Stained glass saws can be an excellent tool to utilize when creating stained glass art. Although many artists like myself are able to get by just fine without a ring saw or band-saw style glass saw they are especially useful in certain situations. Knowing when to utilize a ring saw instead of a glass cutter can improve an artists productivity and quality.
Any veteran stained glass artist can quickly determine whether or not they should use their stained glass saw or not based on the type of glass they are using or the cut they intend to make. Knowing what their ring saw can or can’t do well makes all the difference. While stained glass saws are quite versatile let’s get into what they do really well and a few things that they don’t!
1. Cutting Intricate Curves & Shapes
One of the most common tasks I and many other artists turn to our stained glass saws for is making intricate cuts, like deep inside curves or dramatic direction changes, which prove just too difficult or time-consuming to be made with the hand cutter. Typically difficult cuts can have a low success rate with a hand cutter if patience and care are not taken.
If you don’t have a glass saw available not only will intricate cuts be very difficult with a handheld glass cutter, they can be very time consuming to complete. You may also risk being unsuccessful in your attempts or spend considerable time only to find it is impossible without the saw. If you do end up with a cut that appears impossible and you do not have a saw, don’t give up, consider slight modifications to your design to achieve success.
2. Cutting Textured and Other Uneven Surfaced Glass
There are several styles of art glass available to artists that also prove to be difficult to cut with handheld cutters. These glass sheets may have ripples, waves, and even dimples in their surfaces as a part of the design. Depending on the severity of these textures a handheld cutter may have a difficult time creating a complete scoreline.
If you find yourself having difficulty creating a scoreline with these beautiful yet sometimes difficult to work with art glass, it is a great opportunity for artists to turn to the glass saw which cuts texture glass just as easily as other types of glass.
3. Cutting Small and Delicate Pieces
Working with small, delicate pieces or thin glass sheets that are brittle are certainly workable with hand cutters but they may be prone to breaking. If you have been working a small delicate piece using hand cutters or glass nippers with no success this is an opportunity to use your glass saw for a task it does well.
Use your glass saw to cut these small or delicate pieces working them slowly and carefully. With your template traced onto the pieces and the ability to work the blade in any direction, you will almost certainly have better success with a glass ring saw.
4. Ornamental, Fused, & Other Specialty Glass Products
Stained glass art is certainly not limited to sheet glass and in my many years of creating stained glass art for customers, I have utilized many different forms including glass tubing, glass beads, fused glass, and much more. Each of these different forms of glass creates its own challenge when integrating it into a stained glass piece but I almost always turn to my ring saw to cut and shape pieces as needed.
These specialty glass products are one thing I consistently find myself turning to the glass saw for. I am always able to cut the material without fear of needing to scrap the piece because I was unsuccessful. This is especially the case for glass beads or fused glass where I don’t have to worry about purchasing multiples of items in case of breakage.
5. Cutting Very Thick Glass
When cutting thick glass pieces it can sometimes prove to be a pain and this is especially the case when cutting curves. The thicker glass can be difficult to nip away any excess material with your glass nippers. In cases where a hand glass cutter is not producing the best result, you can use the glass saw and achieve great results.
6. Cutting Material That Isn’t Glass
Sometimes I find myself working on a piece that I need to trim out in wood or metal framing and I will need to cut the raw pieces down to the size of the piece I am working with. I will also use it for the many other odd cutting jobs that aren’t glass products but the material I am using in the construction of a completed stained glass piece.
Having a glass saw in my shop is a nice convenience and allows me to handle these tasks easily without needing to worry about purchasing additional tools just to handle them. It also saves space by having a tool that is versatile enough to handle tasks in addition to its main purpose. A word of caution when using a ring saw to cut materials other than glass, take your time and try not to push it to its limits. That said, band-saw style saws are great as blades can be changed for specific materials being cut.
Glass Saws Will NOT Save You Time
If your intent or desire to purchase a glass saw is to reduce your production time and speed up the glass cutting process you may be a bit disappointed. Most glass cutting can be completed quicker and more efficiently using a standard handheld glass cutter. This is because most cuts are not going to be difficult or intricate.
Since most of your cuts are not going to be intricate or difficult, using the handled cutter will be much faster since it takes a matter of seconds and at most minutes to make a score line and subsequently break the glass along the score line. When utilizing a glass saw you need to take your time and not push the machine too hard or you can break the blade. This almost always translates to hand cutters being faster to work with.
Glass Saws Are NOT a Replacement for Handheld Cutters
If it wasn’t abundantly clear already by reading all of the tasks glass saws do well, they are a great complementary tool to have access to in your glass workshop but they are NOT A REPLACEMENT to your handheld glass cutter. Handheld glass cutters are cheaper, easier to use, and faster to work with. Glass saws are more expensive, require more maintenance, and are generally reserved for cuts that are impossible for hand cutters.
I hope you enjoyed our list, be sure to let us know if have other great uses that I didn’t cover. If you are convinced you could have really benefited from a stained glass saw because you regularly encounter tasks that it could handle better, be sure to check out our guide to stained glass saws. Happy crafting!