I’m about to break some ****ing off!

Korn meant something different I guess when singing these lines; here’s a post about breaking glass, and not just any glass, mind you, wet plate collodion black glass πŸ™‚

I might have mentioned this topic before, but since I bought new glass past Monday, and enjoyed the following evenings cutting those plates, I thought I might share the tools and method I use.

There are not many things you need to do this yourself. The main reason I do this myself nowadays is that the first batch I ordered pre-cut went amiss; plates were cut 2mm bigger than I ordered which rendered them useless. Expensive lesson.

However, the things you need:

  • a cutting mat ( I solely use this to outline the cuts)
  • a glass cutter
  • a tool to break the glass
  • a ruler
  • a wet stone to polish the sharp edges of the freshly cut plates
  • oh, and music πŸ™‚ Lots of it. To keep the spirit up when the cutting goes astray πŸ™‚

In short what you do is you force to break the glass in a controlled manner. You make a scratch alongside the ruler on the glass using the glass cutter (no oil for obvious reasons). That scratch (score) is where the glass will break. You then use a tool which helps you to break the glass more easily. Or you just simply hit the plate, along the scratch line which is facing you, on the side of a table, and thereby forcing the breaking of the plate.

In my experience it’s best if you manage to score the glass in one swift movement. If you have to redo the score you have more chances the breaking is not exactly going to follow the scratched line, at least that’s what I noticed. Perhaps 3mm is also a little harder to break neatly than the 2mm, which I would prefer next time. I did suffer from some break lines going wrong because my cutter seems not be making a perfect score anymore, maybe it has lost its edge due to ageing or maybe my technique went south. Working on that, more will follow as I have one more plate left to cut.

I bought my tools and glass from uniekglas, a nice on-and offline shop in Someren, the Netherlands. Really friendly and helpful people there and they have tons of glass, in all different colors and sizes.

Have fun!

Oh, and for those interested in reading more on cutting glass ( I was), with and without the use of oil: read this..


  1. Interesting to read about class cutting in a context that is not familiar to me. I have some thoughts that may be helpful to you.

    Re-scoring will tend to dull the cutter wheel due to the roughness of previous scores attacking the cutter wheel. This is partly why lubrication tends to be used. And yes, it’s much easier to break 2mm glass than 3mm glass.

    I see you are using a wet stone – the traditional method – to clean up the glass edges. Whilst perfectly good and appropriate for the historical context of your work, give some thought to diamond grit pads. The are not cheap but are available in several grit sizes and do a really good job.

    Clean breaking glass is something that needs lots of practise and there are many methods. I often use a cheap tile cutter for making simple breaks. I also do them by hand without a tool – hard to describe in a few words, but basically you make fists with thumbs uppermost with the glass score line uppermost between your hands and thumbs. Then simultaneously pull apart and pull downwards at the same time in a short sharp movement. If you lived loser to me I’d invite you to visit and enjoy a “smashing time” to learn some new techniques!

    Sincere best wishes. Enjoy your experimenting!

    1. Thanks for chiming in! I enjoyed your post quite a bit.

      Good remark on the rescoring; I found it to be more and more difficult to make a proper score in one go lately, nice to know rescoring will only cause more issues with the cutting wheel. I ordered a new cutter yesterday with less need for the usage of oil (hopefully), see how that goes.

      I have not heard before of these diamond grit pads you mentioned. Seeing my wet stone is close to reaching its ending I might try those to see how they fare.

      I think I understand your breaking method, I will give that a go. But I think first I need to improve my scoring otherwise the breaking will remain difficult.

      Thanks again! I guess you got pingback via wordpress seeing your swift response 😊

      1. Hello again.

        The diamond pads I use are from 3M and have the brand name Diapad. You will sometimes find them in Ebay. The colour of the Diapad tells you the grit size. They are not cheap so if short of cash start with the red one. If not then try a yellow (finer) or a black (coarser) one. Use them wetted with water so that the diamond grits last longer.

        As an alternative to dry cutting, or the use of oil, how about trying something that evaporates cleanly like propanol or rubbing alcohol?

        I guess that scrupulously clean glass is important for good photographic results. For this I find propanol or rubbing alcohol is quite good, but not as good as acetone. Acetone needs to be treated with care as it is rather more volatile and more flammable than alcohols.

        With regard to scoring, listen to the noise the cutter makes. A feint “fizz” sound is a good sign that you are applying enough pressure. And don’t worry about how fast or slow your scoring action is, or even that you keep stopping then resuming. The two important rules are to avoid lifting the cutter mid way and to avoid re-tracing you cutting line. Practise make perfect but not always with glass.

      2. Hello again indeed πŸ™‚

        Thank you for this really helpful advice. The new cutter I bought works a lot nicer; I think I spoilt the former one re-tracing previously made cutting lines.I could try alcohol next time, it’s used for cleaning the plates and is part of many of the recipes used for the wet plate process; it shouldn’t bite.

        The cutting now went a lot better, the breaking of the last plate was rather crappy though. Perhaps the glass had issues, not sure. I’ve cut quite a bit of glass over the years, this plate just wouldn’t break nicely along the, most of the time, pretty neat scoring lines. Oh well, practice makes for mastery I guess…

        Thanks for the heads up also about where to buy these diamond pads. I will have a look!


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