball end as well as self oiling capabilities. Designed for forward scoring (pushing) and mostly used with both hands for consistent pressure and control. Choice of beginners and trace cutting.


  • Pistol Grip- Early pistol grip cutters were designed for heavy cutting with thick glass and tile. The cutting wheel was honed on a less pointed profile to allow extra pressure when cutting. Todays pistol grips have sharper carbide wheel options as well as oil fed capabilities. Choice of first time students applying forward scoring techniques or where hand strength is an issue. Also used by glaziers for repetitive long score draw (pulling) cutting with a square or other guide.
Photo: Pistol grip glass cutter


  • Mechanical Arm- Known as "Cutters Mate" or similar brand. Vertical control and consistent pressure is achieved easily with this type of cutting tool. Equipped with pivoting wheel, 360' cutting is easily done from a single standing position. Jigs can be made for repetitive piece cutting.

Pro Tip: Use cutting oil sparingly when copper foiling is planned. Excessive oil prevents glue from sticking on glass. Try dipping tip of cutter in diluted cutting oil (dilute with paint thinners or kerosene) periodically when cutting. Using a cotton ball or sponge in your diluted cutting oil container, touch the cutting wheel to the absorbing material for a controlled amount of oil. Oil fed cutters need a thicker consistency oil to prevent excessive bleeding when scoring. The resulting excessive oil track on the scored glass hinders foiling performance as well as premature deterioration of templates. Diluted or thinned oil used sparingly avoids these problems. Oil fed cutters work just as well using the described dipping technique.

Pro Tip: Never relax your respect for the dangers of glass. Keep constantly aware of potential hazardous situations.

Pro Tip: Use a cutting square for straight cuts, never rely on a corked back rule. The rule is designed for measuring. The cork backing keeps it from sliding on and scratching glass but was never intended to be used as a cutting edge.

Myth: Tapping the underside of a score in rythym helps break the glass. Fact: Unless you do a rain dance to help make a better solder joint don't practice this technique. Tapping with the ball end should be considered as a last attempt if all else fails. Tapping scored glass creates spider flaws around the score which may result in immediate undesired breakage. Even a successful break has increased chances of undesired breaking well after the project is completed.

Trick: Practice now and then with a traditional cutter to gain confidence and build scoring skills in the pull method. Place the cutter between the middle and ring fingers and controlling the tabbed areas of the cutter with your forefinger and thumb while wrapping your middle finger around the shank of the cutter. Maximum control and ease of inside and outside cuts is achieved this way. The drawback is this technique takes years to master but the benefits are unmatched. Prior to the early 1980's, grinders haven't been used primarily for stained glass so accuracy was desired on the initial score and final piece. Speed is a welcomed byproduct of cutting this way and will be noticed greatly if learned. Control of the cutter during template cutting is absolute to less than 1/64 at all times and "dead on" most of the time. Video of this technique coming soon.

Safety Do's and Dont's

  • Always keep glass flat or horizontal to work surface unless moving to and from storage.
    Never attempt to break glass in a vertical position!
  • Store unused sheets away from work places and never leave leaning on side of work bench.
  • Do not leave unattended glass hanging off edge of table. Good practice is to always push edge of glass past edge of table after each cut.
  • Wear eye protection at all times and no open toed shoes.