Don’t Tell Me What I Can’t Do.

I am in the process of building a pergola off the back of my house (it might technically be an awning, but it will be open on top like a pergola so that’s what I call it).
backyard concept

It’s partially a design element in the backyard, but the real reason I’m building it is so that I can add a railing and a gate to allow my 1.5 year-old daughter to be outside without having direct access to the pool.

I got a quote for some 3/8″ tempered glass panes early in the design phase of the project and while it was less expensive than I expected it was still a significant cost (about $500).

We started looking at alternatives and eventually decided that we could use welded steel railing panels from Home Depot, cut to length and framed by wood, and it would still look nice but be significantly cheaper.

I was okay with this plan, but not thrilled. So the night before I was supposed to buy the railing from Home Depot, I looked on Craigslist for “Tempered Glass” and found a guy selling pieces that were close to the right size for $40 total.

I called him, he still had the glass, I picked it up the next morning.

The plan now was to build the railing and slide the glass into 3/8″ channels after cutting it to the correct length. Test fit below for proof of concept:
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After building a section of railing to the point that it was ready to receive the glass, I went into the garage to cut the glass.

I have cut glass before, and it is a relatively simple process: score the glass with a glass cutter, then break the glass along the line. It’s worked pretty well for me in the past.

I set the glass on a flat surface, then used a straight-edge to guide the glass cutter and scored a line at 50″.
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According to prior knowledge, I then placed a metal dowel directly under the scored line and pressed down firmly on one end of the glass.

The whole piece of glass pivoted on the dowel like a teeter-totter.

I placed a heavy log on the end of the glass to hold it down and tried again.

The whole piece of glass pivoted on the dowel like a teeter-totter with a log on it.

Time to consult the internet…

Me: “Google, how do you cut tempered glass?”

Google: “you don’t.”

Me: “Google, there must be a way to cut tempered glass.”

Google: “two options: A laser cutter, or heat the glass in your oven to 900-degrees Fahrenheit and let it slowly cool before scoring and breaking it.”

Me: “has anyone ever successfully cut their own tempered glass at home?”

Google: “No.”

Me: “Challenge accepted.”

I placed clamps on the end of the glass that was prone to levitation and then placed another pair of clamps on the other side of the dowel. I placed a third pair of clamps directly over the dowel. All three pairs of clamps had 2×4 lumber under them to spread the pressure across the glass more evenly.

My first move was to tighten down the clamps directly over the dowel. The thought here was that the 2×4 was soft enough to sort of wrap around the dowel, applying pressure to either side of it and eventually breaking the glass.

I maxed out the clamping pressure… nothing happened.

Next I methodically beat the 2×4 furiously with a dead-blow hammer… still nothing.

So I began to tighten down the clamps on either side of the dowel, gradually increasing the pressure on one side and then the next… nothing happened.

Tighter… nothing.

TIGHTER… nothing.

TIGHTER…  nothing.

<put on earmuffs in addition to safety glasses>

TIGHTER… nothing.


…maybe I should re-think my strategBANG!
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Contrary to what the internet told me, I did get a fairly clean break at the score line.
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I have since gotten a revised quote for tempered glass with the final dimensions and it will cost about $420. Not bad.

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4 thoughts on “Don’t Tell Me What I Can’t Do.

  1. Pingback: Shh! The Baby’s Sleeping! | GarageSandals

  2. Pingback: Plywood Door – Part 1 | GarageSandals

  3. I really enjoyed this blog! I don’t know whether it was the glass breaking or just you proving the internet wrong, but you did it……… I think if I ever have to cut tempered glass I might build a couple hundred dollar outdoor oven. Very nicely written with a good surprise at the end. I think the reason I really enjoyed it is because of the reason I like this blog. You show your mistakes and that not everyone is perfect in their amazing handyman pursuit of perfection.

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