Dear Glass Detective,
A friend and I are planning to build a secure, yet (hopefully) beautiful museum display for a small non-profit organization Bible display. We have a very small budget and are trying to economize as much as possible. To that end, I was thinking of purchasing a used glass door and cutting it to size. The dimensions will be approximately three-feet by three-feet. Your article, “On Glass Shops & Cutting Tempered Glass,” has convinced me that this is probably not a good idea. Could you recommend a cost-effective alternative? I live and work in St Petersburg, Russia, so I’m guessing that you don’t have any glass-shop referrals for me.
Thank you for your time.
St. Petersburg, Russia
Thank you for making contact with the Glass Detective with your question about whether or not it might be a good idea to buy a used piece of glass to modify for a display case that you are building. While this sounds like a very simple question that deserves a very simple answer, you provided other information which complicates the matter quite a bit—maybe not for you, but most certainly for me.
You stated that the glass you are looking to acquire is a used piece of glass from a door. You further informed us that the glass, after being cut to size, is going to be used in a display case that will house a Bible. You then mention that you are on a tight budget as well. This makes the idea of buying a used piece of glass and repurposing it instead of buying a new piece of glass appealing. You further complicate this for me by letting me know that you are in St. Petersburg, Russia—wow!
The Glass Detective has answered a number of questions from outside of the good ol’ USA, but you are the first from Russia. I thank you for this. Let’s get down to business and see if I can provide something of value to you in the process of answering your question.
Firstly, I am not familiar with Russian building codes. Here in the United States, a piece of glass removed from a door is most likely going to be safety glass (laminated or tempered). You can find out more about the differences in these products by referring to our Laminated Glass vs. Tempered Glass blog article. If the used glass you acquire is laminated, it can possibly be cut to size and repurposed for your display case. If it is tempered, it cannot be cut. The glass will explode as soon as the surface is penetrated.
Now, you may ask, “How can I tell if the glass is tempered or laminated?” In the USA, a piece of tempered glass will have a marking in one of the corners that will let you know it is tempered. It is called a tempered “bug”. This may or may not hold true in Russia as well. Check your local building codes.
Laminated glass is also required to have a permanent identifying mark when used in a door, but because laminated glass is often sold in larger sizes that are re-cut for smaller requirements, the identifying logo is sometimes not present. You can however, easily identify a piece of laminated glass by looking at the edge of it. It is going to be comprised of at least three layers; a sandwich if you will, with two pieces of glass and a vinyl inter-layer between them.
The glass is going to be used in a display case, and I am going to assume the Bible therein has some monetary or other type of value. Therefore, you will want to use laminated safety glass. This will provide viewer safety and also offer a bit of protection from theft or damage to the Bible itself.
Lastly, you state that the glass size is three-feet by three-feet. Based on this I am going to suggest, without knowing how you intend to install or frame the glass, that you use a piece of laminated glass at least one quarter-inch in thickness. In regard to cutting and framing the glass, please leave this to a glass professional. Glass is dangerous to work with and can cause serious injury if improperly handled.
The Glass Detective is a regular reader of the Bible himself. I am herein going to offer to provide you with a piece of glass for your display project at no cost whatsoever to you, except to pay for boxing and shipping from Chicago, Illinois to St. Petersburg, Russia.
I hope this information has been of some value to you and I thank you again for contacting the Glass.com Glass Detective.