How To Cut and Solder Stained Glass

You see it in churches and museums and wonder how it is made. Yes, stained glass windows have become a part of culture as early as the time of the Crusades. It was considered art back then and is still considered art today. There are actually two ways to create stained glass. The first is through staining the glass with paint based on a pattern. Basically, the glass is fitted into a frame as a whole and painted on with colors based on a pattern. The other way involves cutting colored pieces of glass and assembling them like a jigsaw puzzle, again, based on a pattern. The pieces of glass are then soldered together using copper or lead foil to create the glass artwork as a whole. The latter is the most difficult to manage since each piece of glass will need to be cut in precision so that it will fit together perfectly as seen on the pattern. Here are some steps on how to cut the pieces of glass and solder them together to perfection.

Prepare the materials. For this project, you will need the following:

  • A clean workstation with a fairly large table.
  • Multiple copies of the pattern. One copy should be printed in the actual size and dimension you will be using for the stained glass project.
  • Pieces of colored glass in relation to the requirements of the pattern.
  • A pair of glass shears or a glass cutter.
  • Sheets of copper foil.
  • Soldering iron.
  • A glass marker.
  • Goggles for eye protection.
  • Glass cleaner and a couple of clean cloth towels.

Prepare the pieces for cutting. Since you have multiple pieces of colored glass which you will be cutting based on your pattern, you will want to get the cuts just right. To do this, you will use the stained glass artwork pattern to trace and outline the pieces needed from each colored glass. For instance, say you need a couple of pieces of green glass, set the pattern on a table and place the green glass on top of it, specifically, where the green glass on the pattern is. Get your marker and trace the outline on the glass. This will be your guide as you cut the glass to the specific size. Repeat the process until you complete tracing and marking each piece in the pattern.

Start scoring the glass
. Scoring means that you will create the indentation on the markings you made on the glass so that it will be easy for you to cut it with your glass shears later on. To do this, simply lay the glass you will be scoring down on the table and whip out your glass cutter. Firmly, trace the marking on the glass with your cutter. At this point, the scoring should be fluid and smooth. Never score the mark more than once as this will ruin the edges of the glass.

Cut the glass
. Use your glass shears and start cutting the glass along the score you made with the cutter. If you do not have glass shears, you can actually use your short nosed pliers, the one with a beak like end, to break off the piece from the score. This will entail delicate work, which is why using glass shears may be a better option for a newbie. As soon as the glass has been cut, smooth its edges by running it through a grinder. Of course, make sure that the cut glass fits the piece on the pattern before doing this. Precision is key here.

Prepare the pieces of glass for soldering. Once all the pieces of glass has been cut and fitted together, take each piece and wrap it with copper foil. You may use lead foil as well but this type of foil may be harder to find. Wrap each piece with copper foil and put them back in place. Make sure that the foil is flattened and smoothed onto the glass. You can use a lathekin if you have it for this. If you have none, then use something flat that can smooth out the copper foil.

Start soldering
. Once all the pieces have been placed together, heat up the soldering iron and go to town with it. You will need to apply some soldering lead at the seams of glass with the copper foil. This will hold the pieces together initially as you continue to melt the copper at the seams.

Once you have completed the soldering phase, remove all the excess foil and wash the new stained glass artwork you have created. You can use soap and water for this. Wipe it dry with a towel afterward. Finally, install a wooden frame around it. Depending on the size, you can use it as a window or hang it on a wall.


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