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Glass Cutting Basics for Picture Framing

OK today on Repairs101 – Glass cutting basics – we’ve got this piece of artwork here that has an unfortunate crack in the glass. And so I’m going to remove the glass, cut a new piece because it’s a custom frame and it has a unique size that you can’t just buy off the shelf.

Here’s a handful of framing tools that we’ll be using and my framing supplies toolbox. Sitting on top of this replacement piece of glass we’re going to be using which is UV glass. As you can see it’s quite faded so we’re going to put on a piece of UV glass. And give it that little bit of extra protection from light that is deteriorating the quality of this image.

Handy skill to know

I was wearing safety glasses!

So being able to cut glass is a great skill to have. The tools are inexpensive for sure and you’ll have a lot of opportunities to use it around the home if you’re a handyperson. You might have broken window panes in your home that you need to replace, you might have a broken mirror that needs to be replaced or reframed or like this a piece of broken artwork.

 Now first up I’d say you may want to wear gloves. Now I’m going to do this barehanded but I recommend that you wear gloves when you do this. And for sure you’re going to wear your safety glasses.


Although there are a lot of more expensive options the most basic tool you need to do this job is this little thing right here. I’ll show you that. There we go. As you can see, its got a wheel in the end of it made of high carbon steel and that’s what does all the work. These notches right here, they’re there as holds so you can grab on to a piece of glass and break it off like that. And of course the handle is very nice ergonomic handle and it also has a little ball on the end that’s also used for tapping the glass along the scribe that you’ve made in order to ensure a break.

Cut running pliers

So another tool you’re going to need is the glass cut running pliers, also known as a glazer’s pliers or a glass plier. So this is the way it works. As you scribe along the top of the piece of glass you get this underneath it and it levers it together and it separates it along your scribe.

The original piece of glass is considerably smaller than the replacement piece that we’ve bought for it. So it’s going to need to be cut down. It also has all the corners nipped off of it. We’ll just take a Sharpie and trace it now obviously it’s just going to give me a rough outline of where I need to cut.

 OK so in the spirit of measuring twice and cutting once I’m going to take a quick measurement and we’ll start measuring. Just take a look at this. And we’ll measure this one again of course just take two measurements. So the tracing is good. And I’m going to follow it as my guideline. The first thing I’m going to cut is the short edge because the shorter your run you’re cutting the better off you are.

Fletcher brand

And we’re going to take a brand new Fletcher glass cutter. The gold tip type, with the breaker ball on the end which I’m not sure I’m going to need. I’m going to apply a tiny drop of tenacious oil. Which is a very, very thick chain oil that is very much similar to gear oil. Say an eighty or ninety weight gear oil, if that’s what you’ve got that’s what I’d recommend. Anyway so that’s just to make sure that the wheel rolls nice and easily across the surface.

Line it up right the first time. There we go. There we go. OK so I’ve got it lined up to my liking. I’ve got the – maybe I’ll add one more clamp. To hold that in place to make sure it doesn’t move when I make my cut.

See how it sounds

OK start beyond it, go right up against the ruler which you’re using as a fence, and get started.

[Glass cutting]

And go right to the end and over the edge.

[Glass cutting]

 OK and that’s all there is to it.

OK and then the last thing is to take your cut running pliers and snap the end. You want to line that up right on it right on the cut. Then you see it just breaks like magic.

Here we go here we go so we line it up just like that and there you go. You see that? No cuts, nothing to worry about but I recommend that you wear gloves . And then you just give it a little tiny gentle squeeze. As you can see it pops off clean and right into my hand.

This time I’m going to use this much bigger set-square because unfortunately my favourite little steel ruler isn’t long enough. It’s eighteen inches and we need to go across eighteen and a half. And you must score from edge to edge. You cannot start part way down and hope that it all works out OK.  That’s just not going to happen. And here we go.

