Like many people, I am a newbie when it comes to cutting glass. However, in order to cut some costs for my large format photography project I decided not to buy pre-cut glass, but instead to do it myself. Savings? A lot!
Do you actually realize how expensive a little piece of glass is when you buy it pre-cut? Neither did I – in my area in the Netherlands (where I was when I started my wet-plate project) a cut piece of standard window glass of 3 mm thickness, at 30 x 40 cm would cost a little over € 10,-! I managed to buy sheets of 2,10 m x 70 cm for € 10,- per sheet. Mind you, it was a clearance sale, it were the last 4 sheets and I did have to come pick them up about 80 kilometers down the moterway. The gentleman from the shop was kind enough to cut them into 50 x 70 cm pieces for me, or I would not have been able to get them home.
I got myself a bog-standard glass cutter, protective gloves and glasses from the DIY shop and watched a bunch of Youtube Videos on how to cut glass ———————>
My cuts were all over the place, and I managed to nearly fully ruin my first sheet of glass. I managed to get a couple of good pieces from it, but also learned a few things:
1. remember to hold the glass cutter straight
2. remember to put a soft surface underneath your glass, if only to collect the debris!
3. If you are wearing gloves, wear some that fit (I changed mine half way through for they were much too big, later I wore none at all)
4. Make your ruler non-slippy by tying some rubber bands around it lengthwise (or they’ll get in the way of your cutter)
5. practice, practice, practice!
The second time I was cutting Glass, it went a whole lot better – so don’t be discouraged if you’re not getting those clean, straight pieces right away. I cut a glass pane that went very well indeed, and I messed up only a small part of it due to the cutting lines not being deep enough. The glass pane I cut after, however, went terribly as none of the cuts I made seemed to be good enough I I kept snapping off corners. Later I found out the wheel of the glass cutter had too much freedom to move around and was actually not doing it’s job properly.
Then, finally, after you have cut yourself a nice piece of glass, you need to deburr it. This will get rid of small sharp edges that will cut you up when you least expect it. Especially if you have chosen to work with a Cyanide fixer, this is an absolute must. I use hypo myself, but still don’t like small cuts on my hands.
You have the option of using a wetstone, wet sanding paper, or a dry grindstone/ sandpaper – but if you decide on a dry sanding option, remember to wear a dust mask against the fine grit you are releasing into the air. I opted for a wetstone as I had seen this be used on a wetplate blog I follow. I use the stone wet as well, to trap the dust. Basically, I now dump all my small plates in a bucket of water with the wetstone and work away 1 plate at a time.