The Key To A Perfect Scoreline

How much pressure should you use when you make a score on the glass?

This is a question that I get asked a LOT, so I decided to make a video with a useful pressure test for you to try.

It’s worth remembering that each sheet of glass needs slightly different pressure applied. Some will make the ‘sssssh’ sound and some – like Bullseye opaques for example – don’t make an noise at all.

So it’s a good idea to try this pressure test out on new stained glass that you haven’t cut before. Cut a small piece off and test away! It will give you a feel for how that particular glass responds and how much pressure you need to apply.

In the long run you’ll cut more accurately and waste less glass.

So what IS the key to a perfect scoreline?

Author Joseph Farrell put it brilliantly: “The secret of all power is – save your force.”

Watch the 3 minute video and take the pressure test!

Take Control Of Your Glass Cutter

Sometimes big improvements can be made in your cutting accuracy simply by changing the way you hold your glass cutter.

There are many many ways of holding a cutter, but the best one is the one that’s right for you. It has to feel comfortable in your hand and act as an extension to your hand.

Have a look at the 2 minute video above to take control of your glass cutter, don’t let it control you!

Stained Glass Images – Before And After

Dalle de Verre Surprise

Dalle de verre from outside

Dalle de verre from outside

Have you ever seen this sort of patterning on the outside of  church windows? Me too.

And although I KNOW what it is and have a good idea of what’s waiting for me inside, somehow walking through into the church still manages to knock me off my feet. In a good way, of course!

‘BANG’ and ‘WALLOP’! These are the stained glass images that hit me when I first walked in. They filled my heart with light in a way I can’t quite describe.

Stained glass images of 'Bleeding Hearts'

‘Bleeding Hearts’. Designed and made by Patrick Reyntiens

As I was standing there, stunned,  I became aware of increasing activity around me. Worshippers were coming in with baskets full of garden produce which they were arranging on tables around the church.

It was Harvest Festival time. It all seemed so fitting somehow. The church, the stained glass windows, the friendly people offering gifts from the earth.

RC church, Waterford, Ireland

St Joseph and St Benildus (RC) Waterford, Ireland

Making The Windows

I was warmly welcomed and encouraged to take images of the stained glass. I could see in some places that the windows were sagging and the resin perishing – as you can see in the 2nd panel from the right in the top stained glass image.

This got me to thinking about the structure of dalle-de-verre (the name of this technique) and how it is made. And guess what? I found this video for you. Not only of the technique, but the same artist – Patrick Reyntiens and his long-time collaborator artist John Piper.

It takes us through the largest stained glass window commission ever – in 1968 anyway – and shows us the processes from the architect, engineers and artists.

It is 15 minutes long and I think it’s all fascinating, but if you want to cut to the chase you could go to:

– 6.50 for the design (don’t miss the engineers creeping over the full size cartoon with slippers on!)

– 10.00 for the actual making process. Breaking the 1 inch thick glass dalles over an anvil and expertly chipping it into line with hammers! Fabulous stuff.

So now you know how Dalle de Verre is done!

Can you believe the SCALE of the project? I don’t think we’ll ever see its like again – there’s too many stuck on films these days to opt for the real thing.

And just to remind us what a powerful experience it is to be faced with a wall of glowing stained glass, here’s the abstract window in the north-west chapel, with white tear drops and orange Pentecostal flames.

Abstract window by Patrick Reyntiens

North wall, north-west chapel.

Patrick Reyntiens’ website has many more images of his work if you’re hooked :-)



3 Ways To Personalise A Stained Glass Wedding Gift

A stained glass wedding gift is a perfect way of making your friend’s Big Day extra-special.

Someone recently asked me if it was possible to create a panel from a photo of a couple on a lake.  It was a picture of the ‘groom to be’ proposing to the ‘bride to be’ and the woman wanted to make a piece just like the picture for a wedding present.

She wanted to know if was possible to get that much detail in stained glass. After ascertaining that she didn’t have a kiln for firing paint on the glass, I suggested 3 different approaches.

