How to Break Glass
May 10, 2012 12 Comments
Today my friend made me go to a stained glass class. She said it was my idea, but I am pretty sure it was hers. Okay, I AM the one that signed us up, but I am pretty sure she said something about wanting to handle shards of glass with her bare hands. To start us off, the guy who owns the studio, henceforth referred to as “Glass Guy” picks up a panel of glass, describes its inherent glass-like qualities, and says, “Don’t hold it over your head. You will drop it and slice your skull in half.”
“Oh good,” I think, “A death hobby… just what I always wanted.”
After a very long diatribe of the different types of glass we should NEVER use because they are expensive and hard to cut and we have NO idea what we are doing, Glass Guy starts demonstrating the technique for creating a work of art in stained glass. Creating stained glass art turns out to be a little less dignified than I had imagined. It essentially amounts to breaking glass. Okay, the guy did explain he was influencing the glass, but really he was just breaking it.
In case you are interested in creating art, or in controlled vandalism, I will describe for you the steps in making a stained glass piece. First, you make a Mission Impossible style cut in the glass, like you are escaping enemy spies by slicing your way out of a plate glass window. However, the glass cutter doesn’t look like it can actually cut anything. It is more of a glass scraper. Glass Guy demonstrates proper technique by running the tool across the surface of the glass, creating a sound much like fingernails screeching along a chalkboard. He says it is important to apply about 12 pounds of pressure, adding that you can practice on your bathroom scale. He looks busy with his little glass scraper, so I don’t explain to him that I did NOT take this class so I could spend the day with my hands on a bathroom scale.
Then, something incredible happens. I am thinking for sure this panel of shards is about to go shattering everywhere. In fact, I have demonstrated my firm belief of that possibility by moving as far away from the glass wielding man as possible. I hold my breath as Glass Guy grasps the panel with his bare hands, pulls a bit… and snaps it cleanly in half. I’m amazed.
After describing how to not cut off your fingers while breaking shards of glass with your bare hands, Glass Guy proceeds to demonstrate several breaking and shattering techniques, including an impressive move with a tiny hammer that I was positive almost put out an eye.
After the demonstration, he begins the supply list. One of the main aspects of this list is a huge board with other boards nailed or attached to sides of it at right angles. He holds up the huge thing in both hands to demonstrate what the final product should look like. To anyone else, creating this board contraption might be within the realm of possibility, but not for me. I will not be going to the hardware store to obtain or cut wood. I don’t care how simple YOU think that is, it is incredibly complicated for me. Look, I know there is wood at a place somewhere, so getting a slice of wood is not the issue. You see, there are other sections of wood CUSTOM CUT to the first slice of wood. So even if I can find one slice of wood, how do I get the other ones to be the right size? Supposing, by some miracle, I get that far… what are those things holding all that crap together? Screws? Nails? Forget it… I’m out.
After noticing my obvious distress about the board-thing, or perhaps, noticing how my obvious distress is holding up his ability to get his class through the supply list, Glass Guy tells me he will make me one personally. He tells me that I can bring him $11.50 and he will have a board-thing all ready for me. While $11.50 seems an odd price for a bunch of wood nailed together, I am all about throwing money at the problem and readily agree to this solution. I consider asking if I can pay extra to have him paint it for me, as it would be fun to have a nicer board-thing than everyone else in the class.
Glad to have the wooden contraption dilemma behind us, I listen as Glass Guy begins describing the inherent dangers of soldering irons. This one, he holds up an example, you can get for $95. I look at it, impressed. Surely for that price, this thing might not kill me. Then, he begins telling us how this particular model can get too hot and melt or it might just skip the melting and explode. I begin wondering how much it is going to cost me to not explode. He then tells us, that we don’t have to run out and buy soldering irons. He says that we can simply bring the ones we have sitting around at home, along with any extra solder. Great… I thought we already established I don’t have stuff like that lying around. I don’t have plywood, and I definitely don’t have solder. Although, I can’t be too sure, because I haven’t checked the back of the fridge lately… there could conceivably be solder.
At that point, something happens that I least expect… (things are always happening when I least expect them). My friend states to Glass Guy that SHE has 3 or 4 soldering irons and wants to know if she can bring them in. I am about to give her an incredulous stare and say, “Who ARE you???” Instead, I pull myself together and ask her if I could borrow one. If I am going to be holding a device that can kill me, at least I won’t have spent $95 for it.
At long last, and with great anticipation (if by anticipation you mean dread) we finally get to cut something. I mean influence the glass. Fine, I mean break stuff. I am a little apprehensive about breaking panels of glass with my bare hands.
The fact that Glass Guy has dumped an industrial size box of Band-Aids on our table does NOT instill me with confidence. I’m halfway pissed off that he felt the need to put the crate of Band-Aids on OUR table, and halfway grateful that I won’t have to bleed that far, so I decide not to give him a hard time about it.
Glass Guy hands out panels of clear, non-tempered** glass, and some glass cutters and we are on our way. I make a feeble scrape across the glass and look at it unconvincingly. I must be using way less than 12 pounds of pressure. Where is a bathroom scale when you need one? I press a little harder. This time, I am rewarded with a faint screeching sound.
Okay… step two… breaking glass with your bare hands. I take a moment to admire the unscarred nature of my hands, take a deep breath, and then… snap. The glass gives way easily, dividing neatly into two pieces precisely along my cut. I was expecting an inordinate struggle, but the glass was cooperating with me. I almost cry.
This sudden snap in the glass is the only thing that has felt like home to me in days. With glass, there is no uncertainty, no life altering realizations, no thinking in circles. With glass, there is only a score and a snap. I relish the solidity, the feeling of clarity, the very act of working towards something tangible… scoring and snapping puts my mind at ease. With single-minded purpose, I plan, and score, and snap. The surface area of the glass quickly shrinks. Glass Guy, looking a bit surprised, or maybe pleased, brings me more panels.
Maybe I’m not doomed after all, at least not today. I’ll let you know for sure when I’m wielding the ancient soldering iron my friend remembered she had somewhere in a closet.
**It is very important to ONLY use non-tempered glass. Otherwise, you will be driving down the highway and a huge storefront window will come loose from the truck ahead of you, fly up into the air, and explode over your head. Don’t look at me, this came straight from Glass Guy. The world is a dangerous place.