Stained Glass


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Tools the trade are arguably the most important items to an artist of any medium. Without the proper tool [and what may be proper for me may be different for you] an artist may not reach the potential of their gift.

Some people use tools that have a non-mosaic application in addition to those created specifically for mosaic; I am one of them. Below are the tools I use.

Safety should be the first consideration

Safety glasses, masks, gloves and respirators may not seem like 'tools'... but they are important and need to be mentioned.

I have several sets of safety glasses because I am known for wandering through the house and taking them off somewhere they shouldn't be, but two pair are parked on my work lamp so that at least one set will be available and my respirator is in a box where I know I can find it.

No one, student or family, can be in my vicinity when I am cutting without wearing safety glasses. No exceptions.

Wheeled mosaic cutters

I favor Leponitts [Leps], Korean-made drop forged cutters with dual wheel blades for nipping and cutting. Wheels on the Leps do not rotate. Blades can be replaced.

I have a pair of Leps that are at least 8 years old [pictured bottom, black with padding tape] and a backup pair of unknown manufacture [red] whose blades initially rotated freely until I changed the retaining screws. I bought the second set because I was interested to try the depth gauge [between the wheels] on cutting smalti.

Side cutter

Two types - both drop forged, one with curved tungsten-carbide tip blades, one with straight. They are designed to nip tiles in halves, quarters, and diagonals and work wonderfully in trimming the edges of unglazed porcelain.

The straight jaw variety can be purchased from any store that sells tile. However, once you try a set of the curved, you might never use the flat set again for precision work. These have padding tape on the handles also.

Chipper nipper

I bought these out of curiosity... they do the trick especially on china, but I think they are redundant if you have a good set of wheeled and side cutters. I don't use them much - if I did I would wrap them with tape because the plastic sheaths on the handles roll. Carbide tipped jaws.

Note: These are great for cutting flat glass jewels in half. I have now taken the sheaths off and taped the handles...


Glass oriented, however, in my studio they have a definite mosaic application. They are universally considered to be one of the most versatile pliers in glass.

Groziers have one curved jaw and one flat jaw, both with finely serrated edges. They are dual-purpose pliers used for breaking out scores and grozing flares from the edge of glass.

I have two sets that I consider essential: one with 5/16" wide jaws [pictured] and a narrow, 1/8" pair. I use the narrow jawed variety to get into tight places - curves, etc. Additionally, you can use the tip in a nipping motion to gently break glass away, including inside curves and points. I frequently use them to remove a piece of scored glass that did not separate with either of the main pieces resulting in a bump. The serrated jaws allow you to groze back any excess glass or sharp flares. Technique of use: Hold the pliers curved side up, then using a rolling motion gently scrape the glass edge against the curved jaw's serrated edges. Both of my groziers are at least 10 years old.


While designed primarily as a machinist precision tool in the wire-cutting arena, both varieties of the adjustable-jaw cut nipper [No.s 1 and 233] can be adjusted for wider jaw openings to accommodate differing sizes of tile for mosaics. L.S. Starrett even has this use listed on their Web site.

The double hinge design gives exceptional leverage for clean-cutting unglazed ceramic tile. Jaws are replaceable, can be sharpened and come in carbide. I have two pair of these, one serves as a backup. I broke down and converted to these recently during an addiction to unglazed porcelain and I honestly don't know what I would do without them now.

Best [and beyond price] for cutting unglazed porcelain, they can be used to gently trim up pieces - but you have to have good hands to keep from snapping off the area you are trimming. Side cutters are best at this, but Starretts can do it if you are careful. I did an experiment for a friend who was concerned that these will only work on unglazed while she uses mainly glazed. I took a piece of DalTile glazed floor tile and cut it and these didn't disturb the glaze at all, even at the pressure point... so they will work on glazed porcelain also.

Glass cutter

All of my handheld cutters are made by Toyo. I have three [four if you count my Cutter's Mate which also has a Toyo cutting head] and of them all, the one I use most of all is the Thomas grip [pictured], which looks odd to start with but is the most comfortable cutter I have ever used. [That might change if I ever test drive one of the new custom grip models.] The Thomas is 8 or 9 years old. My second favorite is my first professional cutter and is the crosshatched brass barrel version. The third is a pistol grip which I do not use.

I do not put cutting oil in them any more - they leak - so I have a glass that has a piece of an old T-shirt in it that is soaked with baby oil... it keeps the end clean and the blade lubricated.

Glass grinders

I have two made by DiamondTech International and both are Power Max models which are about 8 years old and still do the job. DiamondTech broke ground with the creation of the Power Max series which is known for it's dual-running flat diamond disk [for straight edges] with a router style bit [for curves].

Grinders are messy - they produce a fine glass powder and a glass slurry that, once dry, becomes a powder - both are inherently dangerous. Using a mask should not be an option.

Diamond bandsaw

I have one, a DiamondTech 3000 that I think I have used 10 times. As safety conscious as I am, exposed blades make me nervous... Most people use them in stained glass to perform difficult cuts... I always design my pieces to avoid difficult cuts so it rarely ever got used.

Diamond ring saw

The Taurus 3 Ringsaw is my next tool purchase for absolutely 'impossible cuts'... veining leaves, etc.

Cohesive, elastic tape = comfort

The leading product is called Vet Wrap and is made by 3M. It is a tear-able, elastic, cohesive tape without tape adhesives. There are other manufacturers out there that have a "me too" version, but for my purposes, they all work to wrap and pad the handles of my cutters. Purchased by the roll, they come in every color of the rainbow.


[photographs to be uploaded later]

After I had been working in stained glass for a few years, I enrolled in a Masters level college course in Chicago to learn what I didn't know and to network. The instructor insisted that the first piece that we create be done using a glass cutter and a file - no grinders allowed. The purpose of this edict was to force us to learn the ancient skill. I kept the file and still use it to round edges of side glass that is exposed. Files are useful and most stained glass stores carry them.

The large file is made in Spain by Bellota and is an aggressive cut rasp used by farriers for trimming horses hooves [no, I'm not joking]. My sister's farrier goes through them constantly and gave her several for her use once he was done with them. She gave this one to me once I remembered she had them and asked. It has proven itself priceless for finishing the sides of MDF. The file is sitting on two pieces of MDF, you can see the difference once the rasp has been applied. Safety note: Calling it an 'aggressive' rasp is an understatement - it has a vicious cut side [plus a great finish side] and extreme care needs to be taken as it will take off several layers of flesh with no effort if you aren't watchful.

These are specialty tools to the farrier trade so if you want one, talk to a local farrier or Google for farrier supplies.

Cup of water and synthetic hair brush

[photographs to be uploaded later]

What is this for? Well, if you use a PVA glue, when you end a session or start to work on another area, if you don't smooth down the glue that has moved out from under your tesserae, you will encounter a problem when you return because the glue will dry and form a ridge. So, using a brush with alittle water on it, I end up diluting the glue and moving it out over the area to prevent the ridge and it just becomes part of the sealer that I used for the substrate. I use white synthetic hair brushes because they will last longer and are known for retaining their shape and it is my prefered brush for acrylics. The cup I use is not for this purpose, but keeps the risk of spilling down to a minimum.








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