If you want to replicate or interpret the scene with a degree of detail you can do one of two things:

Bottle using contact paper as stencil

Make your own stencil with contact paper

1. You could use etching cream to subtly depict the scene.

It’s not a dramatic technique, but it will be visible.

You can refer to the photo to make your own stencils with contact paper (shelf lining paper – sticky-backed plastic covering) and then etch onto the glass before leading or foiling it together as normal.

See how to do this here:

Create your own etching stencils

It’s worth noting that the etching paste works better (shows up more) on light cathedral (transparent) glass, rather than dark colours or opaque glass.

green bottle with etched balloons

Etched balloons on bottle

2. You can engrave details of the scene.

‘Engraving’ entails scratching the surface of the glass with a small drill bit – you can use a Dremel.

Pick out the bits of the photo that you want to transfer to the glass and make a pattern first. Put it in a plastic folder so that it won’t get wet and lie it under the glass.

Make sure the tip is wet by repeatedly dabbing the area you’re working on with a wet sponge. The difficulty is seeing what you’re doing, as the wetness obscures the line you’re making. You can do shading and all sorts, not just the outside line. Keep drying it off with a paper towel to make sure you’re on track.

This page touches on this technique and shows a photo of the results (in this case, a child’s drawing was engraved onto the glass)

Scroll down to ‘Types of Drills Available’ and read the ‘Flexible Drive Drill’ section. It all sounds a bit scary, but a Dremel will do!

Engraving drawings onto glass

When you’re satisfied, you can lead or foil the pieces together as normal.

Important! Don’t forget to cover the etching or the engraved marks with contact paper before the soldering stage. Only remove after the polishing stage. This prevents getting grime and dirt into your lovely etched or engraved pictures, which is nearly impossible to remove.

There is a third option, and this is just using glass and foil and/or lead and won’t have so much detail.

two balloons etched on mirror

Balloons etched on to mirror

3. You can look at the photo and extract little pieces of it that have significance – a ring for example or some local detail – and then make an abstract design that includes this item or items.

You could, for example, create a circular piece of a lake landscape with a gold border – the border signifying the ring. Do you see where I’m coming from?

I wouldn’t try and include too much – it’s often a mistake to try and throw everything in the design to give it added significance but it just ends up messy.

How To Cut Stained Glass By Tapping

You can see from this video that the tapping method is extremely useful in certain circumstances.

But what about the times that it’s not the best choice of technique?

The tapping method is not good for:

1. Routine cutting and breaking.
It is far better to use your thumbs or either cut running or grozer/breaker pliers than to resort to tapping all the time.
This is because tapping will create an uneven edge that will then need grozing or grinding.

2. Very narrow strips.
It is difficult to use the tapping method when the score is very close to the edge of the glass as you can easily break the strip by a misplaced tap.
You would be better off using the breaking pliers to snap and pull a strip apart.

This video the most difficult shape of the ‘Tapping’ video series.

You can see the easy and medium videos by going here for Number 1 (easy) and here for Number 2 (medium)

3 Best Times To Tap When Cutting Stained Glass

Do you ever wonder what that ball on the end of your glass cutter is for?

The ball is used to gently open up a score line from underneath so that you can prise the glass apart. It’s a very helpful technique for certain situations.

Tapping is good for:

1. Cutting inside curves

2. Any score lines that don’t separate with thumbs or pliers

3. Cuts that are narrower at one end

This is number 2 in the mini-series of 3 videos on using the tapping method.

Number 1 (easy) is over here, and Number 3 (difficult) is here !

Cutting Stained Glass By Tapping

When cutting stained glass do you use the tapping method to open up those stubborn score lines that don’t miraculously separate?

If you add this skill to your cutting repertoire you will reduce glass wastage. Always a good thing!

Here’s a short – less than 2 minute – video to get you started. In it I show you how to open up a very simple cut – a shallow inside curve.

Keep your eyes peeled for the next two days, as this video is 1 of a short series of 3.

In videos 2 and 3 the shapes become increasingly difficult and new tips for dealing with them are added to your skill set.

Here’s Number 2 Video and here is Video Number 3 

Happy tapping!

