Working with Glass

Working with glass doesn't have to be a shattering experience. Here's a crash course on everything you need to know.

Whether it's for a picture frame, a glass panel for a cabinet door, or just replacing a broken window, sooner or later, you'll probably be faced with the task of cutting a piece of glass. Fortunately, tliis isn't difficult. In feet, working with glass is actually kind of fun once you learn the basics.

TOOLS. The tools you need to cut glass aren't very complicated or expensive. To start with, you'll need a glass cutter. This tool is a bit like a miniature pizza cutter. It has a tiny, steel cutting wheel at one end to score the glass. (Glass cutters typically cost less than $5 at most hardware stores).

Along with the glass cutter, you'll need a straightedge to help guide the cutter and some oil to keep the cutting wheel lubricated. You'll also need a pair of leather gloves to protect your hands from the sharp edges of the glass. And some safety glasses to shield yoiLr eyes from any small shards of flying glass.

If you're going to be cutting a lot of glass, there are some other tools you might want to consider buying (see box on opposite page). But these aren't absolutely necessary.

HOW IT WORKS. Teclmically speaking, you don't really "cut" glass. Rather, you score a shallow line across the surface of the glass. Then you apply pressure to the glass until it fractures or "runs" along the score line. These two steps -— scoring and running — are all there is to cutting glass.

You can safely cut standard flat glass up to about Vs" thick. But if your project calls for tempered

A hardware store glass cutter is all you need for cutting an occasional piece of glass. But if you do a lot of glass cutting, you might want to invest in some other tools.

For around $25, you can get a professional glass cutter with a carbide cutting wheel. As you press down on the cutter to score the glass, a small amount of oil is auto matically ejected from a reservoir in the handle to lubricate the wheel. Special pliers are also available to help with breaking the glass cleanly. See page 49 for sources.

Cutters. A standard glass cutter (top) can be found at most hardware stores. But for a little more, you can buy a cutter with a carbide wheel (bottom).

Running Pliers. To help break the glass after you've scored it, a pair of running pliers is used to apply pressure on each side of the score line.

Breaking Pliers. A pair of breaking pliers can be used to "nibble" away narrow pieces of glass that are too small to break off by hand.

glass, safety glass, or thick plate glass, you'll need to call on the services of a glass shop.

PREPARATION. Before getting started, make sure your glass is clean. Any dirt or grit will stop the wheel of the glass cutter like a skateboard on gravel. Then set the glass on top of your workbench with a mat or some newspaper underneath it to act as a cushion.

SCORING. To score the line, hold the glass cutter in your hand with your index finger on top of the cutter. Dip the cutting wheel in the oil to lubricate it. Mow using the straightedge as a guide, start at the top of the glass and draw the cutter toward you. Keep the cutter moving until it runs off the bottom edge of the glass. Try not to stop in the middle and don't retrace the score or the glass will break unevenly.

The real secret to successful scoring is the amount of pressure you use. Too little pressure and the score line won't be deep enough, making it hard to break the glass cleanly. Too much pressure and you can end up with tiny chips all along the score line, or you may even wind up cracking the glass.

Try practicing on some scrap pieces of glass to get a feel for how much pressure to use.

RUNNING. Once you've scored the glass, the next step is to "run" the score and snap the glass in two. Wearing a pair of leather gloves, simply grasp the glass along the edge on each side of the score line and give both sides a quick, downward jerk, as if you were snapping a twig. The glass should break cleanly in two pieces, right along the score line (see inset photo above).

If you have difficulty running the score, try gently tapping the back of the score line with the round end of the glass cutter.

Use a glass cutter and a straightedge to score a line on the glass. Then break the glass by snapping it along the score line.

This will help deepen the score and make it easier to break the glass.

CLEAN UP THE EDGES. Once you've cut the glass, it's a good idea to smooth out the rough edges with some cloth-backed, silicon-carbide sandpaper. (For safety's sake, don't hold the sandpaper in your hand — use a sanding block.) 09

How To: Tools of the Trade

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