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How To: Stained Glass

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Stained glass is easier than it seems.  Although it does require a special set of tools and equipment, once you have access to these, you'll find that the process of turning your designs into gorgeous stained glass pieces is really quite simple! My brother and I started working in stained glass at our father's side when we were just 8 and 10 yrs old, so I can confidently recommend this to a wide range of ages and skill levels.
 
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Step 1: Tools and Materials

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There's a broad range of really fun materials involved in stained glass.  Here are a few essentials to get you started.  You can always add to your collection as you go along (and trust me, it's hard not to!) It's best to find a specialist stained glass supplier for these materials. 

Glass (obv.  Hard to do a glass project without glass) - there are SO many kinds of glass available!  I used a combination of streaky and textured glass for this project.  You'll see the wide world of glass available to you when you visit a stained glass supplier!

Glass Cutter - these also come in a variety of styles.  Here you see a tungsten carbide wheel cutter which has an oil reservoir in the handle.  I also like using a pistol-grip style cutter with the same features, but in a more ergonomic design. 

Cutting Oil -  required to prolong the life of your glass cutter and improving the quality of your score on the glass

Pliers -   Do not use ordinary house pliers for this!  There are two styles of pliers used in stained glass.  Grozer pliers are designed for breaking glass and nipping off little edges.  Running pliers are designed for snapping long cuts in the glass.

Copper Foil - Some stained glass works use lead came, which is a lead channel that holds pieces of glass together.  This is a completely different technique than I am showing you.  This technique uses copper foil which has an adhesive on one side to hold the glass pieces together.  Copper foil comes in a variety of widths to accommodate different thicknesses of glass.  The copper foil is what gets soldered to hold the glass together!  Copper foil also comes with silver or copper backing.  This is important to keep in mind for the design of your piece.  If you are using clear glass, the backing of the foil will be visible.  I used silver backed foil because I wanted the finished piece to be silver. There are patinas available to change the finished color of your solder if you like. 

Soldering Iron - You'll need a soldering iron that's designed for stained glass, minimum 75 watts.  These come with a variety of tips.  For most projects, I prefer a wide soldering tip.

Solder - Solder is a mixture of tin and lead.  Solder with a higher tin content has a lower melting point and will flow more quickly, with a more silvery finish.  Lead free solder is also available. 

Flux - Flux is available in liquid or gel form (I find the gel to be more forgiving to work with), and is used to assist the solder flow between the copper taped pieces.  Brush every copper foiled surface with flux before soldering every time for best results.

Grinder - if you're just starting out and don't want to make a big investment, you can use a Carborundum stone to file down the sharp edges of your glass after you've made the cuts.  If you can get access to one, I recommend an Electric Glass Grinder which makes quick work of the job.  It has a water-cooled grinding wheel that can rapidly grind down rough edges and even help achieve shapes that are more difficult to cut.

Safety Glasses - any type will do as long as they completely protect your eyes.  When you're cutting and grinding glass, little flecks of it will be flying everywhere!  For this reason, I also recommend long sleeves when using an electric grinder.

Safety Gloves - I've never used gloves during this process, but after counting the cuts on my fingers and hands from this last project (well in the double digits), I'm going to give latex gloves a shot for the next one.  Let me know if you've ever tried this and what your experiences were!

Lightbox - A lightbox will help you transfer your design from paper to the glass.  If you don't have access to one, just cut out the paper pattern and trace it onto the glass.
Erchan1 month ago

That is not easy :)