5 Things Stained Glass Saws Do Well

taurus ring saw with shapes cut out

Taurus Ring Saw

1. cutting ‘difficult’ glass like drapery glass (it’s wavy like cloth and is of uneven thickness and doesn’t lie flat)

2. very thick glass

3. very small pieces of glass

4. cutting fused glass (glass that has been fired and melted together with another piece of glass).

5. shapes that are very very difficult or impossible to cut by hand… but with certain provisos …

Glass shapes and very thick glass cut with a ring saw

Glass shapes and very thick glass cut with a ring saw

…The Provisos…

It is true that stained glass saws are good for cutting shapes that are impossible by hand, as you can see by the photo above.

But you have to think about these difficult shapes carefully…

If you are using the shapes for stained glass and they are really, really difficult – or impossible –  to cut with a hand held glass cutter then they are highly likely to be shapes that will break when you make up your panel. Examples could be very deep and sharp inside curves and shapes that include an abrupt change of direction. See this slideshow for more examples.

Even if the shapes survive the panel construction they may break later when exposed to bad weather or (if it’s a sun catcher) simply being moved from one room to another. It’s not worth the risk.

These are all things you have to consider when designing a stained glass window.

You CAN use them for cutting these ‘impossible’ shapes if you are subsequently going to fuse them. These shapes don’t need to be strong as they will be fused with another piece of glass for strength.

Do glass saws save time?

Ring saws won’t actually save time.

It’s much quicker and cheaper to cut glass with a hand held glass cutter and easily as accurate once you master the technique.

With a glass saw you have to move slowly  to cut glass successfully, letting the blade do the work and not pushing to hurry it up.

Close-up of Taurus Ring Saw

Close-up of Taurus Ring Saw

What is the best way to treat the blades?

The blades are reasonably costly to replace so you have to treat them gently.

If you treat them with care they can last a fair time but if you try to hurry the cut and push on the glass they are more likely to blunt or break.


Glass saws certainly do have their uses and I’m not against using them to cut glass where appropriate.

I would recommend a stained glass saw if you were doing lots and lots of the 5 types of cutting above.

I wouldn’t recommend one for regular day-to-day stained glass cutting.

My rule of thumb is that if you are doing stained glass don’t use a saw to cut ‘impossible’ shapes, as they will only break further down the line – in the foiling, leading or soldering stages for example.

They definitely have their place but I don’t think they should replace regular glass cutting skills done with a hand held cutter.

Stained Glass Fire Screen Ideas


Fire screen for adapting to stained glass

Ever picked one of these fire screens (or similar) up from a thrift shop?

I was asked for some ideas for incorporating stained glass into it and came up with these suggestions:

1. Use the metal work to your advantage

The metal work is quite dominant so I would be inclined to try and introduce smaller elements of stained glass that were somehow attached to the metal framework, rather than filling it all with stained glass. That way the finished stained glass fire screen won’t be too heavy – both physically AND design-wise!

2. Work out the fixings first!

It’ s a bit tricky for me to help with the details as I can’t see the fixings very well. Figure out what’s possible first, rather than spending time on the design only to be thwarted…
For example, try and see if the solder sticks to the metal – that would make things easier!
If not, you could attach wire to your stained glass inserts and then wrap it around the metal to secure it on.
It might even be possible to drill small holes in the metal to attach your glass to.
Don’t leave any fixing stone unturned!

3. Design tips

Decide what the curls and swirls suggest to you – it could be trees, flowers, pitchers of water (well I can see them!) and then design something in keeping.
Sketch out the metal framework to scale and photo copy it so that you can play around freely without having to sketch it out over and over.
If you do use wire to fix your glass elements on to the screen, make sure you use it in a way that compliments your design. It could be shaped like leaves if you chose a tree theme, for example.

Good luck and feel free to post any fire screens you have done yourself.

Here’s one of mine below. I was helped by the fact that the frame is made of wood so there was no fixing problems. The white background is semi-transluscent plexiglass which I cut with a band saw before inserting the leaves.


Stained glass fire screen by Milly Frances