glass basics for beginners. Try your hand at the wonderful craft of Stained
glass. Create your own Stained glass crafts, hangings, boxes, windows and much
more. Stained glass crafts make wonderful gifts and great decoration.
Handling Safety Tips
- Always carry glass in a vertical position. Never pick it up or move it in a
horizontal (flat) position. The correct way to pick up and carry a glass sheet
is to grasp it with both hands by the top edge or, for a larger (heavier)
sheet, pick it up with one hand on the top edge and the other hand supporting
the weight on the bottom edge.
- Never run your hand along a glass edge. Always release your grip to move
your hand to a new position.
- Just prior to moving a glass sheet, check it for cracks. First, check
visually, then lift it slightly and tap the sheet with a finger tip and listen
for a crisp ring. If you hear a dull clank, it has a crack. Do not attempt to
move a cracked sheet! Get expert advice.
- To place a sheet safely on your work bench, carry it with one hand on the
top edge and the other hand on the bottom edge and place the center of the
sheet against the bench edge. Then roll or hinge the glass onto the table top,
and slide it on fully.
the Glass for the Stained Glass Project
For the Beginners
- Practice scoring and breaking
- Use standard clear glass.
- Try shorter length scores at first, as they are generally easier to break
- Continue practicing until you get the feel for scoring and breaking.
- Hold the cutter in your favored (tool) hand and place the cutter wheel on
the glass about 1/8" (3mm) in from the edge closest to you.
- Now, place the thumb of your other (guide) hand behind the cutter head to
prevent it from rolling back off the glass edge.
- Now apply a firm, constant pressure straight down onto the cutter with your
tool hand and push it away from you, all the way across the surface of the
glass, with your guide hand.
- After having made your first score, it is time to run the score. The break
starts at one end and should run (follow) along the score line to the other
Breaking with Hands only: Form both hands into
fists and place the glass between your thumbs and index fingers with the score
line between your thumbs. Your fingers should be clenched underneath the glass
with knuckles touching. Hold the glass firmly at the end of the score.
Apply a quick even "snap" pressure by pulling outward, and roll your
knuckles by spreading your thumbs apart.
With Breaker-grozer Pliers: Form one hand into a
fist, placing the glass between your thumb and index finger and close to the
Position the flat jaw of the breaker-grozer pliers on the top side of the glass
with the jaw 90° to the score and as close to the end of the score as
Hold the glass firmly in your hand and apply a quick, even pressure by first
pulling outward, then snap down with the pliers.
First Stained Glass Project - Copper Foil Method
- First become confident with your glass scoring and breaking skills
- Choose a novice skill level pattern for your first project. You will find
thousands of stained glass designs available in books as full-size patterns,
complete and ready to use.
- Create the actual glass cutting templates and the assembly drawing. This
is done quite simply by tracing two copies of the original design. Use carbon
paper to trace one on standard paper and one on heavier pattern card. After
tracing, number each piece to keep track of your pattern pieces.
- The final step is to cut the pattern card into the actual templates for
glass cutting. Do this using the special glass pattern shears to make an
allowance between each pattern piece for the foil and solder.
Trace and Cut the Glass:
Trace one of your pattern templates onto the selected glass with a marker,
remembering to transfer the code number.
Cut that glass piece out by scoring on the inside of the traced line, not down
the middle. Periodically check the accuracy of your scoring by placing the
pattern template back on top of the cut-out glass piece.
Continue scoring and breaking until all pieces in your project are cut out.
If your project is square shaped build an assembly jig around the outside line
of your working drawing; if your project is free-form use push pins.
Arrange all your glass pieces on the drawing inside the jig. Some pieces will
require grinding to make them fit properly.
Starting with a corner glass piece, compare its shape carefully with the lines
on the working drawing. Mark all areas that are over the line with your marker,
then take that piece to the grinder and selectively remove the extra glass.
Place the piece back into the jig, position an adjacent piece, mark the areas
which are oversize, grind and replace it.
Position the next adjacent piece, mark, grind and so on until all pieces fit as
accurately as possible.
Before starting the foil wrapping process, each piece of glass (and your hands)
must be clean.
- Pull a length of foil tape from the roll and peel back 2" (5cm) of
the protective paper backing.
- Press the sticky end of the foil firmly onto the glass edge, leaving
exactly the same amount of overhang on either side.
- Peel slightly more backing, move further along the piece and press the
foil to the edge, peel more backing and press firmly as you continue around the
- When you get back to the starting point, cut or tear the foil, leaving
enough length to overlap the two ends at least 1/4" (6mm). Crimp (fold)
the foil down over the glass edges with your thumb and index finger by pinching
and pressing toward the center. Wrap and crimp all glass pieces in the project.
