Stained Glass Supplies

Choosing a Stained Glass Grinder

What exactly is a glass grinder and what are they used for?

Stained glass grinders are used to shape glass after its been cut to a "rough" shape using a carbide glass cutter. So picking the best stained glass grinder is very important.  If you think of glass pieces in a finished stained glass work as being like pieces of a puzzle, its easy to see why each piece must fit exactly in order to have a fine finished stained glass picture. Glass Grinders use a diamond coated bit to grind off excess glass and prepare the glass edge to accept copper foil. Glass pieces can be perfectly shaped with a smooth and perpendicular edge, leading to more uniform solder lines and an overall better result. Most grinders come with two bits, also known as grinding heads. The larger bit (3/4" or 1") is used to shape larger pieces. The smaller bit is used for detail work and for grinding holes in glass. Although many people complete small projects without a glass grinder, using a sickle stone to shape glass can be tedious. Most people who plan on doing any type of stained glass fabrication for any period of time will benefit greatly from owning a stained glass grinder. Stained glass grinders are one piece of equipment that no serious stained glass hobbyist would want to be without. And an added bonus is that used stained glass grinders do very well in the resale market, so even if you only have a couple of projects you want to complete, your glass grinder will be a worth-while investment.
How to choose the best stained glass grinderGrinders are also commonly used by lampworkers (glass beadmakers) to shape the ends of beads. How do I know which stained glass grinder is best for me? You will choose your grinder based on how much you plan to use it as well as your budget. I always tell my students to buy a grinder that will meet their long-tem needs. I bought a small grinder (Glasstar G-12) and quickly wanted something more powerful and had to upgrade. The more expensive grinders, for the most part, remove the excess material much more quickly, which makes a huge difference when working on large projects. Lower-priced grinders are great for hobbyists and can be had for under $100 to about $150.00. These grinders are great for people who want to make a few projects per year. Cabinet makers often buy lower end grinders from me because they want to make simple glass door inserts. Mid-priced grinders are great for even advanced glass artists. They are the most popular, and range in price from $100-350. Mid-priced grinders include many grinders that are used daily by professional glass artists. I have been a professional glass artist for many years and most of my glass buddies use G-8 Glastar All Stars, Wizard IV, or G-9 disc grinders. I put WizCG grinders in my good starter kits and Wizard IV grinders in my professional kits.

Commercial Grade grinders range into the thousands of dollars and aren't designed for the consumer market. Comparing Grinders Its important when comparing grinders that you know what you're looking for. Important considerations are price, RPMs (how fast the bit turns), Torque (measured in inches - ounce, and tells how strong the resistance to the glass), Surface size (the area around the bit, also known as the table), Extra Features and warranty (DTI has a six year warranty, most other manufacturer's have a five year). Prices: range from under $75 to around $370.00 for low to mid-priced grinders. Torque: anything under 20 is going to be a little wimpy but great for hobbyists; 21-29 would be better for most people; 30-45 is going to be powerful enough for heavy use. RPMs: The larger the number the better. Average from 2,850 to 3600. Surface size: The larger surface areas are better for working with larger pieces of glass. Some have a smaller, second story worksurface which is helpful, especially when doing detail work. Extra Features: Some grinders come with sponge free cooling systems, built in eye shields, foot pedals, second story work surfaces, easy to change bits, built in accessory drawers, work grids that flip over, bevel conversion add-ons and other accessories. These are pretty much a matter of personal choice.
My Top Picks ~ Stained glass grindersThese top picks are based on customer feedback and personal experience. All of the top manufacturers make great machines! These are just my personal favorites. Hobbyist (under $100.00): The Wiz CG by Inland is about $99.99; 3500 RPMs; 30 Torque. This is a powerful and reliable machine. This is the best selling grinder in its class and the grinder I choose for my kits. Don't confuse this with the Wizling CG which is less powerful. I might also look at the Gryphette for under $70.00 if you're on a strict budget. Mid-Priced (under $175.00) The Wizard IV sells for about $160.00 and is a powerful (3,550 RPMs /40 torque) grinder with many great accessories including built in drawers and a second story work surface. I know many professional glass artists who use this grinder. It gives you a lot for the money! Serious Glass Worker ($176 and up) The G-8 All Star by Glastar sells for about $200.00 and is the machine that I use professionally. Not a lot of bells and whistles but great power (3,560 RPMs/42 Torque) and very reliable. I hope this helps as you choose your grinder. Most manufacturers have their own websites where you can get much more information.