by Tammy Honaman, Author, Jewelry-Making Expert and Educator,
Exclusively for Fire Mountain Gems and Beads®

When it comes to working with glass, often the detail that keeps people away is the need for cutting the glass to size and the uncertainty that the task brings. And although there are many designs and ways around needing to cut glass, to follow is an overview of the tools you will need and which ones to use when, to help get you past the unknown. Put on a pair of safety glasses, have a box of Band-Aids® on hand (just in case you get a paper-cut like cut on your fingers) and soon you will have more pieces of cut glass and more designs on your to-do list than you may have time for.

Glass Cutters
There are two styles of glass cutters--dry and oil-filled. Each is made with a steel wheel that scores the glass, but that is where their similarities end.

The dry glass cutter has a wooden handle that is fitted with a metal head that houses the cutting wheel as well as has slots or notches along one side. This glass cutter can be used with glass cutting oil if you’d like. The oil will lubricate the wheel and keep it moving along the glass; many prefer to work with it dry.

Put the wheel to the surface of the glass then push forward or pull toward you; you will hear a sound similar to opening a zipper.

Once the glass is scored, place the glass into a pair of running pliers so the mark on the tips of the pliers lines up with your score line. Depress the handle to "run" the score and ease the glass apart along the score line. Some use the notches along the metal head of the tool to break any pieces of glass that don’t break along the score line cleanly. You can use the notch that fits the thickness of the glass or work with a pair of breaking pliers which have teeth to also accomplish the same task. This tool is intended to be disposable and should be discarded once the wheel does not score cleanly, or skips as you move it along the surface of the glass.

The pistol grip oil cutter is designed for comfort and to help ease hand fatigue when cutting glass for extended periods of time. The handle is also a reservoir intended to hold glass cutting oil. Glass cutting oil allows the blade to roll along the surface of the glass easily as well as keep the wheel lubricated and free of any debris that might be caused while cutting glass.

To fill the cutter with oil, remove the plug on one end of the handle, use the bulb syringe that comes with the cutter to extract oil from the glass cutting oil bottle then deposit the oil into the reservoir. Replace the plug.

Press the cutting wheel to the glass surface then push or pull the cutter along the glass to score. Oil will be emitted as the tool is moved along the glass. The wheel will last a long time, however will wear over time; replace with a replacement head as needed.

Marking the Glass for Cutting
It is recommended to draw your pattern onto the glass itself or follow along the edge of a metal ruler. It is best to make cuts edge to edge so cut beyond your pattern if needed.

Running Pliers
Once the glass is scored, running pliers are used to "run" the score through the glass so it cuts or breaks along the score line.

Running pliers have rubber tips on the curved ends and a mark at the center so you can position the pliers right at the score line. The handles are depressed and pressure applied to the glass. The glass is then eased apart along the score line for a clean break. The set-screw can be used to adjust the pliers to allow for different thicknesses of glass, preventing overuse on the pliers and from putting too much pressure on the glass.

Breaking Pliers
Breaking-grozer pliers can be used for both tasks. Use as breaking pliers to break glass along the score line if the score is in a difficult place to handle. Use as grozing pliers by applying the serrated jaws to the glass, "grinding" the glass away when the break is not clean or straight.

Glass Nippers
This pair of glass cutters is often referred to as a mosaic glass and tile cutter. The glass nipper has two precision cutting wheels that come together when pressure is applied to the handles, breaking the glass into small pieces. These cutters are also used to glass stringers into manageable lengths. The wheels are replaceable which makes this a tool for life.

Once the glass is cut and ready for use, it is advisable to wash the pieces with soap and water to remove any oils from either the glass cutter or your hands. This step will prep the glass for either wrapping the edges with copper foil or for fusing.

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