What Is a Glass Cutter? Can I Learn How To Use One?

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Cover Image: What Is a Glass Cutter?

By the title of this article, you might be thinking the answer to this question is, “A tool that cuts glass.” While that is true, in the most literary sense, there is much more to it than that. Let’s talk a little bit about what a glass cutter is and why you would use one.

Why Cut Glass?

Stained Glass Cutting

This is a personal preference but there are many reasons why a person might want to cut glass. You could be an artist who is looking to make mosaic art with different color glass and you don’t want the pieces to be random. By cutting them precisely, this artist would have a better chance of aligning their pieces if they are a predetermined size.

You may want to cut glass because you are making a window. There are so many artistic and functional uses for glass, it is worth repeating, the why is up to you. Let’s take a look at how to cut glass.

What Does a Glass Cutter Look Like?

In short, glass cutters look like a robot’s toothbrush. It has a handle, a flat metal piece at the top that has a few notches cut out of it and a wheel. Not all glass cutters look the same so you should research the different options to find the best glass cutter for your projects.

Glazier cut glass on table close up

How Does a Glass Cutter Work?

While it may seem like cutting glass is something that only a professional can accomplish, anyone can do it. But it makes sense that people look to experienced workers to complete this job for them because glass is sharp and a little bit scary.

Yet, if you are an artist like the first person we mentioned in the earlier section, then you might feel worse if you had to pay someone to cut every single little piece of glass for you. As artists, we try to find the most frugal decisions because most of us aren’t making too much money from our art.

This is all fine and good, not many crafters are looking to make money. It’s all about the creation process after all. Still, if you are creating a large table for your patio of different colored glass mosaics then we recommend you learn to cut the glass yourself or just grab a hammer and a bag and hope that all the pieces come out the size you need.

If you want to learn a few tips for cutting glass keep reading.

Get What You Need

Artist cutting sheets of stained glass into small mosaic squares

When we approach any project it’s important to have all of the things you need ready to go. If you are painting a picture but your thinnest brush is sitting in a drawer in the other room then when it comes time to put those thin lines on your painting you have to stop everything and go get it. It’s always best to be prepared.

What you will need for cutting glass are the following items.

  • Glass cutter – the tool, not the person
  • Your glass – all of the glass you plan on cutting that day
  • A can of cutting oil or machine oil
  • Window cleaner
  • Some rags, preferably cotton
  • Duct tape
  • Safety glasses that fit snugly
  • Leather gloves
  • Fine tip marker
  • Framing square, steel rule, or solid straightedge
  • Receptacles for your cut pieces

All of these items are pretty easy to find. Don’t be intimidated by the glass cutter itself. While they look frightening and like a tool for Medieval torture, they are quite simple and easy to use.

Your Work Area

Technicians are using cutting tools, cut glass according to customer size

Hopefully, you have a workbench specifically designed for this type of work. If not, you will need to find a hard, flat surface that is clean and sturdy. You could put a thick piece of plywood on top of another sturdy surface to avoid ruining a table.

The work surface you use must not have any flexibility to it. If there is any flex in your surface the glass you are attempting to cut will crack when you are cutting. You should vacuum your work surface to eliminate any debris that you can’t see. Put a rug down so that the glass doesn’t slip out from underneath you when you are cutting.

Take your marker and mark the areas that you want to cut. Remember this, the tool may be offset from the edge of the glass by 1/8th inch. To be precise, you need to subtract an eighth of an inch from the measurement you want. If you need a twenty-inch piece then you should measure nineteen and seven-eighths of an inch and then make your mark.

Next, put on your glasses and gloves. Take the glass cleaner and clean both sides of the glass. If you don’t clean the glass before cutting you run the risk of dirt making the tool’s cutting wheel stall. Once it’s clean, put the plate of glass on the cloth sitting on your work area.


young metallurgists at work in school workshop

Get your framing square or straightedge and put it on the glass to guide your cutter. You can secure it with duct tape but this step isn’t required. It is helpful though because all kinds of mistakes can happen with a moving ruler. People who have done it for some time eventually lose the duct tape step.

Put a drop of cutting oil on your glass cutter unless it’s self-lubricating cutter then you can skip this step as well. Hold your cutter like it’s a pencil and press the wheel on the glass firmly, and in one swift move pull the tool along your straightedge until it moves off the glass. You should hear a squeal from the glass, which means it’s working.

Next, turn the glass over and tap it until the piece cracks. Then align the scored line with the edge of your table. By applying pressure the glass should break into two pieces. Using sandpaper, preferably 100-grit, smooth out the rough and sharp edges of your glass.


Glass cutter on the background of window glass and pencil.

Cutting glass is quite satisfying. Once you master this technique you will be amazed at the world of artistic avenues this will open up for you. Mosaics are fun to create and, when you have precise pieces, the designs available are endless. You could use this on mirrors or any type of glass you want.

If you found this article helpful let us know in the comments section below. You can share this with your glass loving friends as well.