You might have seen stained glass on old European building windows, ornaments, or even lampshades. They don’t look like your ordinary glass, but something far more elegant and graceful.
You keep exploring countless glass shops and websites to find a good design for your living space but to no avail.
Don’t worry. If you possess a bit of craftsmanship and use the right tools, you can create almost any stained glass design you desire!
The challenge lies in carrying out the procedure. To create stunning stained glass art, you need to use the right technique. You can spend hours designing, cutting, and soldering work only to be disappointed on the final finish.
In this article, we will learn how to solder stained glass by using the proper tools and techniques. Following the right procedure will open the doors to more crafting ideas and achieve consistent results every time!
What Kind Of Solder You Need For Stained Glass?
Solder is an alloy that is made up of two metals usually tin and lead. There are multiple variants or grades of solder available that you can use on stained glass projects.
Picking the right solder for the job is essential as each grade has a different volume of metals. They have different physical characteristics, and the right grade will make a difference in your craftwork. Listed below are some of the commonly used solders for stained glass.
1. 63/37 Solder
This alloy is comprised of 63% tin and 37% lead. It is best used for decorative soldering as it can add embellishments on the completed piece. This variant will instantly solidify once the heat source is removed.
2. 60/40 Solder
This variant takes a bit of time to set compared to other grades. It is best used on copper foiled glass pieces as it takes time to solidify. It also produces shinier and even beads. You can create long streaks of liquid solder, which is great for forming long and smooth solder beads.
3. 40/60 Solder
Unlike the 60/40 solder, this variant stays in its liquid state for a short period. It also results in dull-looking beads. However, it can be on copper foiled pieces to reduce the possibility of fall-thorough when connecting bigger spaces in between.
4. 50/50 Solder
This grade is excellent at producing a flat seam between joints. When melted, the alloy stays in its liquid phase for a considerable amount of time. This makes it great for lead and copper foiled glass pieces.
Essentials/Tools You Need To Solder Stained Glass
Crafting stained glass can be extremely gratifying. To create amazing works of art, you need some supplies first. The tools you will require are quite versatile. They can be used for various crafting projects and are relatively inexpensive.
1. Soldering Iron
Soldering irons come in various types and power ratings. The device provides the heat required to join two pieces together. For the purpose of soldering stained glass, a 100W iron will suffice.
Solder is a material that joins the glasses together. Make sure to use a pure 60/40 solder. This consists of 60% tin and 40% lead that will firmly bond the glass pieces.
Flux is used to remove any oxidation on the metal surface. The liquid needs to be applied on the surface before being soldered.
This allows for better solder contact and prevents oxidation from forming after the pieces are joined. It also provides a durable bond between the metal pieces.
There are many forms of glass available, but the most commonly used glass is smooth and colored glass. Additionally, you can use textured and streaky glass to create amazing designs.
5. Glass Cutting Tool
There is a wide range of tools available to cut glass. You can use a glass cutter that makes a shallow score on the piece.
You can also get a glass grinder to chip away any odd edges to join the pieces perfectly. Grinders will also help you create deep cuts to add more curve to the glass piece.
6. Copper Foil
Copper foil is a tape that is used on the edges of the glass. By using this material you can solder the glass pieces together. If you are just starting to craft stained glass, use standard ¼-inch foil tape.
They are considered as a glass cutting necessity. Pliers are used to applying pressure to the glass score lines so that it detaches with ease. They have a rubberized tip to prevent any potential scratches on the glass.
8. Safety Goggles
Wearing safety goggles when cutting glass is a must. They will protect your eyes from flying shards the come off when cutting or breaking glass pieces. Make sure you get goggles that are comfortable to wear.
9. Stained Glass Patina
Patina is used on the joints after you have completed soldering them. Depending on the type of patina you choose, it will give the joints a black or copper look. It also gives them a more even finish.
How To Solder Stained Glass- The Steps
1. Cutting The Glass
- Select a sheet of glass and draw the desired pattern using a black marker.
