Beginner’s Guide to Stained Glass
A basic tutorial about how to make stained glass creations, including the proper tools and techniques to use.
Courtesy of Delphi Glass
What You Need:
Listed with Delphi item numbers for easy reference
- #5066 Breaker/Grozer Pliers
- #5068 Running Pliers
- #5104 Glass Cutter
- #5163 Safety Glasses
- #5013M Iron Stand
- #5500 Flux
- #5141 Flux Brush
- #5561 Copper Foil
- #5002 Soldering Iron
- #3000 60/40 Solder
- #5169 Scythe Stone
- #5514 Flux Remover
- #5511 Black Patina
- #5165 Corkbacked Ruler
- #5086 Foil Shears
What You Do:
BASIC TYPES OF GLASS
- Cathedral – clear or colored glass that you can see through
- Wispy/Translucent – clear glass with opal streaks
- Opal – glass that allows light through but cannot be seen through
CUTTING AND BREAKING GLASS
SCORE: A light continuous scratch on the glass surface, extending from one edge of the glass to the other edge.
- A good score should look like a hair on the glass; a string is too heavy. Also, a good score has no breaks or gaps in it.
- Heavy pressure is not required and in fact can cause a poor break of the glass.
CUTTING: Hold the cutter as you would a pen or pencil. Don’t tilt from side to side, but keep the wheel perpendicular to the piece of glass. Drag your hand as you score to control the motion. Steering is from the elbow/shoulder, your wrist should remain motionless. Stand rather than sit while cutting.
- You can either push or pull the cutter. To cut straight lines pull; for shaped pieces push so that you can see where the pattern lines are located.
- Always score the glass on the shiniest or smoothest side.
- Make only one score at a time. Break the glass, then make the next score.
- Avoid running your score lines less than 1/2″ from the side of the glass.
- NEVER back up or re-score the same line.
- ALWAYS number your glass pieces
- Inside Curves or Tapered Cuts
- Score inside curves first
- Score outside curve, pinch tip of glass while breaking with running pliers
- Contour Cut: Use when breaking out a curved area too tight to break out with running pliers, or when other methods of breaking fail.
- Score along pattern line
- Make a series of scores parallel to original pattern line, 1/8″ – 1/4″ apart.
- Using Breaker/Grozers, break out parallel scores one at a time, working toward the panel.
- Two Fisted Grip – with hands in tight fists, place fingers together on bottom side of glass, with score line running between fingers. Place thumbs on top surface of glass, slightly apart, one on each side of the score. Press down with your thumbs, and up with your fingers to snap the glass along the score line.
- Running Pliers – have a curved jaw that allows for more control when making long or more difficult breaks. Line up score with indicator line on the upper jaw, placing pliers ¼” to ½” over the glass edge. Gently clamp down on the glass. Turn the set screw until you feel it just touch the glass, then back off the set screw slightly and squeeze.
- Breaker/Grozer Pliers – are used for removing pieces of glass too small for hands or running pliers. They have a curved lower jaw and a flat upper jaw, both with a serrated inner surface. Place the pliers approximately 1/16″ in from the glass, parallel to the score line, with the flat jaw on top. Use your other hand while applying the two fisted grip (described earlier) and bend pliers down and away from the score.
- Grozing – is the removal of flares, nibs and small pieces from the glass edge. Using one hand to hang onto the glass, roll the serrated surface of the Breaker/Grozer Pliers over the edge, removing unwanted glass. Grozing allows you to clean the glass edge for safer handling and easier foiling, as well as a better fit.
- Grinders – many types of grinders are available for quick and accurate trimming of cut pieces.
CONSTRUCTING PIECE PATTERNS (FOR OPAQUE GLASS)
- There are two methods of making piece patterns.
- Layer the following 5 items: original pattern, carbon paper, cutting or layout pattern, carbon paper, piece pattern (tag board, vellum, mylar).
- Trace over original pattern using a pen or pencil. Make sure to trace all lines.
