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Stained Glass Tips, notes and techniques

If you are new to stained glass making I have a whole bunch of really useful tips and tricks for you here. And some guidelines for designing and making them.


Quick Links to this section:

Main Page - Stained Glass Books - Tools and Kits - Stained Glasses - Tutorial - Tips and tricks - Tips for designing stained glass

A thought about Stained Glass

It is quite beautiful And this beauty is mostly attributable to the design. With a little practice you will get pretty good at the aspects of how to make it. It isn't that difficult. But the real challenge is doing the deisgn work, choosing the design, selecting the colors and the glass. This is where the art comes in. And that takes time and practice. I recommend ou spend time doing design work on paper. It will improve your work dramatically.


1. Design - At first you should keep it very simple. This will help you learn quickly. Make some small pieces first, maybe about a foot square. This will help you get a sense for cutting pieces and seeing how they fit together. You will begin to get a feeling for how accurate you need to be when making pieces. Straight lines are very easy to cut with a ruler.

Straight lines, curves and small pieces

A grinder - If you are just going to do a few small and simple pieces you can probably get by without a grinder. But if you continue you are going to need one. They are inexpensive. I got a small one that is very adequate for about 90 dollars.


The two types of stained Glass work: Lead came and copper foil

Lead came

Lead came is composed of lengths of lead with channels that you slide the glass into. It comes in different shapes and sizes. Here you see one type that goes on the end of glass and one that connects between sheets of glass.





How copper foil is laid


Copper foil is strips of copper foil that is adhesive backed. you stick it to the edges of the sheets of glass, place them up against each other then solder them together.





Soldering - You are doing three things when you solder the pieces together. You are moving the soldering iron, moving the solder and feeding the solder as you go. So, that takes a little bit of practice but you will get good at it.


Color schemes - When it comes to stained glass there are two very important elements, the design of it and the colors of it. Give careful consideration to the colors. You can even draw your design out and try colored pencils or even crayons to get a sense for how it will look. A change in color can dramatically change the appearance of your stained glass object.

Two ways to strengthen your piece - If you are making a large piece like I have done in the tutorial you have a couple of options to make it stronger.

First: You can add a metal frame all the way around the piece. This metal frame is called "came" and it has a channel in it that you slide the edge of the piece into. Then you solder it where the pieces join.

About Cutting Glass and the cutters:


The cutting wheel

With a glass cutter the thing that does the actual scoring of the glass is a small wheel at the very tip.




Glass cutterRed Devil Glass cutter -

If you just want to do a little bit of stained glass this type of glass cutter is sufficient. Just always dip it in a light oil before scoring the glass with it.



Glass cutter

Studio Pro Acrylic Pencil Grip Glass Cutter -

People who do a lot of cutting often opt for a cutter with an automatic oil feed.




Cutting Circles

How to cut a circle If you want to cut a circle manually you have a couple of options. These two illustrations show you. I prefer the second option. Either way, circle cutting takes some practice. Consider this when designing your window.

If you have a circle cutter or have acess to one I find it very easy to cut the circle by first using the cutter then manually adding the scores as in the second


About grinders -

The glass grinder

This is a little Gryphette diamond grinder. Very easy to use and nicely priced. You add water to it as you see here. The yellow sponge soaks up the water and touches the grinding wheel keeping it cool and helping lubricate the grinding.







Grinding glass

You simply lay your glass piece flat on the surface of the grinder and gently press it up against the grinding wheel. It will quickly grind at the glass.









A chipped end needing grinding

You can use the grinder to clean up your cuts made with the cutting tool. For example you can see the glass broke a little bit uneven. There is an extra bit of glass at the very corner here. The grinder will remove this quickly.








SHaping a corner

And you can also do shaping with a grinder. The dotted line shows the glass we need to remove so this piece will fit snugly against another piece. The grinder will remove and shape this quite easily and quickly.







lots of stained glass pieces

A stained glass piece can easily be composed of a complex configuration of pieces. Having a grinder makes fitting each of these pieces much easier. It helps a lot, particularly as you are learning because it makes up for inaccuracies in your cutting of the glass.







