Working in Stained Glass: Part 3 – Soldering

Other than grinding the glass pieces, soldering is the messiest part of working in stained glass. Soldering involves both chemicals and high temperatures, so I have a separate part of my workbench dedicated to this part of the process.
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Because of the fumes that are released during soldering, I have a fan that sucks the fumes away from my workbench and vents them outside. That’s the silver tube in the upper part of the photo.

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The first step when I’m soldering is to apply a chemical flux to the copper foil. This causes a chemical reaction that allows the solder to bond to the foil and spread smoothly along the seams.

I use a 100 watt Weller soldering iron, which is a fairly standard iron that a lot of stained glass artists use. Working with lead-free solder, I’ve found that using a high temperature tip makes a big difference. I use an 800 degree tip, which is more than twice as hot as your standard oven temperature!

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The first thing I do when I’m soldering is to tack solder the pieces together to make sure they fit properly. That way, if I do need to recut or regrind a piece, I won’t have to completely undo all my soldering, which generally means taking off all the foil and starting over.

In the upper left, is the brass sponge that I use to clean my soldering iron tip as I’m soldering. Because of the high heat, soldering irons tend to build up a layer of black gunk (dirt and impurities that burn up during the process) that need to be cleaned off regularly. Using water and a regular sponge is often recommended for cleaning iron tips, but I found the water to be quite damaging, switching to the brass sponge has made a huge difference.

Photo 11The final soldering step is to finish all the seams and coat all the copper foil with solder. I want my seams to look as smooth as possible, so usually spend some extra time to smooth out the solder.

The final step to complete the piece is to clean it. Cleaning is probably the most important step to ensure that the seams of the piece look as good as possible. I use a 3 step process for cleaning, first I wash all the seams with a mixture of ammonia and water. Secondly, I rinse off the ammonia using dish soap and water and finally, I polish the seams using a clear car wax.


Just like that, they are all shined up and ready to go!

Click here to read Part 1 and Part 2 of this series.



Working in Stained Glass – Part 2: Grinding and Foiling

This is my second post on the process of working in stained glass. Click here to read Part 1.

Once all the glass pieces have been cut, I use a grinder to smooth out the edges and correct any minor cutting errors. A glass grinder has a bit that is coated in diamond dust and a water reservoir that keeps the bit and glass from getting hot. Grinding is very, very messy as little pieces of glass get everywhere and it’s probably my least favorite part of the process.


Once all the edges are ground, I rinse the glass to get rid of any bits of glass or felt pen marks and then it’s time to foil the pieces. All of my stained glass pieces are made using the copper foil technique. This technique, which was made popular by Louis Comfort Tiffany, uses pieces of very thin copper tape to cover the edges of each pieces of glass. The copper tape that I use has an adhesive on the back, in Tiffany’s time, they used beeswax to attach the copper to the glass.


Copper foil comes in a variety of widths. I use 1/4″ wide foil for most pieces and 1/2″ for pieces where I am plating two pieces of glass together. Once the foil has been wrapped around the edge of the pieces of glass, I burnish the foil so that there are no air pockets and that the foil is well adhered to the glass.

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The copper foil acts as an interface between the glass and the solder (which we will get to in Part 3) and gives the solder a substrate to stick to. Next step: soldering the pieces together!

Working in Stained Glass – Part 1: Cutting Glass


I often get questions about working in glass. This is the first part of a more in-depth look at the steps that go into creating a stained glass project.

When I purchase my glass it comes in large sheets, like the ones pictured on the left, which are 2 feet (60 cm) square. Glass can come in sheets up to 4 feet by 8 feet, but that’s generally too large for me to handle. Even with the 2 foot square pieces, the first thing I usually do is cut them down to 1 foot (30 cm) square pieces for easier handling. Almost all the glass I use is made by Spectrum Glass, which I love because  the colors are beautiful even when the glass isn’t held directly to the light.1editIMG_4212


Because I tend to create smaller pieces, I prefer to work on multiple projects at once, so I will cut the pieces for 20-40 projects at once. I usually will pull out all the colors that I want to use so that I can cut as efficiently as possible.



