Friday, 9 September 2011

Scoring Glass

Cutting glass is done by “scoring” the surface of the glass with a glass cutter, then breaking it along the score line. The break you make will always follow the path of least resistance, so you want to be sure that the score you make becomes that easy path and glass breaks the way you want it to.

Holding the Cutter
Generally, you use the cutter by moving it away from you, so you can see the cartoon lines as you score. When using a straight edge such as a cork-backed ruler to guide your cutter, you can pull the cutter toward you, or push it away as suits you. The cutter should always be held at a 90 degree angle (left to right). You can determine this by looking down the cutter to the wheel and to the cartoon line below.

It is important that the work be done from the forearm rather than the fingers or the wrist. The forearm should be held closely to the body. This reduces the freedom of movement, giving clean flowing score lines. It also reduces the actions that can lead to repetitive stress injuries. Any turning required by tight curves can be done by turning the body from the hips or shuffling around the bench with the glass at a corner.  Of course, for long cuts your arm will have to extend from you body in a parallel direction with the score line.

Scoring Pressure
The second and very important element in scoring glass is the amount of pressure used.  Very little pressure is required.  You should hear no more than a quiet hiss on transparent glass and almost no sound on opalescent glass.  However some manufacturer's transparent glass has almost no sound either.  So the important element is the pressure, not the sound.   Most people start with applying far too much pressure. Tests have shown that only about 4 kg of pressure is required for a clean score.

You can test the effect of this amount of pressure on a bathroom scale.  Place a piece of clear glass on the scale and without touching the glass with your other hand, score it noticing how much weight is being recorded.  Keep trying until you are at the 4 kg area of pressure.  Try breaking the glass.  Score a curve with the original amount of pressure and break the glass.  Then using the same curve score the glass with the 4 kg pressure and break the glass.  You will see and feel the lesser pressure provides a clean break.

Excessive pressure leads to breaks showing significant stress marks on the edge of the glass.  Too little pressure has no effect on the glass, making it impossible to break along the score line.  The correct pressure (ca. 4 kg.) leads to almost vertical stresses being put into the glass which assists the breaking along the score line.  Too heavy pressure creates stress marks which are at increasingly large angles with the increasing pressure.  This will still break cleanly on straight lines, but when working around curves the glass can follow one of the lateral stress marks away from the score line.  Excessive pressure is often the cause of glass breaking away from the score line on a curve, especially a tight one.