[Glass cutting]

Homemade alternative

Now if for whatever reason you can’t your hands on a pair of cut running pliers… There’s a civilized solution and it’s not using your hands or using two pairs or ordinary pliers. OK don’t use you hands even with gloves on. And really what you really want to do is just find yourself a block of wood, something like this. What we’re going to do is we’re going to rip a channel down the middle of it. To accommodate the edge of the glass. And I’ll just show you how to do that real quick.

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OK you get your fence set up, just lower the saw a little bit.

[Table saw rips]

So of course the channel in my block of wood acts exactly the same way as the channels in this tool. Insert the glass and snap off. In this case generally you’re just going to nibble off little bits with this edge of his tool. When you need to make a break and you don’t have cut-running pliers then it’s a good idea to cut yourself something like this. Use it to prevent your hand from coming in contact with it. And this will help you apply even pressure along the whole length of it. As opposed to say just where my thumbs are. If that was the glass and I was trying to break it with my hands. That’s just a recipe for disaster.  You’re going to end up getting some really severe cuts.

Safety precautions

OK we’re going to take this piece of wood that we cut a channel into. And we’re going to use it instead of my hand or a pair of pliers or something silly like that. To provide nice even pressure across a much larger surface area than my fingers… My hands, another pair of pliers or something would do. Now make sure you’re wearing your safety glasses when you do this. And I would still recommend gloves to most people. Then just a little twist of the wrist and it breaks off nice and clean nice and safe. So pop off like that. OK piece of cake and very safe. No contact of course with the glass at all that I’m breaking off, OK.

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OK so what’s left are nicking off these corners. So I don’t think you need a clamp for this. Just start right there and etch and she popped right off for me. OK so we’ll just take a line, take our etcher our glass cutter. Look at that. Now that one again came right off with just the little bit of pressure. I was putting on it with the ruler. Alright. And again, nice clean cut. Popped right off. OK that’s snug. Oh yeah, right in. OK I’ll just clean this up both sides, put the artwork back together and we’re all finished.


So what I’ve done is put some tape here. To replace all this old tape from the nineteen-seventies that dried up and no longer holding the piece in place. Although art conservatorists will be having heart attacks right now because this is certainly not acid free paper. It’s the paper that was in there all along and it’s an historical document. It’s a time capsule so I’m going to preserve that time capsule.

And last but not least I have the original nails here. But I’m going to replace them with a much more modern and much more convenient solution. Which are these little fellows right here. I call them stars because they’re kind of star shaped.

Diamond points

We’re going to use these little staples that are driven in by this interesting little driver right here. You just get in behind them like that and you push them in …

That’s what the staple looks like. As you can see its got raised edges for pushing on.

The tool is this thing right here it’s made by the Fletcher company. Again and all you do is you get… you load one in like that.

And you want to be very careful not to push down at all because you’re going to shatter the glass. Of course you need to only be pushing parallel to the glass into the wood. Not down on the glass at all.

I’m going to try and centre it and then slide it on in like that. Very careful not to push down – only to push across. And there it is.

OK as usual my product is by 3M and it is Durapore fabric tape. So just attach that along like that. Like that and then bring it in. Make a nice dust cover while still preserving the look of the original picture frame maker.

Restore artwork

OK now as you can see in no time flat I’ve been able to restore something that was otherwise relegated to a storage room. Where it was going to collect dust for the next decade or two. Before somebody finally got tired of looking at it and threw it out. And that would be a real shame because it’s really a beautiful piece of artwork. Now it can go back to its rightful owner. And they can enjoy it on their wall for years to come.

OK so I like to put it on a piece of cardboard as you see on top of my workbench. I bring it right to the edge here. I’m going to be cutting across there. I’ll take a steel ruler and also align it perfectly across the edge so I have an exact parallel cut. I’m going to take my gluing clamps and place them across the bottom. So that the ruler can’t move when I’m etching my line.

OK I’m going to put a drop of tenacious oil on the wheel. Every time I use it because it’s going to clog up with glass debris. You want it running freely in order to do the cut.

Now listen for this sound. It’s critical that you be making the same noise so that you ensure that you’re making a good score across.

[Glass cutting]

Listen for that sound.

 You probably want to wear gloves to do this.

So just line that up.

There we go.

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