A glass cutter is the most important tools in a stained glass artist’s tool kit. That is why it is important to seek out the best glass cutter or cutting systems available. Stained glass artists know that having the best cutting tool will produce perfect score lines.
If you have ever worked with glass then you probably understand that it is more than just a job or hobby. Working with glass is an art form that requires incredible precision, attention to detail, and hard work. Having the best possible glass cutting tools will mean the difference between clean score lines that break as intended and those that leave you with jagged edges and imperfect breaks needing additional edge cleanup.
In order to create the best possible cuts, there are a few pieces of equipment that professionals use most; handheld glass cutters, glass cutting systems, and stained glass saws. All of these tools can be used to add a professional touch to your work, and in some cases allow for cuts to be made that otherwise difficult or even impossible. For this guide, we will focus on handheld glass cutters and cutting systems.
Take a look at the guide below and the list of the best glass cutters and systems, which I have put together to assist aspiring glass crafters with choosing the right tools for their purpose. Whether you are trade-person cutting windows and mirrors or a stained glass artist, I hope it helps everyone in their search!
Glass Cutter Guide
When choosing a professional grade glass cutter there are really only a few things you need to consider. Glass cutters are made in a few different styles that offer the user different ergonomic grips but have no effect on performance. The other consideration is the cutting wheel, which is typically available in either steel or tungsten carbide.
Glass cutters work by creating a score line on the surface of the glass. Because glass is actually a super-cooled liquid, this scoreline actually breaks the surface tension, much like on water, and allows you to break the glass which will follow the score line since it has the least tension. Finally, .it is also a good idea to get one that has an oil reservoir for smoother tracking across the glass.
These are a few factors you should consider when choosing a glass cutter for cutting plate glass, mirrors and art glass.
Glass Cutter Styles
Handheld glass cutters are available in a variety of styles. While the style of a glass cutter will not affect its performance it can provide better comfort to the individual using it. This can be important to those making lots and lots of cuts without experiencing any hand fatigue. Most styles are able to be filled with oil to keep the cutting wheel lubricated as it rolls across the glass.
The ergonomics of a glass cutter is something you may want to consider if you plan to do a high volume of glass cutting. You may also want to purchase more than one style to see which feels best. I personally keep multiple glass cutter around to have spares and to have the ability to switch up my grasp as to not experience fatigue.
Professional glass cutters are available in any of the following styles:
- Pencil Grip Glass Cutter:
- Pistol Grip Glass Cutter
- Custom Grip Glass Cutter
- Thomas Grip Glass Cutter
- Fletcher Glass Cutter
This style of glass cutter is just as it implies. It is shaped like a pencil with a straight shaft and held like a pencil or like a knife with your index finger resting on top for pressure and to guide your cut. Pencil grip cutters are available with or without an oil reservoir and in all cutting wheel types.
First manufactured by Toyo, this glass cutter has a hollow pistol-like grip which can be filled with lubricating oil. It is very comfortable to hold and puts less strain on the wrists. This is a very popular glass cutter for beginners and those who have trouble gripping grip cutters.
The Custom Grip offers a unique design for improved comfort and is one of the newer designs for glass cutters by Toyo. The oil-filled Custom Grip is compact with a saddle to be held between the thumb and index finger. The saddle is adjustable to four different heights giving the cutter flexibility. Exclusive to this glass cutter is the revolutionary “tap wheel” design. The wheel is designed to make taps on the wheel as you score, allowing the wheel to cut deeper into the glass. It requires less pressure to use, prolongs the life of the wheel, and makes for a better score.
This glass cutter is even smaller than the Custom Grip. It also has a saddle and your index finger rests squarely on the head. The Thomas Grip features a swivel head and is easy to guide. This cutter is good for people with smaller hands.
This is the original type of handheld glass cutter which is a simple oil-less cutter. It has a thin metal shaft and a ball at the end for taping the glass to break it. The notches at the top are used to snap off any remaining glass like a pair of pliers if the break was not clean. It can be touched to an oil-soaked cloth or dipped for lubrication. These cutters are cheap, but wheels wear out quickly although can easily be sharpened. Fletcher is an old, respected name in glass tools.
When selecting a glass cutter they are typically available in two different cutting wheel materials. You can find glass cutters with either steel wheels or tungsten carbide. Either wheel will make the exact same scoreline and one doesn’t necessarily outperform the other in terms of creating a score into the glass, where they differ is in durability.
