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How to Cut Mirror or Glass

Last week I showed you guys our little DIY reclaimed wood mirror:

And then I showed you pictures of Mila Jane:

(But Mila is not relevant to this post.)

I got several questions and emails about how to cut mirror, so I thought I’d show you a quick little how-to. It’s important that we briefly pause to discuss the molecular dynamics of glass, and touch on the debate over whether it’s an amorphous solid or a viscous liquid and –

Just kidding. I don’t care.

What I do care about is turning these giant sheets of glass we found on craigslist for free into an octagon, or whatever shape we may need.
square mirror to octagon: how to cut mirror
How to cut mirror or glass: quick and easy tutorial

Materials You’ll Need

  • Mirror
  • Glass cleaner
  • Glass cutter (Something like this one if you’re looking for low cost, or like this if you’re looking for fancy.)
  • Optional: Glass cutter fluid (this kind goes with the fancy glass cutter) or kerosene
  • Safety goggles. Yeah, I said it.


Brief interlude about safety goggles


Andy occasionally watches these incredibly dry and snooze-inducing woodworking shows. On every episode, the host pauses before he uses his first power tool, looks deeply into the camera and says:

“Now remember, there’s no more important safety rule than wearing these, your safety glasses.”

–But I don’t buy it. Is there really NO more important safety rule than that? What about: “Do not attempt to clip fingernails with a miter saw” or perhaps: “remove any blindfolds before using a power tool?” I’d like to submit to you that there ARE more important safety rules than wearing your safety glasses. But you should still wear them. And maybe gloves. The end.


* * *

1. Prep the glass

Wipe that bad boy down with some windex or rubbing alcohol. Because really, this is embarrassing:
square raw mirror
Plus little pieces of dirt can mess up your cut line and leave it imperfect.

2. Measure and mark your cut line

There’s probably a professional marking device of some kind, but we used sharpie. ‘Cause we’re all about just getting the job done with minimal fancy extras. White crayon can work too.
Marking mirror with sharpie
We clamped down a straight-edge right along that line so we could run the cutter against it.
clamped straight-edge on mirror

3. Score the line

At this point, technically you should lubricate the mirror with kerosene or glass cutting fluid. Some glass cutters are self-lubricating (like the one I linked to above) so you’d just prep the cutter and you’d be set.

Our glass cutter is not self-lubricating, but you want to know a secret? We didn’t use any fluid. And we never have. The fluid just helps your blade last a little longer, but if you don’t use any, the glass-cutting police might never even know.

After you’ve lubricated the line (or not), run the glass cutter along your line one good time, pressing down hard enough to hear an awful screeching sound.
How to cut mirror or glass
It will leave a scored line that looks like this:
scored mirror
scoring mirror to cut it

4. Break the mirror down the scored line

This part is either amazing or terrifying, depending on whether you’re the kind of person who likes to ride rollercoasters and eat raw cookie dough or not. Prop up a board or something under the mirror on one side of the scored line.
how to break mirror
Then gently press down on the mirror until it breaks along the line you just scored.
How to cut mirror
It’s nerve-wracking but also kind of awesome. Pass the raw cookie dough.

5. Optional: Sand the edge

Our mirror went inside a frame and the edges will never be seen or touched by a human again, so we didn’t do anything to the raw edge, but you can sand it down or apply a mirror edge sealant or just clear fingernail polish if you’d like.


* * *


How to cut mirror or glass: quick and easy tutorial

It’s really a simple, straightforward process as long as you have the right tools, and as long as you wear your safety goggles like a winner.

Have you ever cut glass? Where do you fall in the mirror-as-viscous-solid-or-liquid controversy? What would YOU say is the most important safety rule?

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Comments

  1. domestiCate says:

    Hahaha! My husband watches that show, too, and we always join in sarcastically as he recites that rule.
    I was wondering how y’all cut that mirror. Thanks for the tute!

