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AW Extra 11/15/12 - Glass for Woodworking


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

Plate 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

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 into cubes.

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,, 800-588-7435.

Outwater Plastics Industries, Inc.,, 800-631-8375.

Ed Hoy,

Spectrum Glass,, 425-483-6699.

Wissmach Glass Company,, 304-337-8800.

Kokomo Opalescent Glass,, 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

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