Leadlight-making for Beginners: Proper Glass cutting techniques
The first thing that comes to your mind when you hear ‘stained glass’ is probably a huge cathedral with dome windows, right? Well, think a little further: imagine making a smaller version of that window, in any shape, color and style and having it in your home. That’s basically what a leadlight is.
Leadlights add an aura of beauty and sophistication to a space, and they are so easy to make you can do it as a hobby. Leadlights can be used in place of any window in your home, partially or wholly. You can create simple images like flowers, plants and birds using glasses of different sizes cut and fixed together with lead came (hence the name ‘leadlights’ or copper foil).
If you’re looking to get into leadlighting as a hobby, accurate glass cutting is one of the most important things you can learn. Glass cutting is done using a small metal wheel which creates a score-line on the surface of the glass. The glass surface is then penetrated along the score line for full separation of parts.
The following are a few glass-cutting tips to help you transition into proper glass cutting for your leadlight projects:
- Choose a self-oiling, high-quality cutter which comfortably fits your grip. Before any cutting confirm that the reservoir has enough oil.
- Buy a snug-fitting pair of safety goggles and wear them each time to protect your eyes from glass and lead dust and/or chips
- Invest in clear, bright light for your work surface to ensure that you make precise, accurate cuts
- If you haven’t ever cut glass, start with plain clear glass, which separates much easier. It’s also cheaper, so you can replace any ruined pieces and keep practicing until you’re much better before transitioning into leadlight glass.
- Do not cut glass on padding; ensure it’s on a flat wooden surface to ensure you don’t make any cracks that will cause the glass to break where you didn’t want it to. Use paper templates to ensure you cut accurately.
- You’ll need to stand most of the time, so ensure that your workbench is a comfortable height for standing. This is because you need to apply pressure on the cutter, which is hard to do when you sit.
- Place your patter templates 1-2 inches from the glass edge so that you have something to hold when breaking. Always cut from the smooth side if you’re using textured glass.
- Ensure that your score line is steady and continuous, but light. However, don’t apply too much pressure, as this may crush the glass. If you notice a bright-white score-line and chips fly from the line as you cut, you’re using too much pressure.
- Don’t retrace a score line using the cutter. If the initial line is discontinuous or otherwise inaccurate/unusable, move a half-inch beside it and start over
- Where possible, after scoring, break the glass with your hands. If you need extra leverage (e.g. if you scored too close to the edge), use glass-breaking pliers. Use grozing pliers’ ridges to smoothen any rough edges, ensuring that your cut glasses are the exact size of the pattern templates. This way, they will fit perfectly when you bring them together.
- Clean up the work surface in between cuts so that the chips and shards won’t scratch your leadlight glass pieces.
If making your own does not appeal to you, contact a company like Moorabbin Glass.