by Nancy of DesignsStainedGlass
I have always admired the beauty of stained glass, the beautiful
colors, and the wonderful textures. I never thought it was something
that I could make in my own home. I’d like to share with you some of the
steps that are involved in making a simple stained glass panel.
Once you find the pattern that you would like to use, the next step
is to purchase the glass. Glass is sold by the square foot or by the
pound. Choose the colors and textures that you like and you feel will
complement each other in the pattern you are working with.
For most patterns you will need two copies – one you will use to
trace your pieces on the glass and the other will be for placement. I
number each piece in the pattern which makes it easier to identify each
one after they have been cut. To transfer the pattern to the glass, if
it is transparent, you can lay the glass on top of the pattern and trace
it with a special marking pen. If your glass is opaque and you cannot
see the pattern through the glass, then you need to cut out your pieces
from your second copy of the pattern, place them on top of the glass and
trace around the edges. After each piece has been copied onto all the
glass it is time to cut.
There are different types of cutting tools. I prefer a brass handled
carbide cutter. With this style you place the tip on the glass and pull
the cutter towards you. Starting at one end of a drawn line on your
glass, position the cutter and pull it towards you. You can hear the
scratching cutting noise – this is a good score. Do not go over the line
again – only one cut is all you need. The next step will be to use
breaking pliers or running pliers to separate the piece from the sheet
of glass. Align the pliers with the scored line and carefully pull down
on the pliers and the glass will break off. After you have scored and
cut all around the lines of one piece it is time to use the glass
An electric glass grinder has a diamond bit and a tray of water
underneath. It pumps water up to a sponge that keeps the glass dust down
and the glass cool so it doesn’t break. You need to grind around all of
the edges of each piece. After each piece is done, place it on top of
the first copy of the pattern – very much like making a puzzle. You also
need to keep your pattern from moving and make sure it is squared.
There are squaring bars and pegs to use to secure the pattern on to a
The next step is to apply copper foil onto each piece. I take out one
piece at a time and clean it to remove any powder from the grinder. The
copper foil comes in various widths, depending on how thick your glass
is and how you want your piece to look will depend on what size foil you
use. The foil has one smooth side and one sticky side. The sticky side
is wrapped around each piece of glass making sure it overhangs each side
of the glass equally. Then you use a burnishing tool to smooth and
press it against the glass all around the edges, top and bottom. Return
that one piece to the work board and repeat this process until each
piece of your pattern has been done. You may find that you need to grind
a few more pieces in order for them to have a nice tight fit against
Next and most important is the soldering. This is the one step that
takes a lot of practice and patience. Using flux, which is a cleaner
that prepares the copper foil to accept the solder, apply it with a
brush onto the copper foil. With your soldering iron and solder you will
join each piece by melting the solder into the joints and on top of all
the copper foil. Reapplying the flux, adding more solder to build up a
nice smooth line.
Turn your piece over and repeat this process – again this takes a lot
of practice to get the back side looking as smooth as the front side.
Framing your piece will be the next step. It can be placed into a
window, wood frame, or lead or zinc channel. For most of my panels I use
zinc channel. After measuring and cutting the channel it is soldered
into place around the edges of the panel. Hooks and chain for hanging
are attached at this time.
Hang it in your favorite window, stand back and enjoy its beauty for many years.