Although you can manage without there are times when stained glass saws are a good idea.
My recommended glass saw is the Taurus Ring Saw (affiliate) and this is what I suggest using it for:
- cutting ‘difficult’ glass like drapery glass (it’s wavy like cloth and is of uneven thickness and does NOT lie flat!)
- very thick glass
- very small pieces of glass
- cutting fused glass (glass that has been fired and melted together with another piece of glass).
- shapes that are very very difficult or impossible to cut by hand… but with certain provisos …
It is true that stained glass saws are good for cutting shapes that are impossible by hand, as you can see by the photo above.
But you have to think about these difficult shapes very carefully…
If you are using the shapes for stained glass and they are really, really difficult – or impossible – to cut with a hand held glass cutter then they are highly likely to be shapes that will break when you make up your panel. Examples could be very deep and sharp inside curves and shapes that include an abrupt change of direction.
Even if the shapes survive the panel construction they may break later when exposed to bad weather or (if it’s a sun catcher) simply being moved from one room to another. It’s not worth the risk.
These are all things you have to consider when designing a stained glass window.
You CAN use stained glass saws for cutting these ‘impossible’ shapes if you are subsequently going to fuse them. These shapes don’t need to be strong as they will be fused with another piece of glass for strength.
Do Glass Saws Save Time?
Ring saws won’t actually save time.
It’s much quicker and cheaper to cut glass with a hand held glass cutter and easily as accurate once you master the technique.
With a glass saw you have to move slowly to cut glass successfully, letting the blade do the work and not pushing to hurry it up.
What is the best way to treat the blades?
The blades are reasonably costly to replace so you have to treat them gently.
If you treat them with care they can last a fair time but if you try to hurry the cut and push on the glass they are more likely to blunt or break.
Glass saws certainly do have their uses and I’m certainly not against using them to cut glass where appropriate.
I would recommend a stained glass saw if you were doing lots and lots of the 5 types of cutting above. You can find out more about the Taurus 3 Ring Saw at Amazon here. (affiliate)*
I wouldn’t recommend one for regular day-to-day stained glass cutting.
My bottom line is this: if you’re making stained glass don’t use a saw to cut ‘impossible’ shapes as they will only break further down the line – in the foiling, leading or soldering stages for example.
They definitely have their place but I don’t think they should replace regular glass cutting skills done with a hand held cutter.
*Affiliate Transparency. Just so’s you know, if you click and buy through the links above within 24 hrs I get a small % from Amazon (not you!). Thanks in advance but no worries if you have a local store – I’d always support them first 🙂
51 thoughts on “5 Things Stained Glass Saws Do Well”
Ring saw is a great saw . Not used alot but when difficult cuts are needed works great. When coming to final cut , you have pull back ,reverse piece and cut last piece off . That is the only problem I have with the saw.
Thanks for this important tip Carmen, much appreciated.
Thank you, Milly, for your frank responses and observations regarding the saw issue. It’s a good idea to be aware that even though the challenging glass shape can be cut with a saw, it might afterwards be easily broken. I’ll keep avoiding cutting things that I can’t accomplish the old-fashioned way.
Thanks for your comment. I’m not against using saws to cut glass by any means!
I sometimes like to work in small scale and be as realistic and detailed as feasible. The Taurus 3 has allowed shapes and sizes that a grinder did not. The limit of miniaturization is more one of taping small seams and still being able to solder them effectively than cutting and shaping.
Regarding patterns on the very wet saw, I have not tried the Vaseline trick, but will do so. However, I do have a trick that I use. I apply a layer of clear packing tape over my paper pattern before cutting it to shape, then glue it to the glass with a glue stick (which cleans up easily). The pattern remains quite waterproof and stiff throughout even long complicated cuts.
Regarding grinding to eliminate breakage, if the piece will allow even a 1/8″ grinder bit in the area I do not try to saw at the exact line, but get close to it and then dress it on the grinder. The saw definitely is a more coarse cut than the grinder and it takes very little time to improve it and refine it after being sawn.
For my shop, the saw has been a leap forward in technology and capability. I also find it much faster and far easier than grinding out a deep inside cut. It is not intended to replace any cut that can be made by hand.
