Thursday, June 19, 2014

Why Foils Are Made In Different Widths?

Newcomers to the stained glass hobby often ask “Why are foils are made in different widths?” and “Which size foil should I use?”.

The obvious answer to the first question is that because glass is manufactured in different thicknesses, foils need to be made in different widths to accommodate the thicknesses of the glass that is being used.

Most of the commercially made stained glass that is being produced today is uniform in thicknesses and is about 1/8” thick. 

Since most stained glass suncatchers are made with commercially produced glass, a 7/32” wide copper foil is recommended for foiling these type projects. This width provides sufficient overlap on both sides of the glass to solder and hold the pieces together without having an overly wide solder bead.

Hand made stained glasses, textured stained glass and semi-handmade glasses are not produced uniformly and have no “standard” thickness.  These stained glasses are normally used in Tiffany style lampshades, “Church” windows and other types of high end wall hangings and will require different widths of copper foil to achieve a uniform solder bead on the finished product.

Different width foils offer you the flexibility to create different effects on your finished project.   When working with thinner glass, a narrow foil provides the necessary amount of overlap without covering too much of the glass.  On thicker glass projects, a wider foil is required to properly wrap the glass and give the same effect.

Copper foils are also made in different widths to offer artists the opportunity to create designs or accent specific areas of project by using wider or narrower solder lines. You can make your solder lines wider or narrower by simply changing the width of the copper foil you are using. Changing the amount of overlap is what determines the width of the solder seam joining your pieces together.

Industry wide, the basic rule of thumb is that smaller pieces look more pleasing with narrow solder lines and larger pieces with wider lines, or lead came.

If you have a stained glass suncatcher or wall panel with a beveled insert, you may choose to accent the insert or other elements of your project by using different width solder lines. This is easily done by changing the width of the foil used in wrapping the glass or beveled insert.

Copper foils are found in 1/8", 5/32", 3/16", 7/32", 1/4", 5/16", 3/8", and 1/2" widths.   In fact you can even get wider (6” and 12”) widths in sheet form from some manufacturers.

The only requirement for foil width (outside of aesthetic value) is that the size used is wide enough to wrap the glass to hold the pieces together after they have been soldered.

For newcomers, the guide below should help you in determining what width foil to use for each type project.   However, it is only a guide.   You can use any size you want to achieve the desired effect.

  •  1/2" wide foil is used for very thick glass, for plating thicker or multiple layers, and for creating special effects or designs in seams. It is also used to create an overlay on glass pieces.

  • 3/8" wide foil is used for wrapping thick glasses (like ¼" and mirrors), plating pieces, and for decorative effects.

  • 5/16" foil is used for thicker glass, textured glasses, when plating pieces together, attaching or creating an overlay, and for wider solder seams.

  • 1/4" wide foil is commonly used to create wider soldered seams and give you a little extra width when working with thicker and textured stained glasses. It is also used to foil two pieces of glass together to create a single piece of glass (plating), and to attaching an overlay to a glass piece. Many beginner foilers find 732” too narrow to work with and use 1/4” as an alternative until they get used to the procedure.

  • 7/32" wide foil is the most commonly used size and is what most beginners start with. As previously stated, when used with most manufactured glasses made today, it will give an overlap that results in an aesthetically pleasing solder seam. It is also frequently used on thicker glasses to create a narrow solder seam.

  • 3/16" wide foil is normally used for beveled glass pieces, glass slides, single strength glass, jewels, and for smaller pieces. If you are looking for a narrow seam on standard 1/8" thick glass and you take care when wrapping the edges, it will produce a very nice narrow seam.

  • 5/32" foil is used for jewels, glass nuggets, thinner glasses, “micro glass”, glass slides, single strength glass and mirrors. It is generally used when you want a very narrow solder line.

  • 1/8" foil is the most common width used for glass nuggets. It allows you to expose as much of the nugget's surface as possible and is often used in stained glass suncatcher projects. Wider foils will cover up a lot of the nugget's surface, making it almost disappear in the finished piece when it is soldered. 1/8” wide foil is also used with jewels, sea shells, micro glass, glass slides, single strength glass, mirrors, and other types of very thin glasses.

Hopefully, this will explain why foils are made in different widths.

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