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What Tools are Needed to Cut Glass?

Shannon Kietzman
Shannon Kietzman

To cut glass, it is important to have the right types of tools. Some argue that an oil filled glass cutter is the best type of cutter to have for the job. The refillable handle of this type of cutter helps lubrication and therefore can help the cutting process. Others prefer to control the distribution of oil themselves.

There are two basic handle designs to choose from when selecting a glass cutter: the regular grip and the pistol grip. The regular grip simply has a long straight handle. The pistol grip has a bent handle like that of a gun handle. This design requires less pressure to make an effective cut. Those with weaker wrist strength often prefer this tool.

The wheels of a cutting tool are generally either made of steel or carbide. Carbide is a stronger type of steel and as such it is preferred because it generally lasts longer.

Oil is essential when cutting glass, as it creates a cleaner line.
Oil is essential when cutting glass, as it creates a cleaner line.

Glass pliers is another tool you'll need to cut glass. Since it can be difficult to cut glass, it is a good idea to purchase high quality glass pliers in order to make the job easier and to produce a cleaner break. Quality pliers that are meant to help cut glass can be purchased at a glazier supply house.

There are two types of pliers needed to cut glass: running pliers and drop jaw pliers. Running pliers are necessary to “run” a curved or a straight cut. Drop jaw pliers, which have one jaw set lower than the other in order to increase leverage, assist the running pliers when making long cuts and circular cuts. If one is serious about learning how to cut glass, it is generally best to purchase steel pliers rather than plastic ones, because they are much more effective.

A cotton swab can help apply oil.
A cotton swab can help apply oil.

You'll also need oil to cut glass. Before starting to cut glass, its recommended that you apply the oil to where the cut is going to be made. You can do this using your finger, a Q-tip or by dipping the cutter in the oil itself. Keep in mind that the oil in the glass cutter is meant for lubricating the cutter, not necessarily to help cut the glass. Therefore, it is suggested that you apply oil directly to the glass as well. Doing so should help create a cleaner cutline or scoreline.

Discussion Comments


Good for you, anon11143.


Never once in my life of backyard hobby fun have I successfully managed to cut glass with a nice edge and without cracking. It just seems that you really need to have some skill in order to perform the task.

@anon11143, I totally agree with you about your technique, unfortunately it has never worked for me. I have to applaud the professionals in your trade. Sometimes it just takes skill to get a job done right.


As a professional stained glass artist and teacher of 30 years:

1. I do not agree that an oil filled cutter is the best. Different tools work for different people. Very many professionals do not use oil filled cutters.

2. Sometimes plastic cut runners are better. It depends on the glass being cut. Frequently you use no cut runners at all, just a hand.

3. I have never in my life applied oil to the glass before cutting - nor have any of the dozens of professionals I know. What a waste of time and money. If oil is not used the glass will crack? You want the glass to crack. That is what cutting is; you apply a wheel, generally steel, to the line you want to cut then when you have scored the glass you crack it along the cutline. The reason for using oil is to lubricate the wheel and keep it turning rather than becoming clogged with fine glass dust. Even then, I trained with a glazier who has cut glass for thirty years without oil or an oil filled cutter and he cuts like a dream.

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    • Oil is essential when cutting glass, as it creates a cleaner line.
      By: jwblinn
      Oil is essential when cutting glass, as it creates a cleaner line.
    • A cotton swab can help apply oil.
      By: jlcst
      A cotton swab can help apply oil.