I remember as a child looking at the stained glass windows in the Presbyterian church every Sunday. I was mesmerized watching the light stream through the panes. I always wondered how the windows were made. When I was older I fell in love with Tiffany lamps. I also wanted to know how the lamps were made. So I did.
I read books. I researched the internet. I knew I had to make a stained glass window. Please be advised that I am way oversimplifying this craft. It would be impossible to explore the entire process of stained glass in five paragraphs, but I will try to pack a lot of information in a little space. Also, glass shatters and there are tiny pieces that fall all over your workspace so chances that you get shards in your fingers is a guarantee. Safety first, always.
Two methods are used to make stained glass. Leaded or unleaded. The traditional method was made with lead came. The lead came would wrap around the glass shapes and they were soldered together. Lead is pretty toxic so now there is a zinc came alternative. The unleaded method uses copper foil tape to wrap the edges of the glass before being soldered together. This was the method I used because lead poisoning scarred me little.
You have your design, now it’s time to cut the glass. Oil cutters, grozer pliers, running pliers, and goggles are what you’ll need to get started. In order to cut glass, an oil cutter is used. The oil cutter is not cutting the glass like a pair of scissors, it is scoring the surface in order to snap the glass along the score line. This takes practice and patience. It can be a little scary the first time you cut the glass. I thought that it was going to shatter the glass all over the place. For my first projects, I stuck to straight lines.
Your project is like a puzzle. It’s a good idea to keep the pieces numbered. Clean the glass pieces, there is oil residue on them and the copper foil won’t stick well. Now wrap each piece with the copper foil. When you are done, it’s time to solder! Soldering the pieces is like seaming a quilt together. Again this also takes practice and patience. The final step is to use a “U” channel of zinc to go around the perimeter of the finished piece. And you’re done. Essentially.
Is it really that simple? On paper it is, but actually scoring and rounding glass takes time and practice
There are tools for sanding and cutting glass. There are so many tools that are used when making stained glass. Remember to wear safety glasses and make sure your studio space stays clean. And check out some books on stained glass and you’ll be on your way to your very first piece.
So if anyone out there has made stained glass or has any tips or tricks please feel free to leave a comment below. Have a wonderful day.