  2. Let’s talk about Mila Jane – she’s gorgeous (and completely relevant – after all, she’ll be staring at her gorgeous reflection in that mirror soon)! Oh, the mirror is pretty fabulous too and glad I didn’t have to have a science lesson!
    Kelly

  3. Hmm… I’m one of the fellers that asked about cutting the glass, so this is uber helpful. I need to make a circle, though, and I’m a little nervous about that part!

    PS – I never need an excuse to look at that little doll. Add a pic into every post from now on, I say.

  4. Angelica says:

    I love the transformation the mirror
    Saludos from Chile

  5. Love the glass cutting tutorial. My tutorial goes something like this- call older brother who is a glazier by trade. Bribe him with sweets to cut a mirror for you. It’s always worked for me ; ) haha

  6. Well that looks easy peasy. Even I could tackle that. Your mirror is beautiful and so is your cutie pie muffin!!

  7. LOL…I tried it just for fun one time and just like you said it’s very very scary and pretty amazing too. A friend’s father made beautiful stained glass pieces and she would save me his leftover pieces for my art projects and sometimes I would cut them. And yeah….wearing the safety glasses is a pretty good thing to do. I wear glasses so I figure that’s good enough but probably a bad choice. Bobby G. on the other hand, still doesn’t wear them and he had wood chip fly into his eye…..yikes! You are so funny along with writing an excellent helpful post. :)

  8. I watch the same snooze-y woodworking show! Anway, I have cut my fair share of glass and mirror in the past, but I think I’m out of the game now, too many little hands, and a crawling baby #3 who likes anything sharp!

  9. wow, I have never attempted this before, but i might now that i know how easy-exhilarating-terrifying it can be :). i think maybe you should just make another reclaimed wood mirror and send it my way! hahaha.

  10. Lol — when I drilled through glass for my light fixture, I literally had a pit in my stomach… but no safety glasses. Duh!
    This rocks — pass the cookie dough!
    xo Heidi

  11. QwkDrw says:

    RE: Step 4. Break the mirror …
    Saving wear and tear on the gloves, in this photo? Gloves do come in pairs — both hands being equally susceptible to major injury from broken mirror!

    Important safety rules: Of course remove all blindfolds. Wear safety googles (covering both eyes) like a winner. Wear gloves — one on EACH HAND while handling mirror.

    Or, return to Step 1. Prep the mirror with windex …
    To clean an amount of viscous (nice word) blood and residual body tissue from mirror’s edges and surface.

    Mama said there would be bad days

    ..

  12. I can’t get enough of that little cutie pie! I think she may need to lead off all future posts!

    :)

    Linda

  13. I would be so afraid to try this! Cutting mirrors and glass scares the crap outta me!

    But it looks great ;)

  14. What a beautiful mirror (and Mila is adorable!), I would be sooo nervous cutting that glass – you’re so brave! It sure turned out great, well done.

  15. Timely advice about the miter saw and fingernails. I was just pondering an alternative to real clippers.

    Thanks for the great tutorial! Pinning for future reference! :)

  16. Totally not related to the mirror-cutting thing – but since you put up a picture of your baby girl you’re kinda asking for it – Mila is A – wait for it – DORABLE! Ah, so cute!

  17. Alisa says:

    I have a horrible confession. I started a mirror wall in my entry way far too long ago and I had two mirrors break in the process. I’m too afraid to cut my own mirror, too cheap to buy a custom fit one, so I just put some aluminum behind the frames and called it a day. The only person that’s every commented on it is my husband..but I think that’s because it embarrasses him ;)

  18. Anne says:

    Nice! This could be a bad thing, but now I feel like I could conquer the world/cut mirrors. Now I just need to find a project that doesn’t involve math but does involve cutting so I can put this new knowledge to use.

  19. What!? No laser beam?! I was totally expecting you to say that you cut it with a laser beam. I appreciate the wearing of gloves while breaking the glass. Way to be safety first, View Along the Way.

  20. Angie says:

    You two never cease to amaze me. Love y’all!

  21. This is amazing! Now if I ever get the nerve up to try it myself I’ll be so excited! I love the mirror you all created! Thanks for sharing this tutorial!!

