How to Use a Fletcher Small Circle Cutter

Written by joe mcelroy
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How to Use a Fletcher Small Circle Cutter
Circle cutters are often used by crafters of stained glass. (Stained Glass Window image by Andrew Breeden from

Glass cutters are used extensively for making windows, framing pictures, and making stained glass. The largest hand-use circle cutters will produce glass circles or ovals with a width between 9 and 48 inches. The Fletcher-Terry Company, based in Farmington, Conn., patented the first American hand glass-cutting tool in 1868. It makes a circle cutter which will produce diameters of 4 1/2 inches to 21 inches. The circle cutter can produce both circles and ovals. (See ref 1)

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Flat glass
  • Hand cutter
  • Cut running pliers

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  1. 1

    Loosen the brass nut under the knob on the cutting head. This will allow you to move the cutting head to the desired width along the ruled arm which radiates from the base. Take the reading on the inside edge of the movable head. Once you have set the desired width, tighten the brass nut to secure it.

  2. 2

    Loosen the knob on top of the base to set the offset. Offset is used to score an oval. If you wish to make a circle, the offset is zero. You can add up to 3 inches to the length in creating an oval. Move the offset plate to the desired offset. The reading for the offset plate should be taken from its outside edge. After setting the proper offset, re-tighten the nut at the top of the base. If you have set a width of 5 inches and an offset of 3 inches, you will cut a 5-by-8-inch oval. The offset always adds inches in length to whatever width you have set.

  3. 3

    Move the retractable cutting wheel at the bottom of the cutting head so it is facing straight down. The cutting wheel retracts into the head at a 45-degree angle. Use a small screwdriver to move the cutting wheel, if necessary.

  4. 4

    Set the base at the centre of the glass you wish to cut. Turn the knob at the bottom of the base in a clockwise direction until the base adheres to the glass. This sets a vacuum seal with the glass.

  5. 5

    Start at the one o'clock position, and move the cutting arm with very light pressure to the four o'clock position. This will set the wheel. Then apply enough pressure as you move the arm full circle to score the glass --- that is, leave a clear mark by the cutting wheel. Too much force can cause rippled cracks along the score line.

  6. 6

    Turn the knob near the bottom of the base counter-clockwise until you can remove the cutter from the glass. Carefully place the glass upside down on a pliable, flat surface such as styrofoam or cardboard. Gently press your thumb along the scoreline until you hear a crack. The score will have deepened and cracks may radiate outward from the circle. Continue this technique around the outer edge of the score line until it is fully scored.

  7. 7

    Turn the glass right side up and place it on a table. With a hand cutter, make three or four cuts from the edge of the circle to the outside edge of the glass. These are termed radial cuts. With cut running pliers, remove the radial cuts and discard the scrap glass.

Tips and warnings

  • Getting the score line right is a matter of feel. If you have never done it before, you may need multiple attempts before you get it right. The Fletcher Company also makes a lens cutter that will produce circles of 1/2 to 5 inches in diameter. It provides a base on which the glass is set and uses a spring-loaded palm grip to equalise pressure when cutting. It will only produce circles.
  • Do not cut over an existing score line. Getting the feel can be tricky, but recutting an existing score line will produce bad results almost every time.

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