- If you want to create a linear shape, use the glass cutter to make score lines on the glass. You can use a ruler as a guide to creating straight lines.
- For curves, use the cutter and score the glass following the pattern. You can use the grinder to create deeper curves on the glass pieces.
- Clean the pieces with a wet sponge to get rid of any glass powder.
2. Foiling Glass Pieces
- Start by peeling off the backing of the copper foil tape to expose the adhesive. Hold the copper tape on your strongest hand and the glass piece on the other.
- Gently apply the foil on all sides of the glass. Make sure the piece is properly centered onto the foil so that it covers the edges evenly.
- After the piece has been wrapped, gently press down on the foil onto the glass edges. This ensures that the foil is securely applied.
3. Positioning The Foiled Glass
- Draw the pattern you have previously made on a tracing paper. This paper will act as a guideline for positioning your foiled glass pieces. Stick the pattern paper onto a board.
- Place the foiled glass on the pattern carefully making sure they fit.
- Hold them together by taping the pieces on specific places. You can also use pins to hold them securely.
4. Solder The Stained Glass
- First, you will need to heat the iron until it is hot enough to melt the solder.
- With the help of a brush, apply flux on the specific joints that are crucial, and melt a small amount of solder on those joints.
- Hold the iron tip at a 45-degree angle to the glass. This will provide you with a consistent soldering seam every time.
- After the points are dried, you will need to solder the seams. Before doing that, brush flux on the seam.
- With the iron at one hand and the solder on the other, gently melt the solder along the seam of the stained glass. The solder will melt and drop onto the seam.
- Make sure you fill any tiny gaps with the solder. This will strengthen the piece.
- After the pieces are soldered and dried, turn the panel and repeat the process on the other side.
Tips And Cautions For Stained Glass Soldering
1. Adjust The Panel Accordingly
You shouldn’t be doubtful of moving the panel in the midst of soldering. Always move the panel carefully when you have to. This will ensure that you get the best possible angle every time and will make much easier.
2. Holding The Iron
Don’t start panicking when holding the iron. The last thing you want is dropping solder blobs and injuring yourself. Remember patience is key in this process.
Hold the iron just the way you grip a pencil. Lean the soldering hand on the workbench to prevent it from wobbling. This will give you much better control.
3. Keep An Eye On The Soldering Trail
As you are soldering the seam of the stained glass, it is a good practice to keep an eye out for the soldering seam behind the iron.
This will help you to achieve a consistent bead height as you are dragging the pool of solder down the seam line.
4. Always Keep The Iron Tip Clean
Solder tends to stick on the tip of the iron. By using a damp paper towel, you can keep the tip clean. A clean tip will give you a much better solder bead. This is because there will be no leftover gunk on the iron, that will mix into the solder.
5. Using Q-tips To Apply Flux
Q-tips are small and easy to handle. They can be used to apply flux at any point in the stained glass. They are relatively inexpensive and can be replaced by a new one.
You can also use them to clean off any dirt that is accumulated on the edges of the glass pieces.
6. Handle The Solder With Caution
Safety precautions must be taken into consideration when handling solder. As they contain lead, they can pose a serious threat to your health if it is accidentally ingested or contacted with an open wound.
Make sure you keep your hands clean and wear safety goggles and gloves as a precautionary measure.
7. Don’t Overdo It
One of the common mistakes made while soldering is overdoing it. If the seam doesn’t look the way you want it to be, you can fix it later.
By applying too much heat on a single point, you risk breaking the glass. Simply let the solder cool, ref-flux the seams and mend it.
Creating stained glass from scratch is a rewarding process. The procedure might seem a bit complex, but there is no doubt that you will enjoy every minute of it given that you use the proper tools and technique.
Stained glass is a beautiful work of art. You can express creativity by making some eye-catching stained glass designs if you know how to solder stained glass properly.
We hope that this article will help you to overcome some of the problems faced during the soldering procedure. We wish you the best in your next crafting project.