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Tech Tips Table of Contents

About Stained Glass
Tools and Supplies
Glass Cutting
Breaking Glass
Cutting Circles
Project Patterns
How to Cut Glass to a Pattern
Soldering Technique
Leading Technique
Copper Foil Technique
Making a Lampshade


The simplest way to cut your glass is to use the traditional method. If the glass is transparent enough to see through, you can place it directly on top of your pattern. Make sure that the lines of your pattern are of the proper allowance (1/16" for lead, 1/32" for foil) and cut to the very inside of these lines for every piece of glass.

For darker glass, a light box or table with your pattern and glass on top transmits light so that you can clearly see your cut-lines.

If you are using dense opalescent glass in your project, you can trace the pattern piece directly onto the glass. Position a piece of carbon paper face down on the glass, with your pattern on top and trace the pattern outline of the piece to be cut. Trace exactly where you will cut making sure to leave the proper allowance.


Another easy but more time consuming method of cutting out your glass is the technique of using paper templates as a guide. This method has the benefit of giving you a piece of paper the exact size your glass should be. The template can be taped to the glass with a double-sided tape and the piece of glass is cut to size by cutting around the pattern with your cutter. You can also trace around the template with a fine-line felt tip pen directly onto the glass and follow the inked lines with your cutter.

To use this method, you will first make two copies of your pattern. The original full-size pattern you will be using is called the "cartoon." It is from this cartoon that you will make the work drawing and pattern paper copies.

  • Step 1. First, place a sheet of oaktag or kraft paper on the table. This is the pattern paper copy which will eventually be cut and used as the templates.
  • Step 2. Overlay the pattern paper with carbon paper, face down.
  • Step 3. Place your work drawing paper down next. This should be a medium thickness of paper because you will be assembling your glass on top of this copy.
  • Step 4. Now overlay the work drawing paper with carbon paper, face down.
  • Step 5. Place the cartoon on top. Square up the edges of the papers and hold them together by taping them to the table.

    Trace your pattern.

    Number and color code the pieces. Mark any other important considerations, such as the direction you want the grain in the glass to go.

    Remove the carbon paper. Set aside the working drawing and the cartoon.

    You are now ready to cut out your pattern paper copy. At this point, you should have made a choice between copper foil or lead for this project. Two different types of pattern scissors are available which will automatically cut out the allowance for the heart of the lead (1/16") or the space your foil occupies (1/32").

    Use the pattern paper templates to cut your glass, as described at the beginning of this section. Cut as closely to the template as you possibly can, without cutting into it or letting it interfere with your cutter.

    It is best to cut the largest pieces of a color first and work down to the smaller pieces. In this way, you can use the scraps from the larger pieces to cut the smaller ones.

    As you cut, lay out the cut pieces on the cartoon. If you have a light table, place the cartoon with the cut pieces on top of it. By doing this you will be able to see how the different colors and textures interact. Keep your cut pieces away from your cutting area, so that you don't mistakenly pick them up and use them to cut out other pieces.

Go to "The Soldering Technique"

Not only are the Tech Tips a great way to learn about stained glass, but there's a wealth of information waiting for you in Glass Chat! Glass Chat is a Warner Stained Glass online message board where stained glass artists from all over the world meet to discuss stained glass.

If you're looking for more information on this subject, you can try searching through the Glass Chat archives by entering a word or phrase in the box below.


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