A glass grinderGryphon Gryphette Glass Grinder -

110V. The Gryphette offers the best value in a glass grinder today. The small enclosure houses a surprisingly powerful DC motor. Even when using 1" diamond bits, it is virtually impossible to stall the motor. The Gryphette is the perfect grinder for the occasional glass artist, student or classroom. The very low cost and convenient size will be appreciated by everyone who does not require the features of a larger grinder. Motor: 0.67 amp. Motor speed: 3000 rpm. Worksurface: 6.75" by 6.75". Base: 7.75" by 7.75". Base Height: 6.25" Weight: 6 lbs. Water Feed: Sponge. Warranty: 5 years. Shaft Diameter: 5/16".


Strong line

Strengthening your stained glass - A good rule of thumb is to not have any glass pieces that are larger than twelve inches. This will keep the window or the piece strong. And, copper foil is stronger than lead came so keep that in mind too. You can also add something called Strong Line. It is a steel reinforcement flat wire that you run between the pieces of glass. Typically you run a strong line or two horizontally across your window, right between pieces of foiled glass.

Available on amazon here




Where to run strong line

Here is where I ran strong line. Right across the whole window. The arrows show the length of it.





Designing a stained glass window or piece, tips:

When first starting out, your first few pieces, I recommend you stick with simple designs with lots of straight lines. Straight lines are easier to cut accurately and easier to match up when assembling things together.


An illustration of difficult cuts


Sharp curves can be tricky. Try to simplify them. Inside right angles can be difficult for a beginner. Think about breaking it up into separate sections.



Safety Tips for working with Stained Glass:

* I always wear safety glasses when working with stained glass. And I often wear safety gloves that are strong but not too thick. Being not too thick they still give me good feeling for the glass and the work. The big exception to using gloves is when using a grinder. Never wear the gloves when operating the glass grinder. If the glove gets caught in the grinder it can injure your hand or wrist.

* Keep your work area clean and use a bench brush often to clear bits and fragments of glass. Gently sweeping them into a trash receptacle.

*When working with lead came or solder I always wear rubber surgical gloves. That stuff leaves a residue. And always wash your hands thoroughly when done.

* When Soldering I wear a respirator and make sure I am in a well-ventilated area. That is lead fumes and the fumes from the flux.

*If you feel yourself getting fatigued then take a break or put the stained glass away for the day. When you get tired you are prone to making mistakes or not being focused. Accidents, burns and cuts can happen this way.

* About the soldering Iron. It gets to a thousand degrees in heat. This can cause serious burns. Take extra special care when handling it. And allow it to fully cool once you are done.


Soldering -

This is usually the most challenging part for beginners. It really isn't that hard. It takes a little bit of confidence that comes with practice. Here is my tip on soldering nicely.


SOldering stained glass

The thing to think about is there are three motions going on! You are moving the solder along the copper foil and you are moving the hot iron along the copper foil. That is easy to understand. Both are moving evenly and smoothly along the foil. But the real trick is in remembering that you are also feeding the solder. So it isn't just moving along the copper foil. But it is also moving in at an even pace to feed the solder.

And once you have soldered it doesn't mean it is done! You can go back and heat/move the solder or add more.




Illustration of well beaded solder

You are looking to achieve this. A nicely domed line of solder.






About Copper Foil

Master foil

The first thing to know about copper foil is that it oxidizes quickly. If it oxidizes it won't solder well. And this is why we apply flux. It breaks down the oxidation and prevents the quick oxidation that happens when you heat copper. It comes in a plastic bag and when you are done with it you should put it in a sealable plastic bag.

It does come in different sizes. So What size should you get? Well, if you are just a beginner, using average glass and doing typical pieces then 7/32 is quite good. Start with that.



Stained glass kit

Delphi Stained Glass Start-Up Kit -

Getting Started in Stained Glass is Simple with the Start-Up Kit We've taken some of our favorite tools and supplies for getting started in stained glass, and put them all in one ready-to-go start up kit, for maximum savings and convenience. Perfect for the beginner that wants quality tools to fit their workshop and budget. A Delphi Exclusive Start making beautiful stained glass projects right away. The included DVD provides instruction start to finish for your first project in handy sections for easy review. Top quality tools make it easy to get fantastic results from cutting to shaping and soldering. Kit Includes: Gryphon Gryphette Grinder Studio 100-watt soldering iron with built in temperature control 8 piece Wissmach English Muffle glass pack about 8" x 10" ea. Supercutter dry wheel glass cutter Delphi Stained Glass Made Easy DVD Breaker/grozer pliers Running pliers 60/40 Solder Copper foil Flux pen Marking pen Safety glasses



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