  22. Chelsea says:

    Just found your blog through pinterest and have to say,Ï’m Hooked!”I love the way you write your posts and your humor is fantastic!
    Thanks for sharing. We have a mirror that was given to us for our wedding. It has our names and wedding date etched in it but it is in the most hideous 80′s shape and frame. I hate the shape and have been wanting to re-frame it for years but could never find a place that would cut it for me. Shoot if I had thought about doing it myself, or knew how, I’d have done it ages ago…. but I can do it now!

  23. Tara says:

    If it doesnt break evenly how can i get it even? When i got to the part where you break it, the middle left some pointy parts. How do i fix that?

    • Kelly says:

      It sounds like it might not have scored completely. Sometimes you can break off the jagged edges with pliers. You can also try sanding or filing it down. The right method would depend on how big your pointy parts are.

  24. great post, Kelly! I’m not sure if I’m bummed that I’m just seeing it now, or excited because I was just wondering how to do this. Pass the raw cookie dough. ;)

  25. Thats so cool! I never knew cutting a mirror was so easy! Thanks for sharing….now I gotta go find a glass cutting tool. :)

    Jennifer @ Decorated Chaos

  26. Lindsay O. says:

    For step 4, breaking the mirror down the scored line, there is an easier, safer way than to do it the way shown. That ball on the end of the glass cutter? It’s actually there for helping you to do it. After you score the glass, you tap along the line on the UNDERSIDE, and the glass should just snap off. Just some hopefully helpful info for future glass-cutting needs. :)

  27. sarah says:

    This was extremely helpful! I tried to cut some glass to make a stained glass and after 3 hours of frustration using a nibber I knew there had to be another way! Maybe my father just doesnt trust his teen his his glass cutter but one way or another I’m getting my hands on it. Safety goggles are a definite, and so should be hearing protection.

  28. Stacy says:

    Hi Kelly. I found this interesting and funny. This is a good run through of how to cut a mirror. About #3. That awful screeching sound is actually the result of not using a lubricant. When done properly you should not hear a screech and the score marking will not look “fried” as shown in your picture. If you aren’t careful a fried score will cause it to have a runner. It won’t break or it will leave sharp points that ultimately have to be sanded to prevent cuts. #4. Lindsay O. is correct. The ball of the cutter is for tapping the bottom side of the mirror for it to break. Instead of putting a board under it, as shown, simply move it to the edge of the table and press down. If the glass was scored correctly there should be an even break. As for the gloves I never wear them, but I’ve also been professionally cutting glass for ten years. If you are going to be cutting a lot of glass or mirror the second cutter is worth the money. Honestly though, for those who are scared to cut glass themselves it is not that expensive to go to a glass shop and have them cut it for you! For all the DIY’ers my safety tip: Glass WILL cut you! NEVER run your finger or hands down the cut edge. There will be blood.

    • Phil says:

      That’s it now Stacy… Tell some one not to do something, and you can guarantee they will, Hospitals now full of sliced fingers! ;)

  29. Sam B says:

    Hi, does the backing of the mirror come clean away too? I broke a mirror recently and the backing partly stayed intact.
    Thanks for the blog, hoping this will save me a lot of money!

  30. Tica M says:

    Rules for being in my glass shop:
    You must wear safety glasses And close toed shoes. Be aware of glass chips and solder drips. If you blow it you will never ,,,forget again.

  31. Gael says:

    I loved the tutorial and enjoyed your sense of humor. I’ve found the big box stores in my area to be wonderful about cutting glass and wood for free or cheap. Lowe’s cut several tiny, precise pieces of glass for my son’s science fair project when he built a device that measured fluctuations in the earth’s gravitational field and charged nothing. (Son got 105 on science fair, highest grade ever given by the teacher.) I’ve cut (butchered) glass and didn’t know about the lubricant and ball on the tool. Pass that raw cookie dough, and thanks for the manicure tip.

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  1. [...] How to Cut a Mirror into a Shape by View Along the Way. I have a free Craigslist mirror in my basement just waiting for this tutorial! [...]

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