Stained Glass in 4 and a Half Steps

One of the questions I get all the time is about the process of creating stained glass pieces. So, here is my quick four and a half step illustrated guide to stained glass.

Step One: Cut the Glass

Cutting glass is a misnomer, actually the process is to score the glass with a diamond or carbide wheel and then break the glass along the score line. If you don’t score it properly or if your line is off, then the glass won’t break correctly.

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Step Two: Grinding Glass

Grinding glass is my least favourite part of the process because little bits of glass get everywhere. I always feel like I’ve been playing with fibreglass after I’ve been grinding glass. Grinding takes off the sharp spots on the glass and corrects any minor cutting errors.

Step Three: Applying Copper Foil

Copper foil is what makes stained glass stick together, although maybe not in the way you think. Copper foil is a very thin sheet of copper that has an adhesive backing. It is stuck to the edge of the glass and then burnished to make sure it sticks. But, it’s not the adhesive that makes stained glass work, it’s the soldering that we’ll get to in Step Four. The copper foil technique of stained glass was invented by Louis Comfort Tiffany, who used beeswax to stick the copper to the glass. When my foiling isn’t going well, I remind myself how finicky it would have been to have had to use beeswax!

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Step Three and a Half: Adding Details

Somewhere between the foiling and the soldering, I add in the extra details to my work, whether it be putting yarn and fibre in coasters or adding sand and beads to paperweights.

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Step Four: Soldering

Soldering is what holds stained glass together. The grooves and channels that are filled by the solder hold the glass in place. Soldering involves a hot soldering iron (be careful!). After soldering, I make sure to clean all my pieces with several different cleaning agents so that they stay bright and shiny.

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