What Shapes Can You Cut In Glass?

Cutting Stained Glass Shapes

When you’re first start cutting stained glass there’s so much to take in. How to hold the cutter, how hard to press, how to open the scoreline. It’s all new.

But what about what shapes you can and can’t cut in stained glass?

I often get asked this question, and it’s quite hard to explain each shape in words. The following slide shows will help you.

cutting stained glass for window panel

Shapes You Can And Can’t Cut

The first slide show covers the basic shapes with regard to cutting stained glass – rectangles, triangles, circles. It gives you easy ways to break them down into shapes you can cut. I’ll take the first shape as an example. If you want an ‘L’ shape, you can’t cut around right-angled corners, so you have to divide it into two rectangles.

See what I mean about cutting stained glass being difficult to describe in words?!

If you’re struggling with accurate cutting there are many easy-to-learn techniques that will help you get better.

If you don’t have a class close by my Conquering Curves course has taught many people the skills to cut shapes accurately. And we all know how important neatly fitting shapes are!
The course is self-paced and online so you can learn these cutting techniques even if you are unable to get to a class. You can find out more about it here Conquering Curves.

There’s different ways of dividing the shapes, which I’ve included too. Choosing how you divide your shape up is as important as color and texture. This is something that people often forget. The solder lines make a pattern too, and you want it to be a beautiful pattern!

So I give you my slide show 🙂

What Shapes Can You Cut In Glass

Cutting Stained Glass – The Easiest Shapes

The slideshow below uses the same shapes as above, but gives you information about how difficult each cut is.

I’ve colour-coded the shapes to help you. The red shapes are impossible. Or, should I say, some of them probably ARE possible if you’re very experienced. But I wouldn’t recommend using them because they are likely to break during the making of the piece.

Where you see the colour amber on the shapes, you will know that, if you are just learning stained glass cutting, that these cuts will be a little bit harder than a simple straight cut.

So don’t get down-hearted if you can’t do it straight away, keep practicing and you’ll be fine.

What Are The Easiest Shapes To Cut?

The Maple Leaf Test

So now let’s put it all into practice! This final short slide show imagines that you are wanting to make a maple leaf sun catcher. How would you cut those tricky inside curves in between each leaf?

If you don’t think this is possible, how would you best break the leaf down into ‘cuttable’ shapes? Let’s take a look:

The Best Way To Cut A Maple Leaf


Yay! Now you know the cutting stained glass basics, you can put it into practice the next time you’re faced with an object that you can’t (or don’t want to) cut all in one go.

Here’s a cutting tutorial that takes you through how to cut stained glass from the beginning, if you need a little bit of a refresh.

8 thoughts on “What Shapes Can You Cut In Glass?”

  1. Hi Milly,

    I appreciate all of the helpful advice you give on your website!
    I am trying to make a small suncatcher as my first project. The finished project will (hopefully) be a star that consists of 8 small diamond-shaped glass pieces. My questions are: 1) is the diamond shape a particularly difficult one to cut? 2) is it easier to cut glass pieces of a certain size (my pieces are about 4 cm in size)?

    Again, thanks so much for your help!

    • Diamonds aren’t difficult to cut in stained glass, no. Just make sure that the tips of the diamonds aren’t too narrow, as the glass may snap at the ends leaving a gap where a point should be. My Stained Glass Made Perfect course covers exactly this project and may help if you want to be guided through each stage.
      Small pieces are harder but not too difficult once you get the hang of it. As a beginner I’d go for medium sizes – say 6-8cm (why make things difficult!) . Make sure you have no hinge points in your star (straight lines that will want to bend) otherwise it will be unstable. Good luck!

  2. If i watch shape 10. Than i see that you say that it’s not possible but i have seen and done it before. Maybe it’s something for you to Fry.

    • You’re right of course; it’s possible to cut many awkward shapes in stained glass but you have to weigh up how strong they are too. For example, it’s great to be able to cut difficult shapes with a glass saw but if they break as soon as you put them in a window or panel it’s not so great. It’s a balancing act between strength and aesthetics!
      Thanks for your thoughts Danielle.

  3. I am so glad I found you! It is hard being new, but I am going to keep at it with your help.

    I was told some pieces won’t hold up when hung without a frame or came. Something about how things are put together and size means the glass isn’t supported. Do you have any tutorials on this? I want to make a good size leaf without having to add a square background or a frame. Are there any rules about size etc.?
    Thank you, Milly!

    • The main thing to watch out for is having a straight line that goes from one end of the leaf to the other. It creates a hinge point which will want to bend. It also creates a very weak design which will want to fall apart at that point.
      Try to avoid putting the hooks on the edge. If you do, make sure it’s on a join.
      I wouldn’t go much bigger than 6″ diameter (take an average!) for a sun catcher without any other support.
      It’s a very good question Vicki and one that is difficult to give a simple answer to. Thanks for your kind words, and yes – definitely keep at it!

        • Hi Linda, thanks for your question. Sorry, I’m a bit unsure why you’re asking for images as the slideshows contain all the images? It may be a misunderstanding!


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