Very nice! I love the poppy and how it comes above the "framed" glass, very art deco. Could I ummm "borrow" your pattern?
scoochmaroo (author)  barefootbohemian1 year ago
Absolutely!
Very pretty. Would the tinned copper wire work to hang a very large piece? My grandfather made 32 x 29.5 in piece, which I'm pretty sure it was meant to be a window, and I'd love to hang it on the wall instead.
scoochmaroo (author)  YamiEridani1 year ago
I would check with a glass shop if you can find one. It's really going to depend on how heavy the piece is, and I don't want to give you bad advice!
angelabchua2 years ago
gorgeous. Because I am the crazy dog lady, I kind of want to try and make something like this of my doggies
You can make a pattern using a photo of your dogs with a lot of the available software. Most of it is rather pricey, but Dragonfly Software's Glass Eye has a 30 day free trial I think. Lots can be designed and copied to pattern in 30 days :)
alex22 years ago
When cutting deep curves in glass, do it underwater - in bath for example.
Its easy & never break off in its own direction
Watch it, glass can shatter when cut underwater due to impurities. This is very nasty. Though usually a safe process you don't want it to happen to you, make sure you have good quality glass from a reputable dealer.
Mrballeng2 years ago
Could you use clear/smoked glass from the hardware store? Or is stained glass specific to the craft?
scoochmaroo (author)  Mrballeng2 years ago
You can use any glass!
Juleemt2 years ago
Amazing, great image and super simple pattern!
BCZF2 years ago
Beautiful..
Mongpoovian2 years ago
Wow! Very cool. What a lovely product, too!
rachel2 years ago
I knew someone years ago who did stained glass but they used the lead channel method. This looks much easier to work with. I may have to try it! Lovely results.
ghoulcreeps2 years ago
wow I m in awe of u
splazem2 years ago
Awesome! It's so pretty.
sunshiine2 years ago
Thanks so much for sharing this! Very pretty!
Carleyy2 years ago
Really pretty :)
Mauigerbil2 years ago
Cool project! I <3 the flower
studleylee2 years ago
Brings back memories of coming home from college and seeing my mom soldering stained glass. She used a 'buttering'-like technique when soldering for character and I ( and electronics person ) would do a 'flow' soldering and she'd say it was too neat looking, but she'd line up panels for me to do :-) Love stained glass! Thanks for sharing this great article.
-Lee
Mr.Sanchez2 years ago
AWESOME....!!!1 GOOD JOB...
scoochmaroo (author)  Mr.Sanchez2 years ago
Thanks! It's super fun. I wish I had the set-up at home, I would definitely do more of it.
Just one question...do you think a Dremel Stylus could work to Grind the Glass.?
scoochmaroo (author)  Mr.Sanchez2 years ago
If you can get a diamond wheel, you should be all set. Not sure how you would keep the glass wet though, as it's critical to keep the glass item well lubricated to keep it from overheating and cracking.
This could be but takes a long time to grind 2 or 3 mm.
Best is to cut very acurate if you cut 2 or more mm to big it takes a long time with
a "dremel" and a small bit to grind this away.

If your going for this hobby a grinder is a good investment.

Scoochmaroo nice instructable.
Ok...I´ll try...your project encourage me to try something that I always want to do...
MsJaxFla2 years ago
Great job teaching us step by step. Wondering if I can do this now. I always thought you had to have a kiln....... laughing and so very encouraged and wanting to try it sometime in the near future.

I really learned a bunch....... thanks ever so much.
Creativeman2 years ago
Very pretty piece, scooch! Takes me back to the late 70's, early 80's...stained glass was very "in" at that time.
BodenM2 years ago
I remember watching my grandfather make these, using a cutting wheel and a tool that sprayed a wide, thin fan of water to keep the glass cool.
Kryptonite2 years ago
That's incredible, nice job! I was reading a little about traditional stained glass windows and I was wondering how it could be done in the home, and you've certainly answered that one for me! :D
tinker2342 years ago
wow hey could i use a raver knife to cut the glass
rocketglass2 years ago
I have been working with stained glass for years. It very relaxing. I would tell everyone to try it once. They just might it.
TheGeek19842 years ago
That's really good. My Grandmother did a lot of this when she was staying home to care for my Grandfather, but she hasn't done much since he passed and she went back to work. She's really good though, I should find some of the pictures I took of her work and put them up...
ChrysN2 years ago
Cool, I always wanted to try this, but didn't know where to begin.
The finished project is so pretty! I had no idea how this was done - it actually doesn't seem too bad. Makes me want to give it a try. :)
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