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Author Topic: Advice on cutting/shaping mirrors and glass?  (Read 8387 times)
Chris Emrys
Deck Hand
United States United States

« on: April 16, 2010, 07:29:50 am »

I'm making a hand-carved antiqued hand mirror - not really steampunk itself, but in working on this project I've thought of all these fancy things I'd like to do with little bits of mirror or glass. I was wondering if any of you has experience cutting glass and would be willing to share some advice on the topic.

I realize that cutting glass by hand requires a lot of patience and a steady hand. My process up to now has been rather simple and blunt, but I feel like there must be a better method.

Mirror - piece of mirror glass, hand held glass cutter, needle nose pliers, template and marker
Frame - solid piece of wood, carving tools, paint and glue

1) buy a hand mirror closest to the shape needed and disassemble - mine was sort of a rounded triangle shape which seemed easiest to convert to an oval
2) carve out a base from a solid piece of wood and decorate - this is the fun part!
3) mark out template shape and carefully cut the mirror using straight cuts tangent to the template shape, try to get a roughly oval shape - thank you geometry!
4) sand down corners and edges
5) assemble, paint and seal (I'm not quite there yet)

For this project I scored the mirror on the back where I marked my guide. Thinking about it now, perhaps the coating interfered with getting a clean score? Would that really have an affect on the cut even once it is scraped away, or do I just need more practice?

Is there any way to get a nice rounded edge? Besides machinery, which I don't even know where to begin looking... >.>

Any suggestions on shaping smaller pieces of glass?

Would it be easier to cut specific shapes from acrylic and give it a mirror coating? (requiring more time and materials... I did find the thread on mirror coatings:,23175.0.html)

Granted since this is my first time dealing with glass cutting my mirror glass has a lot of rough edges (which will be hidden by the lip of the frame so that's fine). However, if I want to do anything else with mirrors I hate to be stuck with whatever the craft store offers or disassembling random compact mirrors since they are never the right size or shape that I want.

I'll make it myself if I can!

I wish this were as easy as cutting glass bottles looks, haha.,17814.0.html
United Kingdom United Kingdom

« Reply #1 on: April 16, 2010, 09:18:46 am »

You can get mirrored acrylic which will certainly be a lot easier to work than glass, but it won't look exactly the same as a glass mirror since and it scratches quite easily. You can also make any transparent plastic mirrored  by painting the back side silver or black.

Glass can indeed be ground to get smooth edges, however this is not an easy task and really  requires water-cooled grinding equipment since a) glass particles are extremely dangerous and need to be contained b) the heat from grinding can cause the glass to shatter if not controlled. Grinding glass also requires very hard abrasives like sapphire or diamond.

On other option is to get your glass cut by a specialist to your specification, there are a few places which can do this , your locla picture framer might be a good place to start looking.

A man of eighty has outlived probably three new schools of painting, two of architecture and poetry and a hundred in dress.
Lord Byron
Mr. Boltneck
Zeppelin Admiral
United States United States

« Reply #2 on: April 16, 2010, 03:42:49 pm »

I've seen people cut mirror glass from the front (uncoated) side, by the usual score/break method, and it seemed to work for them. Also, while full rounding of a glass edge by abrasion does typically require a water-cooled wheel, you can relieve the little rough edges of a cut with a hand-held abrasive stone. Glass-working suppliers have them, and as far as I know, they are just a mid-grade corundum. We used these in a stained-glass class I took ages ago, since small nicks create areas of stress which can cause cracks to propagate, especially if you try something like melting solder against the edge. When cutting, a light oil or kerosine may help the cutter to work more effectively, although I've known people to argue that one endlessly.
Kevin C Cooper Esq
Zeppelin Captain
United Kingdom United Kingdom

Asymetry is the bane of my life

« Reply #3 on: April 17, 2010, 07:31:57 am »

Mr Boltneck is indeed correct, having cut your glass approximately to shape you can smooth the cut edges with a hand held carborundum stone or similar implement. I do believe some people nowadays use diamond files though I myself have not done so. these may be used just to remove the "blades" the very small sharp bits on the edge of the cut glass. I did indeed finish glass by hand for years, though now I use a glass grinder which is so much quicker and more effective. it depends on your requirements, if the edge will be concealed a hand finish will suffice.
Cutting glass is really rather easy, the better your glass cutter the better your cut and the easier it is to do. Cutting oil can indeed facilitate the cutting and oil filled cutters which continually feed oil to the wheel are available at reasonable prices. If you have an ordinary cutter and no oil available a little white spirit in a jar will do. put a bit of sponge in the bottom of the jar to protect your cutter wheel.
Confidence in glass cutting helps, don't be hesitant, steady pressure and listen for the "sizzle". Practice first on some unwanted glass, but bear in mind old glass can be full of scratches which can disrupt the path of your cutter wheel. Watch this
Spoiler (click to show/hide)
« Last Edit: April 17, 2010, 07:43:51 am by Kevin C Cooper Esq » Logged

Deck Hand
United States United States

« Reply #4 on: April 17, 2010, 09:48:49 pm »

If there's a stained glass supply shop near you, they probably have a circle cutter ( that will do the trick.

edit: If you just need to do this once, they'll probably cut it for you cheap or free if you ask nicely.

Chris Emrys
Deck Hand
United States United States

« Reply #5 on: April 19, 2010, 08:49:26 pm »

@Narsil - I checked the hardware stores (they can cut keys for you, but glass?), but I didn't think about picture framers. There is a dedicated Picture Framer nearby, I'll have to check and see what services they offer.

@Mr. Boltneck and @Kevin C Cooper Esq
Thanks for all the tips! I realize it was a mistake to mark the pattern on the back (coated site) instead of the glass. I'll know better next time and I'll try using cutting oil as well.

I've got an extra grinding stone for my carving tools - have to check what the material is - maybe I could use that to finish the edges? I've been trying sandpaper and it works to get the sharpness off but does little else.

@Kevin C Cooper Esq - Amazing video, for both the skill and just that fact that cutting on a curve by hand actually works! I hope I could have a steady hand like that one day. *starts practicing* (I don't have audio so I will have to watch it again later.)

If there's a stained glass supply shop near you, they probably have a circle cutter ( that will do the trick.
So round cutters do exist! Reminds me of the glass cutters used in spy movies - minus the suction cup.
Stained Glass supplier, huh? Not sure if there is one around here, but I'll look into that as an option for future projects.
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