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Stained Glass & Leadlight Tool Talk in the World of Glass


All Pages



Red Yellow
& Orange

& Pink

& Amber

Black White
& Grey Glass




Foil &

Bevel Clusters


Page under Construction - working on cutters and pattern shears

What's this page about you might ask, well for those that know every thing probably not much but for those that are just starting in the glass world it holds information which might save you more than a few dollars. The list of tools following and there description/usage are from my own experiences and are impressions and observations gleaned from 15 years of small class teaching. I write small class teaching because no class would have more than 5 people this gives the advantage of almost a one to one tuition in the early stages of playing around with glass.
I have jotted down the plus and minus of using each tool, the list is not a full comprehensive list of tools available but one of tools readily available in Australia, other tools will be added as I find the time to mull them over, write what I think about them and upload those thoughts.
For those guys that came to my classes and are still playing around with glass it can be a refresher course or a reminder of the class you were not there when we introduced them. Ho Hum
For those that read on, if you disagree please let me know and why, I will not promise to alter anything but it might modify my thoughts
For more information
Thoughts on glass cutters:-
I'll prefix this the first section with the following jottings, I started in my own glass world by attending a course at the Sydney Building Information Center some 25 years ago, the course among other things was based on a cost and a tool kit had to be purchased with in that cost because it had to fall in a budget that wouldn't put people off, the tools price wise were the cheapest and sometimes you get what you pay for. I then decided to take glass work more seriously and the first thing on the agenda was to see if I could find a more efficient glass I thought as I visited Sydney Stained Glass, which one do I choose looking at the $40/$50/$60/$70.00 cutters, none of which I had ever tried. It was a gamble on money that was hard to come by, so read on , if you can't come to one of my classes I guess the following is the next best thing.
Pistol Grip oil filled cutters:-

All of them good some better than others, (bottom line, generally you get what you pay for) all types of cutters have positives & negatives. If sales in and after classes are representative the picture painted is approximately 70% male preferred, 30% female preferred......why? Well, from observation, guys have stronger wrists (can't understand why) women who play tennis, golf or have osteoporosis/carpel tunnel problems (I know this sounds like a contradiction but they will use their whole hand and wrist muscles against just a few fingers and the few muscles connected to those fingers)
If you haven’t had much experience and have just started to look around, all decent (more expensive) cutters are filled with oil (what oil you ask - more on that later) - which brings us to the first negative.
i) From the pictures you can see you have to wrap your hand around the oil reservoir and plastic handle, on a cold day and when the ambient temperature is cool, the heat from your hand expands the air in the plastic handle pretty quickly, what does that do, well it pushes oil to the cutting wheel which in turn spreads over the glass. A nuisance when you first start cutting but other than being messy causes no harm. It's one of those things you get over quickly after you understand what pressures you use on what glass and accept it's just happens.
ii) When scoring, the score should end 1mm to 2mm from the end of the glass, guys tend to drive through the glass, cause their guys and stopping before they reach the end of the glass is rather like stopping when the lights are amber. With pistol grips this can be a gender problem, the tungstan wheel is a darn sight tuffer than the glass but undue pressure as it falls off the edge of the glass can and frequently does take out a segment best descibed as the first section of a birthday cake being cut away. The scoring head with a segment out sounds like a car with a flat spot i

Class & workshops cutters get abused, different hands, different approaches but they still manage to last for 2 years or more, with your own cutter I would expect 5 or more years usage on a three day week 3 hours a day........that's a lot of scoring
Now for the plus's,
i) They have a brass ball on the end of the handle, again if you have just started, it comes in more than handy when your tapping out glass. (What’s tapping out glass you ask - more of how and when later). Some cutters - which are good, have no balls.
ii) From class & workshop experience straight lines (which you would imagine would be easy - especially scoring with a ruler) can be a problem, most but not all times it's the person holding the cutter, with a pistol grip the problems associated with straight lie cutting are overcome earlier

Ergo Oil filled cutters
Pencil Oil filled cutters
Modified Pencil cutters
Dry Cutters
Cheap Grozers
Expensive Grozers
In all fairness from the time I bought my first grinder some 25 years ago I have only purchased Glastar Grinders, I have in the workshop
(i) The Diamond Star
(ii) The Super Star
(iii) The All Star
and finally
(v) The beveling studio trio of flat bed, grinder/polisher and saw.

I have not tried competitive brands of grinders simply because the Glastar range have proved more than reliable (therefore competitive brands don’t get a mention) They run for hours, they have also been badly abused by class after class of great class mates who had/have problems cutting accurately and believe that 3mm of grinding is acceptable.
I have seen and worked with three models of Diamond Star in those 25 years, probably the best grinder for people that classify themselves as hobbyist.
The first one was a little underpowered but was still going strong when I sold it some 10 year later and had belted out 100's of hours of work time grinding glass,
The second model had a small cut out at in the rear wall of the water reservoir on the left hand side, what a design disaster, don’t get me wrong, the grinder was good, the cut out was the disaster, I mention this only because many would still be available on the second hand market. Why a design problem, well, part of the instruction of grinder maintenance was to keep the water topped up, the level being just below the cut out, over enthusiastic class mates would pour in water till it overflowed,  the overflow would take place through the cut out, which happened to be right over the electrical connection, the water would drip into the electrics and the motor would blow up.

Pattern Shears
Absolutely essential if you just starting to cut glass for leadlighting, foiling or mosaic work.....why?

I started taking classes in leadlighting some 20 years ago, I found cutting glass was easy not allways accurate but easy, especially with a grinder on the workbench next to me.  So I expected every one else to find it easy....did I learn a lesson from my first class. Their are a number of ways for cutting out pieces of glass, over a light table, looking at the pattern through the glass, cutting the pattern with scissors and tracing round it, cutting the pattern and holding it on the glass, cutting glass templates and tracing round them....all have a place. The problem is with only a limited amount of workshop time and learning new skills as a hobby some fall by the wayside.... There brain was telling  them what to do but there hands wasn't  do as they are told. (I all ways compare it to learning to drive in a manual car, its not easy to co-ordinate your feet with your hands and the jerking of the car and grinding of gears relates to the cutter moving away from a predetermined course and not being accurate)
My drop out rate in and at the end of the course was too high, albeit I was inexperienced as a teacher and couldn't understand why people would not persevere, I started off teaching with the English/Australian method of 2 or 3 of the above, then came across the American Pattern Shear method, imported a dozen pattern shears and wow...what a difference. For those that either havn't seen them, tried them or even heard about them, I've incorporated a few pictures of what and how they work.
The same instructions go for Lead, Foil and Mosaic work:-

Click on picture to enlarge and you will see clearly the three blades, the principle for all three shears (Foil/Lead/Mosaic) is the same. The single blade cuts a gutter paper strip out of the pattern. Each of the three blades has a different thickness, foil being the narrowest and the mosaic blade being the widest.
The gutters represents the thickness of the foil, the heart of the lead and the grout line.
I'll throw in a couple of hints at this stage which will not only make the cutting easier, it will also save you time.
i) Use short little strokes, unless you can see your way clear to finish a line with one lunge, keep the gutter cut
near the middle of the shears, this helps with the manoeuvrability of the shears round tight curves and aids passing the gutter off cut through the twin blades easier.
ii) If you are going to repeat a pattern piece more than once cut through three or four sheets of paper at the same time

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