- Finally, burnish the foil tightly against the glass on both front and back
sides using the rounded edge of your lathekin (fid) to ensure that the foil
does not pull away from the glass. When all pieces have been foiled and
burnished smooth, place them back into the assembly jig where they should be
snug but not bulging.
- Do a final quality check and make any last minute adjustments.
All foiled joints of your stained glass piece must be completely soldered (not
just at the corners) to create the metal web which will hold the project
Soldering begins by brushing flux on the foil seams. Now, with the hot
soldering iron in one hand and solder in the other, place the iron tip directly
on a foil seam and touch the solder to the top surface of the iron tip. The
solder will immediately melt and coat the foil under the iron tip. Move the
iron slowly along the seam, continuously adding more solder, filling gaps and
covering the foil as you go.
The idea is to build up solder on the seams until it forms a rounded bead. When
you have finished one side, remove the assembly jig, turn the project over and
completely solder the back side.
All exposed foil must be coated with solder, including the outer edge.
If you plan to hang your stained glass project in a window you should solder
wire hanging loops (16-18 gauge uninsulated copper wire) to the top edge.
Be sure to attach them at a solder seam only, a foil-only edge will not be
strong enough to hold the weight over a long period of time.
Cleaning & Antique Patina:
Thoroughly clean your project with glass cleaner & a soft rag. If you plan
to "antique" the solder seams, apply the patina solution with a
cotton rag immediately after cleaning.
Patina is a corrosive chemical, so please use caution, "think about
safety", wear rubber gloves and carefully follow the safety instructions
on the patina container and in the M.S.D.S.
More Stained Glass
- To keep your entire roll of foil from unraveling, as soon as you open the
package, and before you remove the little tape that holds it together, put
masking tape on it. Rip off a piece of tape, attach it to one side then wrap it
around to the other (with the fold over on the inside ring).
- To keep track of your sizes be sure and write the sizes down with a magic
marker (thin), on each side of the foil, along with the inner ring.
- Put the date of when you opened the foil too, so you'll always know about
how old it is.
- When foiling the glass, make sure the glass is completely free of dust and
oils. Clean the glass with soap and water if you have to , and make sure the
piece is completely dry.
- Make sure that the glass is either ground (for better adhesion) or is at
least very smooth.
- Try not to handle the glass too much or the foil.
- When you foil, always wrap the whole thing. Then put extra pressure on the
edge first, then pinch and rub. Try to give yourself an overlap of around
1/4" to 1/2". Trying to cut the foil to make a butt joint, always
leaves either a weak spot or a non-foiled spot.
- Try to start the foil on the inside edge of the piece, so there's no chance
of the foil lifting from that.
- Warm glass is always easier to foil than cold. A heating tray works well
for a bunch of small pieces. Use hot water when cleaning them, it helps break
down the dirt, warms up the glass, and helps make it dry faster. An
incandescent bulb also works well. Or a space heater.
- When foiling blobs, lightly grind the blob. It's a good idea because it
will allow the foil to have a better bite and it also shows you where to center
the foil. Make sure to really wash the blob good before foiling. Make sure you
take your time so the foil doesn't rip.
- When foiling a real lumpy glass like drapery, ripple, antique, etc. try to
use a wider foil when possible.
- Ripple glass takes forever to foil. This is because of all the indents you
have to push the foil into. When you have to rub down this kind of glass, start
with the edges, then do the surface of the glass.
- When you rub normal glass, always start with the surface. To rub down the
foil, you'll need to use a stick of some sort. A pencil would be a good choice
but the graphite tends to get in the way. You can buy quite a few shapes of
fids (a type of rubbing stick).
- Wear rubber gloves when soldering and patinaing. Gloves can be used when
cutting glass, but they won't prevent cuts.
- DON'T USE GLOVES TO FOIL WITH. The
foil will stick to the glove, and your finger won't glide over the surface to
flatten out the foil.
- Q-Tips are very useful. They can apply just a bit of flux in a spot, or
just a touch of patina, doe minor repairs; they are a quick cheap brushes for
paint; they will clean up wax residue from around the solder lines; put a bit
of denatured alcohol on the swab to wipe and clean excess flux after soldering
chain into a box.
- Use the real cheap stencil brushesfor patina. Stencil brushes are also good
at doing a quick buff. Just clean well after using so the acid doesn't eat up
- Use a normal cheap artist type, paint brush, for flux. And don't forget
painting with paint brushes. Have a few small ones for detail work. If you
wanted to make a tiny dot of paint, use the end of the brush, dip it into the
paint, then carefully plop onto the glass. This will give you a tiny circle.
A larger brush, 1-1/2 or so, is great for sweeping up glass crumbs as you
work. Just a few quick swipes.
The information on this site is here to help you
discover a love for the Stained Glass craft. You are encouraged to purchase one
of the many books on the subject of Stained Glass and investigate the courses
available through your local art society, library, or craft store.
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