by Bob Beranek

In past posts we have discussed that gasket installations are a “lost art” in our industry. Gasket set auto glass parts are going the way of buggy whips and typewriters and only a relative few experienced techs still do them. Now I would like to discuss the second lost art in auto glass, laminated glass cutting for automotive use.

Prior to 1949, all auto glass was flat laminated glass that was cut to order for the customer. The auto glass professional got the make and model of the vehicle, pulled the NAGS cardboard pattern and cut the glass prior to arrival. Once the vehicle arrived, he would then install the glass in the frame and mount it to the vehicle or insert it into the gasket, job well done. After curved glass was introduced, the auto glass industry changed forever. NAGS stopped producing cardboard patterns and began a new business in publishing. We did not fabricate our own glass but bought it precut and formed. We didn’t price by square foot but by NAGS list price. Yes, change was inevitable.

It took years for most flat glass to disappear but disappear it did. Most auto glass now is already pre-cut and ready to install. Very few parts are flat anymore and the art of cutting laminated glass has gone by the wayside.

The next few posts I plan to submit are more for posterity than for practically, but there is still a call for the occasional cutting of flat laminated parts.

Back in the seventies when I began auto glass installation as a career, I not only learned replacement but I also was taught the three major parts of auto glass fabrication; pattern making, glass cutting and edge finishing. These are the titles of my next few posts. But, before we can get these subjects we need to first explain a little bit about the glass itself.

In my early days we had two types of laminated flat glass, sheet and plate. Sheet was considered glass used anywhere but the windshield (AS-2). Plate was used for the windshield (AS-1). Sheet was a little thinner than plate because the lamination was .015 inch or 1.5 millimeters in thickness rather than the .030 inch or 3 millimeters. Laminated glass is a more difficult glass to cut than normal annealed glass because of the lamination. The two glass sides must be cut perfectly and the lamination must be separated or premature fracture is possible. To make matters worse, the auto glass usage demands that the corners have radiuses which pose another cutting difficulty.

Doesn’t this sound like fun? It should, because it is. Once this skill is mastered, you will be a sought after professional with talents few possess. Think of all the money you’ll earn fixing and fabricating the glass on all the classic and antique vehicles in your market.

Next will be pattern making. Talk to you next week.

Comments (6)

  1. jerry said on 18-01-2013

    You make me feel soooooooo old. Gaskets and cutting lami are my thing.

  2. Daniel said on 19-01-2013

    Despite the trend of palte glass cutting obsoletion, I perform 4-6 jobs of this kind. Most customers arrive with Construction or other industrial machines that arise difficulties when about purchasing replacement glass. Not to mention that a great deal of them are manufactured years an years ago.
    Allthough I learned by myself the cutting technique some 20 years ago, the rate of sudden cracks of “hand-made” glasses dropped dramatically, and I proudly advertise this kind of job in my area of interest.
    I improved my technique while practicing in All American Autoglas of Lorton, Va, and I take this opportunity to thank again Mr.Albert Alaniz for his patience and wiliing to share his expertise with me.

    Looking forward to hear from you soon !

  3. Daniel said on 19-01-2013

    Despite the trend of plate glass cutting obsoletion, I perform 4-6 jobs of this kind,every month.

  4. Dean said on 19-01-2013

    I learned to cut at autoglass specialist years ago and still do it not as much as i use to! But love the art and seeing less and less every year. Hope to continue this art for ever!

  5. Bob Stombaugh said on 14-12-2014

    I started my apprentice training June 1963 and ended up selling my full service glass shop January 1999.(same building!) I didn’t let go of my NAGS patterns and to this day only do hotrods and classic car glass. most flat glass I cut out of 1/4″ float, do the edgework and have it tempered.(except windshields) laminated is too fragile and doesn’t come in the colors that some custom car owners desire. I’m pushintg 70, getting a little tired of slapping gasket sets into place. Looking for someone to train in the art and take over.

  6. Bryce C. Jones said on 23-01-2017

    Are any of you on the West Coast? I have been looking for someone to do my project. No luck finding an old piece in any salvage yard. 1959 Custom Bluebird School Bus. Photos upon request. Any help would be appreciated. Thanks!

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