Have you ever broken a piece of glass in a picture frame? Or picked up a great frame at a garage sale that was missing the glass?
That has certainly happened to me plenty. I used to think that the only way to replace the glass was to buy it at a home improvement store or craft store. But then, it only comes in certain standard sizes, and we all know that picture frame glass is rarely a standard size – it’s always seems to be just a wee bit smaller than it should be if it’s even close to standard.
Let me show you a simple way to cut glass to any size you want. All you do is measure, draw a straight line, and snap. It’s really that easy!
How to Cut Glass
1. Measure the inside of your picture frame so that you know the exact size to cut the glass.
2. Lay down a thick towel (I use a beach towel) to protect your workspace. Your towel won’t be damaged, but it’s best to protect your surface from glass knicks.
3. Wipe off a larger piece of glass with a soft cloth (I used a left over piece of glass I had removed from a frame for another project). Do not use Windex, but you may use water if you need to. Measure out the height you need with a tape measure or ruler on one side of the glass. Draw a straight line using a felt-tiped pen or dry erase marker. I always mark my lines 1/8″ smaller than I want the final cut to be due to the way my glass cutter is set up (see Step 4).
4. I bought my glass cutting tool at Hobby Lobby, but they should be available at any craft or home improvement store. It has an angled head on one end with a small rotating cutter disc on top of the head.
When you line the head up with your straight edge (like you would do if you were cutting a straight line with any sort of blade), the disc is about 1/8″ away from the straight edge. That’s why I mark my measurements 1/8″ smaller than I want my final cut to end up. Does that makes sense?
5. Armed with my work gloves and eye protection, I line up my straight edge against my marked line and use the glass cutter to make a straight line down the glass. You don’t want to push too hard – only hard enough that there is a hairline cut in the glass (see the white line in the picture below). Don’t worry, the cut doesn’t go all the way through the glass.
It’s very important that you DO NOT take your glass cutter off of the glass while you are making the cut. If you do, it will cause the glass to break unevenly. The cut should go entirely from one end of the glass to the other.
6. Once your hairline cut is made, all you have to do is snap the glass at the cut. To do this, simply hold the glass on each side of the cut and then snap it AWAY from you. You will be impressed with your straight line!
Note: It is MUCH easier to snap the glass where the piece coming off is at least an inch or so wide. If you are trying to just trim off a tiny piece of glass, you are going to need a lot of force to get that piece to snap off.
7. Repeat the process for the glass width you need for your picture frame.
8. You’re done! Add it to your picture frame and you are good to go.
Any questions? Have you tried this process before? Let me know in the comments.
I’ve been doing stained glass work for a while. I was taught to cut glass on a clean, flat, HARD surface. I question the wisdom of cutting glass on a towel for a number of reasons. 1) If you are scoring the glass on a surface that gives, you risk breaking it (where you don’t want it to break). 2) Cutting glass inevitably results in glass dust and tiny shards from the edges. How could you be sure you got that off/out of the cloth. I guess it would be OK if you were using an old one. After cutting glass on a beach towel, I’d personally never want to use it again as a beach towel.
I understand your concern, but it hasn’t actually been a problem for me at all – and I’ve cut a lot of glass and mirror (although, I’m sure not as much as you). My glass hasn’t broken because of the towel. When I’m finished, I shake the glass dust off into the grass really well and then wash the towel. It works for me!
Trish Williams says
Thank u Lindsay. Your directions were clear and made perfect sense.
Thank you for all the tips. Its seems like I have broken the glass from a few frames recently and just put them away because I didn’t know what to do with them. I am always finding neat frames at garage sales or the goodwill so this will come in handy!
Felicia Kramer says
When I was growing up, our enclosed front porch had a ton of small windows. Before it was remodeled, and with 9 kids in the house, windows got broken a lot! One thing I learned from my Dad at an early age was how to cut glass. I cut the glass for all my frames and silently thank my Dad every time!
So cool, never knew how to cut glass and now I can replace the glass instead of throwing away the frame.
Angie @ The Country Chic Cottage says
Thanks Lindsay!! 🙂 This is definitely a need to know!
Melissa Howard says
Thanks for the little tut. I have a glass cutter but never have had the gumption to use it.
I use to do stained glass work often. There are some other inexpensive tools to purchase if you need to make smaller cuts etc. Cutting glass is pretty easy you just have to watch out for cuts. 🙂
Oooh! What are the other tools that you can use to make smaller cuts? Those could really come in handy.
They make a small set of plier-things for small cuts. you make your cut, then use these for the breaking-they have notches in them where you put the glass and break it off. I’ ve used them for cutting corners off pieces to make them “round” etc.
Amanda @ Serenity Now says
I had no idea you could do that! I’ve always gone to the little old glass store downtown and had them cut it for me. Good tips!
Jen @ Just for Rachel says
Definately good to know! That tool is going on my wish list. Also, I love your new blog design! It looks really nice, and is easy to navigate through, great job!
Huh. No kidding. I always thought you had to take it to the hardware store or something to have it cut for you. Neat.
Great tip! I had no idea this was possible or so easy. Thanks for sharing!
The last time I cut glass I was in shop class in 8th grade. lol I do remember it being a fun experience, though. To get the small cuts, there were these little pincher things that you grab perpendicular to the cut and it breaks the hairline in two.
Silver Thistle says
No glass cutting anecdotes to share…….but I just had to comment on that frame! It is just the coolest looking frame I’ve seen in a long time! Very nice!
This is my first comment on your blog. I appreciate this idea as I am always breaking glass in my frames! I will also never hear of the “horns” again without thinking of you. One of my best friends became the first Charlotte Hornet mascot. What a great experience you must have had.
Twill Jill says
Wow! I always had the same problem too – glassless frames. I never knew it was so easy to do it yourself. Great tip!
I want to make a pendant necklace out of a Blue Willow Plate, what type of glass cutter do I need to use?
i make craftsman style frames because they are so hard to locate locally. then i outsource the glass work and closing to the frame shop. i am at the point that i would like to pick up these skills. so a couple questions:
what is your source for off sized glass?
what thickness do you use?
do you do anyhing to smooth the edges?
Vivian Black says
At first, my husband wanted to cut his own glass when we wanted to replace our windows. We have had the same windows for 20 years. I liked how you describe snapping the glass AWAY from yourself once the hairline cut is made. We are now wondering if we have the best tools for the job to make the snap as clean as it needs to be. We are now thinking that a professional might be a better option.