Tungsten is a much stronger material than steel, therefore, it will last much longer before becoming too dull to make good score. It will also wont oxidize or rust like steel can, although this is less of an issue with proper glass cutter maintenance and care. It is also good to point out that even though steel may dull more quickly, they can be sharpened easily as well.
Cutting Head Replacements
When the performance of the cutting wheel has diminished and you need a new cutting wheel you can usually replace the cutting head for much cheaper than replacing the entire glass cutter. You may also want to have replacement heads that are each specialized in a particular cutting task.
There are cutting heads for cutting straight lines, intricate lines, and even thick glass. Additionally, they are available in options for both oil and non-oil cutters as well as tap-wheels and non-tap-wheels. Below are a list of replacement heads for Toyo cutters which are most popular and versatile.
Original/Comfort/Thomas Grip Cutter Heads
- Straight Cutting Head: Toyo – TC17H
- Pattern Cutting Head: Toyo – TC10H
- Thick Cutting Head: Toyo – TC600HPV
- Straight TAP Wheel Cutting Head: Toyo – TC17HV
- Pattern TAP Wheel Cutting Head: Toyo – TC600HV
- Thick Glass TAP WHEEL Cutting Head: Toyo – TC600HSV
Custom Grip Glass Cutter Heads
- Straight TAP Wheel Cutting Head: Toyo – TC21HSV
- Pattern TAP Wheel Cutting Head: Toyo – TC21HPV
- Thick Glass TAP Wheel Cutting Head: Toyo – TC21HSVR
The heads are usually interchangeable on most glass cutter and can be swapped out at your convenience if you desire. Toyo glass cutters, in particular, are usually compatible with any of the cutting head options they offer and I have even had luck
The Best Glass Cutters For Stained Glass – Top 5 Reviews
When choosing the best glass cutter, it really comes down to the ergonomics of the cutter that works best for you. Every style of glass cutter is available in with oil reservoirs and tungsten carbide cutting wheels which are the most important aspects of any cutter. With proper technique, each one should perform about the same.
The Toyo Original Supercutter is among the best in the industry and is the standard of the stained glass and glazing industry. This is the classic pencil grip style cutter which utilizes a precision carbide cutting wheel which is housed in a replaceable cutting head. The long cutting wheel life will make clean scores for years with proper use.
The automatic oil dispensing system will keep the wheel lubricated while you cut with the brass handle acting as the reservoir. Wheel hone angle is 140 degrees. This cutter fits conveniently in your pouch for use around the shop or in the field. Using a narrow head is perfect for intricate scores while doing pattern work and the wide head is designed for straight line production cutting.
The Custom Grip Glass Cutter fits comfortably between the thumb and forefinger, allowing your fingers to have more control while making your score line. This reduces hand fatigue for anyone who may make many many cuts in succession. It also features improved oil control and a shutoff valve to turn it off completely. This combined with a four-way adjustable grip makes for an incredibly versatile glass cutter.
The Custom Grip cutter is also equipped with the TAP wheel technology to make more consistent score lines in the glass. With the ability to change the heads with any of the other compatible Toyo glass cutter heads you can tackle any glass and cut you will encounter. A really outstanding glass cutter for those looking for an alternate design to the pencil style.
The Pencil grip glass cutter is great for anyone who may experience limited hand dexterity as it allows you to utilize and engage with full handed grip rather than one that relies more on the ends of your fingers. The only thing I like to point out with this type of grip is it requires some getting used to when making pattern cuts that may require a bit more precision control. This is a minor inconvenience for those that need the comfort of this style.
The Thomas Grip glass cutter is very similar to the Custom Grip but a bit smaller which makes it a wonderful option for anyone with small hands. If your experience with other styles of glass cutters was less than pleasant because of the size of your hands and glass cutter, this glass cutter will definitely improve your control and precision.
Glass artist that have arthritic hands that aren’t able to use the pistol grip style have often tried out the Thomas Grip with great success. Even glass artists that have great experiences with other cutters will sometimes turn to the Thomas Grip cutter for improved precision and dexterity. Give it a shot if you are looking for something a bit smaller and more compact.
Specialty Glass Cutting Systems Guide
If you are looking for something that offers a little more control and assistance than the handheld stained glass cutters, then I would recommend a glass cutting system. These awesome tools are available for several different purposes and designed to help you cut specialty glass easily or make extremely precise cuts, particularly in smaller pieces of glass but are easily expandable to accommodate large pieces as well.
Glass cutting systems, feature a grid-like platform with a unique arm that swivels across its surface. These amazing tools specialize in making intricate or straight cuts less difficult. Depending on the system, they specialize in easily cutting bottles, geometrical shapes like square, circles and more, as well as cutting anything you could draw or trace. They are designed for artisan glass cutters who require more delicate control.
