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A glass cutter is a handy tool you can acquire for as little as $5 on Amazon, but what can you do if you need to cut a mirror or piece of window glass or do a craft project when you don’t have one on hand? Or you don’t want to spend the money on something you may never need again? Whether you are thrifty, can’t get out, or don’t want to wait a couple of days to get the right tool online, there are several tools you may already have on hand to do the job.
While the supplies for cutting glass vary by technique, you should always undertake the process wearing safety glasses or goggles and work gloves. If the glass does not break cleanly or survive the process, shards of broken glass can be a serious hazard.
A glass cutting tool scores the glass, so this can be done with several other implements.
A scribe, a pencil with a sharp top, can score glass. Carbide tips ($10) offer sharp, precise cuts, while diamond-tipped ($20) ones last longer. Even a steel file or utility knife you may have on hand can do the job.
Using a scribe closely replicates an actual glass cutter, but there are other ways to approach the problem.
Useful for cutting bottles or even flat glass, an angle cutter can do the job. As with other cutters, the angle grinder scores the glass and can cut through a bottle even when a lower quality blade is used. (A thin diamond or tile cutting blade is best.) Doing it takes a while, uses costly blades ($40+), and may spray glass shrapnel and silica dust around during the process. The cut will require some sanding to smooth it out.
There are two other cautions when using an angle grinder. First, the dust the process produces is a health risk, so a dust mask is essential. Also, this process should not be used for tempered glass, as it will shatter. Despite the cautions, some users swear by this method as it cuts through the glass without heat and cold dip the glass.
This technique is more appropriate for small pieces of glass or bottles, but a string lit on fire can do the job of cutting.
A variation on this involves soaking the string (preferably natural fiber twine) in lighter fluid, acetone, or alcohol) before tying it around the bottle. When you set the twine on fire, the lit string may make the glass change color, which indicates it is ready for the next step. When you quench it in a bucket of water, you will hear a snapping sound when the glass breaks. Thicker glass requires more time before submersion.
Similar to methods using string, the wire method requires submerging the glass in water after cutting.
While cutting glass with scissors sound unusual, this technique works well for small pieces of flat glass that you want to cut into shapes. The water lubricates the glass and creates external pressure to prevent cracking.
Glass cutters are specifically designed to make clean cuts every time without wasting material. An easy-to-use bottle cutter or flat glass cutter costs less than $20 – something to think about if you need to cut lots of bottles for crafts or gifts. However, some of the techniques listed above will do the job for a quick cut or a craft project on a budget with old wine bottles.