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Cutting Stained Glass Tiles

Recently I have been cutting my own tiles from pieces of stained glass. I am doing this for several reasons. For one thing, I find that the clean-up when grouting is sooooo much easier than the grainy pressed glass tiles. Another reason is that I can cut my tiles in any size or shape I want. After reading as much as I could find on the web, I decided to order a cut/marking board called the Emerald Rainbow Scoreboard. This score board allows me to cut perfect triangle and diamond shaped tiles, as well as the usual squares or rectangles. After much experimentation, I have gotten pretty fast at it with very few goofed up pieces.

The first thing I do is mark my entire piece of glass with parallel score lines using a pistol handle glass scorer and use my running pliers to break the glass into strips. I get best results if I first break the glass into two pieces at aprox. the center. Then I break those two pieces into half, and continue doing that until I am down to snapping two strip wide pieces into singles. For me this works a lot better than trying to break strips off one at a time from the edge of a large piece of glass.

Then I stack my strips back on the scoreboard in the order they were cut to score them in the other direction. A strip of masking tape helps hold then close and in place and is easily removed and placed on the other end of the strips to get it out of my way when scoring the opposite side of the glass.

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The running pliers that I use are such a time saver. Running pliers have a raised 'bump' in the center of the lower jaw. You line up the score line that you make with your glass scorer  with the little white mark on the top of the pliers and squeeze. The glass is forced down on both sides of the bump and breaks cleanly and instantly along your score line. I originally tried breaking my strips with pliers and snapping them off, but the $20 plastic running pliers that I bought at a stain glass shop give much better results.

So I slide the strips along and rescore them 90 degrees to the first cuts to make square tiles. I score all my lines at once, one at a time of course.

This score board is easily marked with a ruler so you can slide the glass to a mark you've made to give you consistent square or rectngle tile scores.

Once all my strips are scored, then I can sit and pop my scored strips into tiles over a bowl with my running pliers.

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I know that most people that sell stained glass tiles tumble them to smooth the sharp edges. I watched used rock tumblers on eBay for a while and even bid on some, but never bought one. What I did finally buy on eBay was an old ice cream maker for $7. I had to cut the paddles off the center churn part of the ice cream maker but leave the center post intact to use it to 'tumble' my tiles in a little soapy water. It holds more tiles at once than most of the rock tumblers I saw for sale. I lean the ice cream maker at an angle so the tiles tumble as the cylinder in the thing turns. I rest it against a porch folding chair. There is a plastic bar that goes across the top of the ice cream maker to hold the cylinder in the center that is not shown in this photo.

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I put the tumbler on the front porch so I could close the door and not have to listen to the noise indoors. After an hour or two of tumbling, the cut edges are not as sharp and you will see grainy debris in the bottom of the tumbler after doing a few batches.  But since I am not selling and mailing tiles, I have quit tumbling mine. I realized that when working on a mosaic piece, I was cutting many of the tiles and working with sharp edges anyway, so why bother to tumble at all.

If you live near a Hobby Lobby store, you can watch for stained glass to go on sale at 1/2 off every so often. They carry some incredible iridescent colors. I usually stockup when they have the half-off sale. On sale many 12 in. x 12 in. pieces of stained glass are only $2 or $3 each.

I cut most of the tiles in this Mermaid Mosaic--you can see that many are iridescent glass, great for water. Overall size of this piece is about 30" x 30". The words in the mermaid's hands say "Gulf Shores", the name of my town.

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For additional info on stained glass in general:
Stained Glass Info - Stained Glass Industry's Resource For Information

Before I started cutting my own tiles, I bought a lot of cool ones on eBay. The sellers always shipped promptly and were a pleasure to deal with. Many of the eBay tile sellers just sell tiles to help pay for their hobby.

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Copyright 2002-2014  Lundy Wilder
June 10, 2014
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