- Number all pieces, designate color and direction if desired.
- Separate copies.
- Cut out piece pattern using foil pattern shears. Outside edges can be cut with regular shears.
- Place pattern piece on glass, trace around it using a permanent marker. If using other than smooth side of glass turn pattern piece over.
- When scoring glass, cut on the inside of the drawn line, so that the line is on the waste portion of the glass.
- Foil comes in assorted widths, thickness and backing colors such as silver, black, or copper backed. Selection depends on glass type and any effects you may be looking for.
- Beginners should start with the easy to handle 7/32″, 1.5 ml thick foil.
- Peel back 2″-3″ of backing from the foil, hold glass with the edge toward you, and apply foil to glass so that it extends evenly over both sides of the glass. Crimp (fold) over edges making sure to fold corners neat and flat.
- Burnish foil using fid or similar tool. Press foil flat against glass on the outside edge first, then both sides of the glass. Don’t scrub as you may rip the foil.
- Lay foiled piece over corresponding piece on working pattern.
No drinking, eating, or smoking while handling lead or solder! Pregnant women should avoid all soldering.
SOLDER TYPES: Solder is a mix of tin and lead in different proportions. Only use solid core types.
- 50/50 can be used for foil method and lamps.
- 60/40 best for either foil or lead.
- 63/37 can be used for decorative work
- Use lead free solder when projects will be handled–kaleidoscopes, jewelry boxes, or objects for young children.
SOLDERING A PANEL:
- Re-align pieces on pattern. Use push pins or layout blocks to hold together.
- Apply flux to copper foiled pieces.
- Tack solder at seam intersections by holding iron above panel and allow solder to drop onto panel.
- Completely solder seams by holding iron tip on the foil, perpendicular to the seam. Hold iron as you would a carving knife. Feed the solder into the tip as you move along the foil. Stop soldering ¼” from panel edge on all seams if you are putting a came edge on your panel.
- Allow panel to cool, then flip, flux and solder all seams as on the front. It is not necessary to tack solder the back. When flipping panel over be careful; any straight edges/seams can act as a hinge, and pull foil away from the glass.
- Apply edge came.
- When the front and back are completely soldered, wash thoroughly using warm water and soap (such as CJ’s Flux Remover #5514) and a soft brush. Clean both sides, then rinse well and dry.
- If solder doesn’t flow smoothly apply more flux.
- If seams bulge over the glass there’s too much solder. You may need to melt off the excess.
- If solder spits or bubbles there’s too much flux, wipe some off.
- Flat seams need more solder.
- Don’t stay in the same spot too long or the solder will bleed through or the glass will crack.
- Wipe your iron tip frequently on a wet sponge while you are soldering.
- Re-tin your tips as needed using a sal-ammoniac block.
- CAME: is used for edging your panel. Types include: zinc, brass, copper, and lead (lead needs to be stretched before using).
- Fit the side cames to your panel first, having them extend beyond and overlap the top and bottom of the panel. Then fit the top and bottom cames within the side cames. This will leave the top of the side cames open for the rings. Solder the corners and all seams where they meet the came.
- Place a ring over the opening at the top edge of the zinc. Flux, and solder the ring securely.
- Clean your panel with flux remover, then dry.
- Lead came can be used for oval or round frames but remember to stretch it first. A came bender can be used to bend zinc, copper, or brass.
- WOOD: Frame your panel with zinc or lead first. A wood frame is optional. Silicone or glazier points can be used to secure the panel to the frame.
- A chemical used to change the color of soldered seams to black or copper.
- Make sure that your panel is completely cleaned before applying patina. With latex gloves, apply patina to soldered seams using a small brush, a cotton rag or paper towel; add patina as needed. Patina the front and back of the panel, then rinse clean.
- Apply a wax coating to help keep your panel from oxidizing. Hang your panel with a chain that will support the weight of the panel.
For more information, visit Delphi.