Glass for Woodworking
By Brad Holden
Once you delve into the world of glass, you may find there’s
no turning back. Glass is a versatile material. When you want
to display a cabinet’s contents, a glass door panel lets your
favorite china, glassware or collectables shine. Stained or textured
glass, also known as art glass, can add a bright visual element on a
piece of furniture. The choice of colors is practically endless.
Textured glass can be etched or sculpted. The patterns
range from geometric to impressionistic.
Glass is often used for shelves in display cabinets. Glass
shelving allows light to pass through and better illuminate
the entire cabinet interior. They eliminate the hard shadows
cast by wood shelves.
Glass is a good choice for a tabletop when the base is
the focal point. If you’ve poured your heart and soul into
a beautiful base, you
don’t want to bury it
under a solid wood top.
This story will introduce
you to the basics of
selecting and buying
glass for your projects.
We’ll review the different
types of glass, edge treatments
and thicknesses so
you’ll know what to ask
for when you walk into
your local glass supplier.
Plate Glass Vs. Tempered Glass
We’re most familiar with this type of glass . Plate glass is available
at hardware stores and home centers in thicknesses
from 3/32-in. to 1/4-in. It is commonly used for windows,
glass doors, door panels, tabletops and shelving.
Art glass is often 1/8-in. plate glass. Textures or patterns
are added by running the molten glass under an
imprinted roller. The texture or pattern is on one side so the
glass can still be cut in your shop.
Click any image to view a larger version.
Tempered glass can take a hit. It has twice the impact resistance of plate glass.
However, this is true only on the face of the glass. Tempered glass is actually more prone to shattering
when struck on its edge. That’s why tempered glass is not recommended for shelving even
though it can carry four times the weight of plate glass. Use tempered
glass for large doors, or doors below counter height that are
susceptible to impact. Tempered glass can be used for frameless
glass doors, as long as they are fully inset, so the edge is protected
when the door is closed.
Tempered glass costs twice as much as plate glass. It must be special
ordered from a glass supplier and cut to size before the tempering
process. Tempered glass cannot be cut so it’s best to have the
glass in hand before you build. Art glass cannot be tempered
because of the trapped air bubbles from the manufacturing process.
Plate glass shatters
into razor sharp shards
when it breaks.
When tempered glass
does break it crumbles
Choose the Right Plate Glass Thickness
Choose an Edge Treatment
Cut glass has sharp, rough edges that
need some kind of treatment if it is going
to be left exposed. Two common edge
treatments available at most hardware
stores are the pencil grind and the flat
grind. Both grinds can be polished to a
high gloss or left with a satin look.
Specialized glass suppliers offer more decorative
edge treatments, such as bevels,
ogees, and other molding shapes. Some of
these shapes can only be done on glass
thicker than 1/4 inch.
(Note: Product availability and costs are subject to change since original publication date.)
Glass Source for Woodworkers, theglasssource.net,
Outwater Plastics Industries, Inc., outwater.com, 800-631-8375.
Ed Hoy, edhoy.com.
Spectrum Glass, spectrumglass.com, 425-483-6699.
Wissmach Glass Company, wissmachglass.com, 304-337-8800.
Kokomo Opalescent Glass, kog.com, 765-457-8136.
Your Local Yellow Pages, under Glass, stained and leaded.
(Outwater and Think Glass sell directly to the public.
Other sources will refer you to someone in your local
area where you can purchase their products).
This story originally appeared in American Woodworker July 2007, issue #129.
July 2007, issue #129
Purchase this back issue.