Cutting glass is actually a misnomer. “Cutting” glass actually involves scoring the glass with a carbide cutter and then breaking the glass along the scored line. I use a glass cutter that has a built-in reservoir that can hold a lubricant. This means that the carbide cutting wheel lasts much, much longer than an ordinary cutter.


My glass cutter is the yellow tool in the above photo. I use the pliers to break the glass after I’ve scored it, by tapping along the score line and then snapping the glass with my pliers. Some stained glass artists use a light table to draw their patterns onto the glass, but I’ve always preferred to trace a paper pattern onto the glass, partly because I feel that it gives me more control and partly because I use a number of opaque glasses that wouldn’t work on a light table. Many of the items I make involve straight lines, so I have lots of rulers. The brush keeps my work top free of glass splinters which can scratch the glass (and cut me!).


As I’m cutting, I stack up the different pieces for the different projects into the appropriate piles to await grinding, which is the next step in the process.


I save any leftover pieces that are large enough for other projects.


Pieces that are too small to be reused go into my throw-away bin, although I generally have been able to give them away to people who are doing mosaics.

Part 2 of this series will talk about grinding glass, which is the next step in the process of creating a stained glass project.


Christmas Contest

Enter to win this stained glass pyramid paperweight, including free shipping to anywhere in North America.


To enter, visit my Pinterest page and look for the 12 Days of Christmas boards. Enter your name, email and a theme from one of the boards into this entry form:

You may enter once for each Pinterest Board theme so be sure to visit my Pinterest page regularly between now and December 10 as new Christmas boards featuring DIY craft ideas, recipes, Christmas adventures and gift ideas will be added regularly. Contest draw date is December 10. No purchase required to enter.





One Week to Go – Craft Fair Checklist

There’s a just one week to go until the first craft market of the season – eekkk! I’ve made as many items as I’m going to, now it’s a matter of figuring out what else I need to bring. To that end, here’s my craft fair checklist:

  • Display items – table display (be sure to bring ALL the pieces), shop sign, backdrop and frame, tabletop display racks, tablecloth, lights, extension cords, power bars
  • Sale supplies – cash float (I usually bring $200 in small bills), receipt book, extra price tags, business cards, inventory list, calculator
  • Packing supplies – bags, tissue paper, tape, pens, extra ribbon
  • Cleaning supplies (for both my items and to keep my display clean) – lint roller, glass cleaner, polishing cloth
  • Tools (for making small repairs) – pliers, scissors, wire, screwdriver, duct tape

That’s a long list – now I just have to find everything and get it packed up and ready to go!

For anyone in the Nanaimo area, please stop by the Etsy Made in Canada Market at the Nanaimo Museum from 4-9 pm on Saturday, September 27. There will be appetizers, gift bags for the first 50 visitors and more than 40 amazing vendors. Admission is free!


Craft Market Tips for Buyers and Sellers

Made-In-Canada_728x90_EN_grayTomorrow is exactly one month until the Etsy Made in Canada pop-up market at the Nanaimo Museum. I’m excited to meet some of my fellow Etsy sellers and to hopefully see lots of new and familiar faces come through the doors.

It’s been more than 2 years since I’ve done a craft market, so I’ve been reviewing my display set up and making lots of to-do lists. Plus, I always like to revisit my old set-up and make it better if I can.

One of the challenges about getting your display right is that booth and table dimensions vary from market to market, so it’s important to build some flexibility into your booth. Creating a gorgeous 8 foot shelf isn’t going to help when your booth is only 6 feet wide. Also, make sure that your display (plus all your inventory and equipment) fits into your car – you can’t set it up if you can’t get it to the show!

The booth size at the Etsy Made in Canada market is quite small – only 6 feet by 4 feet which includes a 6 foot by 2 foot table. For a larger booth, I would bring a free-standing display to put my suncatchers and hanging items on, but this time there simply isn’t enough room. So, I’ve had to get creative and I think I’ve actually come up with a design that will be even better than what I had previously. I will post pictures of my new and improved display as soon as I get it built!

One component for my new booth display.

One component for my new booth display.

In the meantime, here are some of my favourite craft fair tips, for both buyers and sellers:

Tips for Sellers

  1. Bring more inventory than you need

Seriously, if you’ve made something and it’s for sale then bring it to the market with you. Having too many items is a far better scenario than having too few. I usually try to have between 200-300 items for a sale, but that number will vary depending on what you sell. If you sell jewelry, you may need more and if you sell large wooden bowls, you may need less.