A great addition to the page George, thank you. Like your tape idea; that may be easier than petroleum jelly to clean…
I agree that saws do add a lot but should be used in addition to, not instead of, regular cutting. Thanks again.
I bought the ring saw some time ago, after getting very frustrated with the bandsaw, which did not work for me at all, too much movement. Love my Taurus 3. I don,t use it very often but works wonderful when I need it.
Great to hear Hetty, and for other readers to hear your experience, thanks.
How can you cut a specific pattern with a ring saw? Magic markers rinse off I would think. This keeps me from buying one.
I have a suggestion for this on my Recommended Tools page here KC. It’s a special shoe polish! I hope that helps.
I tried the shoe polish, and it really works. I found that allowing the polish to set a few minutes before cutting or grinding gives it more success.
I was told to draw with marker pen and then apply Vaseline over the top
I go over my cut lines with a candle it provides a waterproof coating
Brilliant Karen, thanks so much for adding your tip.
Milly, I have used a ring saw now going on 10 years and have gotten pretty good with it. I have made cuts in glass that would be near impossible if done another way. Imagine a hand made out of glass. By cutting out the V between the fingers, you can make a hand in one piece. I’ve made many intricate cuts like that in my designs. It’s also great for writing cursive with no seams in letters.
Good to know, Joe, thanks for sharing your experience. Do you ever worry about the strength of those shapes? Given a bit of torsion those fingers may snap off? I’m interested in your reply.
Love mine. Coukdnt live without it!
I purchased a Rod Saw. Did not like it’s function ( up and down motion). My next saw was a Ring Saw. This was not much better. It will cut thick glass. I now have a Bandsaw. I am on my second one ( wore out the first) If you are cutting 2 & 3 mm glass the bandsaw is my suggestion. I can cut very small pieces. Letters, animal cutouts, and others. The only downside is blades. You need to be careful cutting small inside corners. I also recommend having a better light to view your work.
Thanks for your thoughts Stephen, much appreciated. Those out there might be tempted with the band saw now…or both LOL!
I use my Taurus 3 ring saw to cut heavily textured glass such as drapery, architectural and others. I also use it to cut stacked glass pieces so I have exact pieces to interchange as with some mosaics (ex – amoeba shape so the amoeba positive in one color fits precisely into the amoeba negative of another color glass).
Oh that’s a great idea Reginald – stacking. How do you keep the pieces exactly on top of each other? Presumably not handmade glass that doesn’t sit flush with the one beneath?
Milly, thanks for your honest answers and comments to the issue of a saw. It’s good to know that even if the difficult glass shape can be cut with a saw it might be easily broken later on. I’ll continue to avoid making cuts that I just can’t do the old fashioned way.
Respecting the limits of the materials we work with is really important in my view Gail. If we force things to go against their nature just because we can there’s always going to be a rebellion later down the line LOL.
I would love to see an example of using grinding on an intricate piece in place of just using the saw.
Thanks for the suggestion Christina, I’ve put it on my ‘video’ list. A small grinder bit is necessary.
I have a Taurus ring saw. I rarely use it. I can successfully hand cut 99% of what I need to cut. I do find the Ring saw useful for an intricate or deep curve cut when I don’t want to take a chance of breaking it because I don’t have the same additional glass to have a second try at it. If I break it the first time with no extra glass it could mean that I could have to re-work the glass in the entire panel. For me,the saw is not a time saver nor a daily tool. If it dies, I would not replace it.
Interesting thoughts Sharon, thanks. Like (in my case) that professional juicer on my kitchen shelf LOL!
Hi all. I use my saw on most projects for ar Keats a couple pieces. Some glass is very brittle and this inside curves are just impossible to cut out with a grinder. I agree they don’t save time, but for me, they save frustration. I have had mine for over 14 years and wouldn’t be without one.
Good to hear your thoughts Ellen, thanks. On the time v. frustration scale it’s definitely good to get the balance right 🙂
I bought a Taurus ring saw, used it several times to do mostly lettering and numbers, but for the most part it’s sits. But it’s nice to have should you need one on the rare occasions.
That’s how I feel Clara; they’re on the ‘good to have’ list rather than the ‘essential’. Unless you have trouble cutting standing up, as I’ve rightly been reminded. Then they’re essential.
