Last Updated: Aug 06, 2019     Views: 1323

Thank you for your question! Both cutting and engraving are types of coldworking, techniques that alter the glass after it has cooled.

Cutting is normally employed for larger geometric designs and are rough cut with stone, ground down to smooth, and in most cases polished. When cutting, the glass worker must look through the glass, as the side of the glass that is being cut rests on top of the wheel.

In engraving, the wheel hangs and rotates on top of the glass.

Cutting tends to be in patterns, though there figurative and representational examples. Engraving is mainly representational.


Example of cut glass: Punch Bowl on Stand. Pairpoint Manufacturing Co. About 1910-1925. CMoG 2001.4.259.

The Corning Museum of Glass online glass dictionary has entries for both cutting and engraving.

Cutting: The technique whereby glass is removed from the surface of an object by grinding it with rotating wheels made of stone, wood, and cork. The first stage of the process employs a stone wheel under a continuous stream of water. Later, wheels of fine-grained stone and wood, fed with various abrasives, are used to grind and polish the surface.

Engraving: The process of cutting into the surface of an annealed glass object either by holding it against a rotating copper wheel fed with an abrasive or by scratching it, usually with a diamond.

Example of engraved glass: Engraved Jug. Ireland, Dublin. About 1870. CMoG 2010.2.1

History of Cutting and Engraving

According to The Complete Cut & Engraved Glass of Corning by Estelle F. Sinclaire and Jane Shadel Spillman the original goal of cutting was to add light and remove imperfections or dull areas of the glass.

When glass quality improved, cutting was still used to add light, but this time the bold and brilliance of the geometric patterns were the goal, rather than covering flaws.

“Engraving,” Paul N. Perrot notes in A Short History of Glass Engraving, “was employed to create smaller, more detailed work…. Pressed against the vessel or other object by the rotating wheel, the abrasive ground its way into the surface, the roughness of the cut being determined by the coarseness of the abrasive, the depth and width of the cut by the size of the wheel.”

Cutting and engraving have been used for centuries -- check out this 4th-century version of cutting found in the Lycurgus Cage cup!

Resource Guides

Interested in Technique? Check out the Rakow Research Library resource guide on coldworking, which includes resources about both cutting and engraving.

Interested in History? Check out the Rakow Research Library resource guide on Corning: The Crystal City, which includes a directory of 19th and early 20th century local cutting and engraving firms.





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