How much inventory to bring? It's almost impossible to bring too much.

How much inventory to bring? It’s almost impossible to bring too much.

  1. Be at eye level

Craft markets are (hopefully) busy places. There’s a lot going on and you want to make sure that people can see your work. The best way to do this is to build a display that gets your work up off of the table. Also, using different levels make your work more eye-catching.

  1. Don’t read your book

Speaking of eye-catching – you want to be at eye level as well, so prepare to stand, or bring a tall stool instead of chair. It seems like every show I go to, there’s a vendor who is huddled out of sight behind their display (sometimes with their book, sometimes not) and it’s as though this has created a black hole in front of their booth. No one wants to engage with someone who doesn’t want to be there or who they can’t see.

  1. Bring a “show-me” piece

A “show-me” piece is a super-sized piece that showcases your work. If you have the ability to create a piece that’s bigger or showier than what you usually make, bring that piece to the show. You might not sell it (although it feels amazing if you do!) but it’s basically a giant billboard for your booth that shouts “Look what I can do!”.

This stained glass girl is over 2 feet tall. She makes a great show-me piece for a market booth.

This stained glass girl is over 2 feet tall. She makes a great show-me piece for a market booth.

  1. Figure out the flow

As well as making yourself approachable, make sure your booth is approachable. This is especially important for larger spaces, where there is a temptation to create a booth with a dead-end alley. Unfortunately, this means that many buyers will skip by you entirely as they don’t want to get trapped inside your booth. Make sure your spaces has a good flow so that buyers can naturally pass through without feeling constricted.

Tips for Buyers

  1. Buy what you love

This may seem obvious – who would buy something they hated? But, how many times have you talked yourself out of buying something and then regretted it later? If you truly love it that should be enough justification to take it home.

If you love it, buy it. You might not get another chance.

If you love it, buy it. You might not get another chance.

  1. Buy it when you see it

The magical thing about craft markets is that they are often filled with one of a kind items that you will never see again. While it’s easy to convince yourself that you will follow up with a vendor after the show, more often than not, that business card will end up at the bottom of your drawer. (You know the drawer, the one that you’ve been meaning to clean out since March?)

  1. Don’t be afraid to approach sellers

Yes, I want to sell things when I’m at a market. And, I’d love to sell them to you. However, making eye contact and having a conversation with a seller doesn’t mean that you’re about to be drawn into a high pressure sales pitch. Saying hello and asking a question doesn’t mean you’ve committed to buying something.

  1. Don’t be afraid to walk away

On the other hand, sometimes something will catch your eye from across the room and disappoint when you get closer. If it’s not right, don’t take it home.

  1. Respect quality and price

Part of the experience of going to a craft market is getting to see unique, handmade items that you can’t find anywhere else. Handmade generally means that the seller designed, prototyped, handcrafted, photographed, marketed and did a thousand other behind the scenes things to create their items. Unfortunately, the sad reality is that most craft sellers are under-pricing their work. Trust me, no seller wants to hear “I could make that myself” or “I can get that for $5 at Walmart.” Respect the work that goes into each item and the price that reflects that work.

Those are my top craft fair tips – what are some of yours?


Share the Love – Shop Global, Shop Local

One of the amazing things about selling online through Etsy is the ability to send my creations to places all around the world. I’m still somewhat in awe of the fact that someone in Italy has a set of my coasters or someone in Australia purchased my desk organizers.

Etsy has also given me the opportunity to see how many amazing artisans there are in my back yard. Here are some of my favourites from around Vancouver Island:

Highberry Dew is also from Duncan BC. Her work combines whimsical watercolors with fantastic design to create unique cards and gift tags.

I have a soft spot for ravens, so i love this metal jewelry from ImagesbyKentOlinger from Chemainus BC which is a nice mix of beautiful and fun.

Silver Cedar Jewelry from Cortex Island features local flora and fauna hand cast from silver and gold. Amazing life-like detail.

Emburr pottery from Brentwood Bay features fabulous hand stamped and hand painted pottery.

Finally, not that I’m biased, but for handcrafted wood picture frames and other woodwork, visit my partner’s shop at Balsamroot Woodwork.