When deciding which glass cutting system to choose, there are a couple of main factors to consider.
Glass cutting systems are relatively affordable with pricing that ranges from $100 to around $250. Many of the lower cost glass cutting systems for sale are miniature models. These are perfect for hobbyists, as well as students looking to get into the art of cutting glass. If you are not working with larger pieces of glass, the smaller models are perfect for conserving space.
If you are not working with larger pieces of glass, the smaller models are perfect for conserving space. For larger pieces, a glass cutting systems with a larger surface to work with will be ideal for larger pieces or long cuts. They also feature longer cutting arms. This reduces the need to shift pieces of glass you are cutting in order to reach certain areas, which will also help improve continuity and workflow.
Glass doesn’t cut itself! For those experienced glass-cutters out there, you know that your hand experiences significant fatigue after using a glass cutting system for long periods of time. When determining which cutting systems you should buy, consider how much force the glass cutting system requires you to use while making cuts.
Many come with weighted handles that are designed to apply enough pressure to cut the glass. Also, try to pick a glass cutting system that features a foam cushioned handle for a more comfortable grip, as well as a handle that can rotate 360 degrees. If you can find all of these features in one system, you will even be able to sit down while cutting glass!
There are many additional features you will want to consider when looking for a cutting system. They include the following:
- Weighted handle with 360-degree rotation ability
- Glide system that ensures the cutter is always at a 90-degree angle. This helps reduce breakage.
- Ruler for making accurate measurements.
- Geometrical compass guide will allow you to cut set shapes quickly and with consistency.
The Best Glass Cutting Systems – Top 3 Reviews
There are a few different glass-cutting systems out there, including bottle cutters, glass circle cutters, and glass cutting systems that make cutting shapes a bit easier. Below are just a few of the best choices for each of the different systems.
The Cutter’s Mate Plus Cutting System is one of the higher-end cutting systems available to consumers. Personally, I think it is well worth the money because it offers all of the features you need to create high-quality and precise incisions.
One of the standout features of this particular glass cutting system is its large size. It lets you make cuts as long as 62.5” and features a massive cutting arm that is 21” long. This is ideal if you work on projects of varying sizes.
The Cutter’s Mate Plus Cutting System is also designed for comfort. It comes with a heavy cushioned handle that ensures a comfortable grip and reduces the amount of pressure required to cut glass. When you combine that with the ability to turn the blade 360 degrees, you can even work on your projects sitting down. Other benefits to this cutting system include an oil-fed cutting head and a rubber foot for increased stability when needed.
If you are looking for a large cutting system that can handle all types of projects, as well as consistent and professional cuts every time, then the Cutter’s Mate Plus Cutting System is an excellent choice.
The Cutter’s Mate Mini Starter Kit is an excellent cutting system designed for entry-level users and hobbyists who want to make the most intricate cuts possible. This is a smaller version of the original Cutter’s Mate featuring an 11” cutting arm and the ability to cut lines as long as 22”. It also features a convenient ruler, ruler stabilizer, and 1” straight edge to ensure that your cuts are consistent and straight at all times.
Two grid adapters are also available for additional space, as well as rubber feet to assist with stabilization. It also comes with a convenient one-year manufacturer’s warranty for added peace of mind. Despite the small size, it feels very sturdy and is very easy to use.
The small size of the Cutter’s Mate Mini Starter Kit, combined with its features and usability, making it an exceptional option for hobbyists and students with limited space who don’t want to sacrifice quality.
The Mini Beetle Bits Glass Cutting System is a small, yet versatile, cutting system designed to provide users with an incredibly easy glass cutting experience. Despite coming in at a relatively low price, it is packed with numerous useful features. Among them are a swiveling rest and a straight edge rest. The swiveling rest also features a compass dial, which makes cutting the most popular shapes very easy.
The Mini Beetle Bits Glass Cutting System is also loaded with two waffle grids, a 14” ruler, a ruler positioner, an 18” cutting bar, super stops and a glass stop. These features are designed to let even the newest users make precise cuts every time. They also allow for easy replication of shapes, which helps to improve workflow and consistency.
At this price point, I would highly recommend the Mini Beetle Bits Glass Cutting System to individuals who are just getting into glass cutting. This is an easy machine to set up, and it is designed for hours of comfortable use!
I hope you found the list and guide useful. Be sure and let us know what your experience has been with any of these or any other model you have tried!