I am disabled and so would not be able to stand to cut glass. Having the ring saw has made it possible for me to continue and as I mainly do glass mosaic I can use very intricate shapes and do not have the same worry of the glass breaking.
But there is a very real extra reason to use a ring saw and that is because it enables you to get far more use out of your glass than you would ever get cuttng by hand. First I cut my pieces out on a carton and then like a dressmaker I can lay them on my glass and play with them till I find the way to get the maximum benefit from the piece of glass, also taking into account the grain and any pattern on the glass.
Thank you Rebecca for your additional information. These are really important considerations that I haven’t included. You’re obviously a fan of saws and use them in a way that seems eminently sensible to me 🙂
I use my Taurus 3 to make broken china jewelry which I sell on Etsy and eBay. I couldn’t do this without my ring saw and absolutely love it. I have been through many blades, grommets, and a couple belts, but I am having so much fun. Most of my jewelry is from the rims of the plates but lots are intricate cuts around flowers or animals.
I wanted to post a couple pictures to show what I mean but there’s no option for that here.
Great idea Valerie and thanks for sharing it with us. I’ve just looked you up on Etsy to see what you mean – how lovely, very whimsical 🙂
I love your approach; it’s always great to hear when someone’s having fun creating and it really shows in their work.
i use it to cut perfect circles of various sizes i also make stained glass windows of the different military logos. there are some intricate cuts including small circles. i could not make them without the saw
This is a great example of the sort of complex cuts that I meant Red, thanks for your thoughts.
I have had a taurus 3 for 13 years, of course in time you replace grommets and wheels. BELTS AND BLADES, THEY ARE WELL DESIGNED SAWS HIGHLY RECOMMENDED
That’s great to know Patrick, thanks!
I have a band saw and have found it very useful fro shapes that would be impossible by hand, of course they are very expensive and the blades too, shapes like numbers and letters upper and lower case are to difficult by hand so in the case of an 0 I usually drill a couple of holes in the middle and then grind it into shape. As far as the problem with glass breaking when foiling are concerned II have found that grinding the edges of all the glass on both sides to get rid of any chips is the way to prevent the glass cracking and makes soldering much easier and stops the worry of the glass cracking. In this way I can make Memorials with names in them like SCOTT instead of engraving the name, same with house numbers. I could show you some examples if you would like to see them. Regards Pete.
Thanks for your comments Pete. I’m with you on the difficult shapes – with a view to making sure that the shapes you/we cut aren’t unstable and liable to breaking. I’m interested in your idea about grinding preventing glass cracking. I’ve not heard that as a theory before. Can you explain why that works? Thanks.
I’d love to see your images, yes please.
I’m thinking about getting a used but a good working Taurus 2 saw per seller. But I’m not sure if the Taurus 2 is right for me. I’ve used a friend Taurus 3 in the past and I love what I can do it. I’m a stain glass hobbies. I would be using it for just those small cuts that hard to do on grinder. Which I do a few on almost everything I do.
Hi Don, thanks for your comment. I think the Taurus 2 would be fine for your needs. Have fun with it!
Thank you so much for help on this!
You’re welcome Martha, glad it helped 🙂
I also felt that a ring saw should be in my arsenal of tools but I’m now re-thinking. I’ve actually needed a saw cut only 3 times in the last 10 years and my glass supplier/studio was kind enough to do it for me so that is always an option. Thanks for your advice.
The ring saws are quite appealing – it’s easy to think they’ll solve any problem but they are to be purchased with care. Thanks for your comment!
Have always been curious about this machine. Now I will save my money.
Thanks for sharing
Hi Monica, thanks for your comment.
Yes, the ring saws are good but for very specific purposes. Definitely to go on a ‘wish list’ rather than and ‘essential’ one.
Oh Mily this has been so useful to me! I usually draw my own patterns but had just been tempted to use somebody’s pattern that has curves you wouldn’t believe. I was hesitating but after reading your note I am convinced that the curves I can do with my grinder and the small bit will do otherwise I won’t take chances to have it broke down.
You saved me time, money and a lot of frustration;))
Hi Manon, really glad you found it helpful and go get those curves !!!