Traditional suction centre circle cutters are widely available , but most do have a minimum circle size by design, determined by the size of the suction cup centre that they spin around. If you want to cut perfect circles smaller than 75mm or so, then a dedicated lens cutter is a must.
This unbranded blue based model was sourced on Ebay for convenience, but from what I can see, it is identical in the red base coloured Easycut Lens cutter that is available from stained glass outlets for around the same money, give or take a few pounds. It’s a weighty, all metal construction and has a circle cutting range from as little as 10mm diameter through to around 125mm. The base and neck are very sturdily made, as is the spring loaded turning mechanism. The cutting head is a centre threaded three wheeler, of the same style as the Ephrem’s bottle cutter, though a different diameter and thread mount size. It screws to the adjustable cutter arm, and locks up tighly with a thumb screw and locking washers. The base is clearly marked with a centre cross, complete with numerical markings to one side. The adjustable cutter arm is also marked on one side with numerical spacings.
The back face of the centre mount, though slightly ridged, acts as quite a useful backstop to help you keep the glass steady. There are no other glass restraining features on the glossy base, so that’s quite handy if you are just cutting a circle out of a comfortably larger piece of glass without the need for marking out. Where a more exact cutting position is required, then you will be reliant on trying to hold the glass firm using the centre cross guide, which I can imagine might allow scope for the odd slip, but I’m sure in such circumstances, some improvisation with sticking tape, packing out with spacing blocks or a thin non-slip matting or rubber could help.
Positioning the cutting head is relatively straight forward, as visibility is pretty good all round, and it’s easy enough to ensure the cutting wheel is at 90 degrees to the glass surface by rotating the arm around. The spring-loaded mechanism offers enough resistance to encourage you to place a firm downward pressure to contact the cutting wheel with the glass, and the operation to rotate is smooth and unhindered. It’s relatively intuitive to get the right amount of pressure to ensure a clean scoreline right from the first go, without the risk of pushing too hard. It’s all nicely weighted and designed. After lubricating the wheel, the first go at a circle produced a very clean score. It was relatively easy to see how the cut progressed, and the audiable scoring sound was clean through to the final click as the score met it’s starting point. One thing I noticed right away was that the circle was off-centre with the cross. After a few moments scratching my head, I realised the centre mount on my model had some play to move, so just needed tapped over and tightened up and all was fine. Just an observation noted in case anyone found a similar scenario. The 1-5 guide marks on the base suggest they are in centimetres, but it soon becomes clear they don’t scale up right, so using a ruler to convert to the number marking on the scale is essential. After that, you can set the wheel quite accurately using only eye adjustment with the base grid and the centre grove of the cutting wheel. Though problematic, with a bit of sensible judgement, you can get within a millimetre or so of a set diameter you might require. I know from experienced work colleagues, that there are few circle cutters that are accurate to the scale indicators. Manual checking is nearly always required, so though annoying, it’s not come as a great surprise.
How you chose to run and break out the glass circle is down to personal preference. Some might tap the score to visibly run, a glass-cutting colleague prefers to lay the cut face-down on a cutting table (firm felt), and push down on the score. Once ran, you can, like me, cut from the score to the glass edge at N,S,E and W, and break out the circle, ready for gentle arrissing for use in copperfoil or other hobby uses.
This lens cutter is a sturdy, and well designed tool for it’s rather specialised purpose. It might be considered a bit expensive a purchase for the occasional user who needs the odd small diameter circle cut, but it’s a quite good long term value tool for the money. It just works well right from the off, and unlike bottle cutters, has no real learning curve required other than knowing how to break out the circle, which those who want to cut circles will probably already know. One of those tools that just does what it says on the box, and does it pretty well with little user skill required. Having tried the alternative of hand cutting templated circles in a copper-foil class, I can see how this tool is much more preferable and accurate.
Pros: Sturdy, well made, accurate motion, easy to use, clean score, replaceable wheel
Cons: Lack of grip for small sizes or precise centres, scale not in millimetres. Initial outlay.
OVERALL RATING: 7/10