I brought my pencil...gimme something to write on! Yeah, I keep thinking "cutting class" which brings David Lee Roth to mind.
Have you ever cut glass? I mean actually gone to the store and bought one of those little glass cutting tools and taken it to a sheet of plate glass? I highly recommend it.
I'm sure you've seen one or more movies where someone has some high-tech device involving suction cups and a diamond-point compass thing which they use to cut a perfect circle out of a window? You've heard that faint, eerie, high-pitched "squeeeeee" noise many times before, I'm sure. When the cut circle is completed our brave catburgler or footpad or 007 hero taps gently and the circle pops out like magic. You know the trick.
Did you know it actually does work that way? Kinda?
I have a 24 x 36 photograph that I ordered a year or more ago from a shot I took when I first bought my camera. It's of an old wooden trestle bridge over a creek, and I'd done it in B&W to play up the vertical lines of the piers against the trees behind it. I'd intended to frame the thing when I got the print, and one thing lead to another, you know how it goes. I had the frame, had the matte, just needed some glass to replace the old broken pane. Well, some months ago I found myself near the local glass company and stepped in and ordered myself a sheet of plate to fit. I brought the lot home, matted the photo, placed the frame face-down on the carpet to insert the glass and...voila, they'd cut it four inches too long. My full intention was to race off immediately to the hardware store and buy one of those little key-shaped tools, bring it back, get out the straight-edge and DIY.
Undaunted, I set the project aside, planning to go that evening to the hardware store. I missed going that day, and put it off. For three or four months. Maybe five.
I finally got tired of tripping over an empty frame and went to the hardware store. Bought the tool for a dollar or so. Brought the plate, a Sharpie marker, the tool, my safety glasses (thanx Norm!) and a steel straight-edge to the shop. Placed the lot on a flat surface, marked my cut, laid out the straight edge, and panicked.
What if it didn't work like I thought it did? What if I cut wrong? What if I pressed the tool too hard and the whole thing exploded under my hands? Was it worth losing feeling in my squeezing hand just for a framed print of a railroad bridge? "But enough of that," I told myself. "Get to it!" Screwing my courage to the sticking point I held the steel carpenter's square firmly, laid the tiny wheel against the glass and pressed gently, pulling backwards against the square.
It was...eerie. Utterly unlike cutting anything else, and I've cut a lot of things. Linoleum, rugs, paper, wood, cheese, all sorts of metals but none of those materials was like this. I could see the glass fracturing in almost microscopic slivers behind the cutting wheel, turning almost invisibly in it's aluminum housing. I could hear that eerie sound too, a weird mix of crinkle and squeal and crackle and some other things I couldn't identify. As my hand drew the tool along I could hear a definite cracking sound too, but no cracks were appearing. All that was visible was a long, very shallow score where the tool had passed.
With a bump the tool passed the end of the glass and dug into the wood of my worksurface. The Moment of Truth was upon me.
I'd seen it done before--put the cut over the edge of the table and snap it off. Thing is, I didn't know how much pressure it'd take. A lot? A little? Was it going to fall off or was I going to have to really get some weight on it? I took a deep breath, slipped on a leather work glove, gritted my teeth and started to press.
It went "pop" very quietly and suddenly I was holding a 24 x 4 inch piece of glass. The cut was perfectly fractured along that almost imperceptible line.
I went inside, slipped the glass into the frame, set in the matte, stuck the backer on, bend the clips back in place and hung the photo. The funny thing is that the print has been here so long I've sort of come to take it for granted, but the memory of that soft "pop," the ease of how it happened is still in my muscles, still in my mind. I felt like I'd been looking for the next step up on a long series of stairs but instead I'd found the landing and did that sort of goofy, arms-waving, off-balance dance.
Try it, if you get the chance. I doubt you'll forget the experience.
Post Scriptum--Jean brought it to my attention that I'd been remiss! So, here's a photo of the framed photo over my train-stuff collection.
I know it's hard to see but it's very difficult to get a good photo in a room small enough that the ceiling fan lights hang near the print in question. The print to the left is a reproduction of the front page of the London Herald reporting the first powered flight by the Wright Bros., and the right side one is a faux woodblock print of a steam-powered zeppelin.
I thought I had the photo itself uploaded here but I don't, and the original is on the computer that is currently down, but this is the same bridge, taken the same day, not yet converted to B&W.