Introduction: Stained Glass Bowl Using Copper Foil and Solder
This is my first attempt in making a glass bowl using pieces of glass cut to shape, wrapping the sides with copper foil and soldering the pieces together. Earlier I have posted an instructable on "Stained Glass Terrarium", where I have used epoxy adhesive to join the pieces together. Here I followed the age-old method of copper foiling technique for making this bowl.
I am not an expert in soldering, so some of the joints may look ugly. However, I am satisfied with this as it helped me learn the basics of copper foiling technique used in stained glass projects.
Step 1: Design the Bowl
The bowl I made here basically consists of three shapes.
- The center piece is a hexagon with 6 cm sides
- The middle portion consists of 6 trapezoid shaped pieces having 10 cm bottom width, 6 cm top width and 4 cm height.
- The top portion is of 6 rectangular pieces having 10 cm x 4 cm sides.
Here I have drawn the shapes in thick paper and cut them to be used as templates for marking and cutting glass.
Step 2: Materials Required
- 2 mm thick plain glass about two square feet. One square foot is enough for this project, but I have bought extra to compensate for breakage during cutting glass
- Copper Foil. I came across these pieces of copper foils after an extensive search. They are 15 cm x 5.5 cm in size. I will mark and cut the foil as required for wrapping the glass edges.
- Little amount of kerosene mixed with raw camper. This mixture will be applied over the score line for cutting the glass.
- A roll of adhesive tape. You can use insulation tape also as this will be used to hold the glass pieces for joining
- Instant adhesive. The copper foils I got do not have adhesive applied to one side. So I have used Instant adhesive to fix the copper foil with glass.
- One roll of Resin cored Solder wire. Some brands refer them as Rosin cored. I think both are same. The resin cored solder wires are easy to work with and they do not require soldering paste. This one is a 60/40 Soldering wire, means this wire is a composition of Tin / Lead mixed in respective ratios
Step 3: Tools Required
I have used whatever tools available with me. The following are the list of tools I have used.
- A permanent marker pen to mark on glass.
- A 30 cm long steel rule for measuring.
- Glass cutter
- Craft knife to be used for cutting copper foil to the required size. I have used the plastic edge of the knife for burnishing the copper foil firmly over the glass edge.
- A Soldering Iron. I have used a 30 watts Soldering iron for this project.
Step 4: Mark on Glass
- Using the templates I have already made with thick paper I have marked the required number of pieces on glass with the marking pen.
Step 5: Cut Glass to Shape
- For cutting glass, either you can apply the kerosene + raw camper mix over the score line or dip the cutting edge of the glass cutter into the mix. Both will work same. Here I have used a small piece of cotton wrapped around a match stick to apply the lubricator over the score line.
- Using a straight edge, score over the glass along the marked lines. You can easily break the glass by lightly tapping along the score line.
- The last pictures shows the required pieces of glass cut and kept separately.
Step 6: Cut Copper Foil Strips
- As I have mentioned earlier, copper foil rolls with adhesive used in stained glass projects are not easily available in India. There was one listing in ebay.in, but the seller informed me that he imports from USA and it may take more than 20 days for delivery. After an exhaustive search in a city 100 kms away from my home town, I found these pieces of copper foil and bought them at approximately 3 pieces for a Dollar. (20 Rupees per piece).
- The pioneer in copper foil technique, Louis Comfort Tiffany worked with these type of plain copper foils cut to the required width and applying molten bees wax on one side as adhesive. I will follow his footsteps here, but instead of bees wax, I will use instant adhesive for fixing the foil to glass.
- As per standard practices, for a glass thickness of 1/8" (about 3.17 mm), 7/32" (about 5.56 mm) wide copper foil is used. Here I have used 2 mm thick glass and experimented with different widths of foil. I felt comfortable in using 10 mm wide foil strips for this project.
- Using the steel rule, made 10 mm wide markings on the copper foil and cut them using the craft knife.
Step 7: Fold Copper Foil Over Glass Edge
- Hold the glass piece in one hand and place a strip of foil on the edge.
- Wrap the foil over the edge of glass
- Crimp and fold the foil equally on both sides with your fingers
- Use the plastic edge of craft knife for burnishing the copper foil firmly on the edges.
- If you are using foils with adhesive this is enough to keep the foil sticking to glass. Otherwise apply instant adhesive to inside of the wrapped foil and press with a cloth.
you can see all the copper foiled glass pieces in the last picture
Step 8: Solder the Trapezoidal Pieces Together
I have started with soldering the trapezoidal pieces first. The hexagonal piece will be soldered at the center and then the rectangular pieces on the edges.
- Align the foil-wrapped trapezoidal pieces on the work table. It is better to keep a piece of paper on the work area to prevent stains from the molten solder.
- Stick all six pieces together using small pieces of adhesive tape.
- I wanted to keep the outer edge slightly raised, so I have given some supports all around and raised the edges.
- Tack together all the pieces with a drop of solder on the edges. Once all edges are tacked, the work piece will become stable.
- Remove all adhesive tap and apply a coat of solder on the inside joint.
- Turn it over and apply solder over the joints on the outside as well.
Now the trapezoidal pieces are joined together and ready for the next step
Step 9: Solder the Hexagonal Piece
- Place the hexagonal piece in the center and see it fits well
- Again apply drop of solder on the edges to make it stable
- Apply a coat of solder on the inside
- turn the piece over and solder the outside joints
Step 10: Solder the Rectangular Pieces
- Align two foil-wrapped rectangular pieces over the outer edges of trapezoidal pieces.
- Apply a drop of solder on the joints on top as well as on bottom.
- Align all rectangular pieces and tack them together with drop of solder. Make any adjustments if necessary.
- Once all the pieces are aligned and tacked together, apply solder on inside joints.
- Turn the piece over and apply solder on the out side joints
Our stained glass bowl is completed.
Step 11: Clean the Completed Bowl
The pieces of glass in the completed bowl may be greasy due to the molten flux from the solder. Clean with soap water and then rinse with clean water.
Step 12: Safety First
The hot solder may produce lot of fumes. Work in a well ventilated area and do not inhale the fumes.
Take care while handling the glass. The cut edges and fragments are very sharp. Collect all fragments & broken glass and dispose them off safely.
Do not touch the soldering iron. It will burn your hand.
The molten solder is very hot and some times little bit of solder sticks to the hot iron. Always handle the solder away from you to avoid dropping molten solder on you.
Step 13: Points to Ponder
- Initially I used epoxy adhesive to attach copper foil over the glass edges. But curing of epoxy took longer so I switched over to instant adhesive.
- Likewise, flux is not necessary if you use resin cored solder wire. Initially I used flux and afterwards when I found that the resin cored solder wire works perfectly with copper foil I stopped using it.
- There was a visible gap between the hexagonal piece and a trapezoidal piece. I have applied pieces of copper foil to cover the gap and soldered over them from both sides. The finished joint looks as good as other joints.
- While soldering inside the bowl I found it very difficult to hold the work piece, soldering iron and solder wire together. So I cut small pieces of solder wire and placed them over the joints. This worked well and freed my other hand to hold the work piece to the required angle.
Please offer your comments and suggestions for improvement if any... Have Fun
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