Saturday, September 5, 2009

Stained Glass: Getting Started With The Basic Tools

To begin making stained glass, you first neet to acquire a few basic tools and supplies.

  • A Glass Cutter
  • Lubricant
  • Pliers
  • Shears
  • Soldering Iron
  • Grinder
  • A Worktable

  • Glass Cutters come in a variety of shapes and sizes.

The very basic cutter has a 114 degree steel wheel angle, a ball end, and is intended to cut hard glass. These cutters are sold for under $6. and can be found in any hardware store.

Various oil dispensing glass cutters that feature comfortable contoured handle designs, and a 140 degree tungsten carbide cutting wheel, are preferred and used for general purpose cutting. These are in the $20. to $40. plus price range, and can be found online, or at businesses catering to stained glass enthusiasts.

  • A lubricant is needed to provide optimum cutting performance, to make crisp, sharp cuts, and to extend the life of the glass cutting tool.
Environmentally safe cutting oils are sold in various sizes usually under $9. Mineral spirits can be also be used and is readily available.

  • Two types of pliers will also be needed.

Running Pliers have concave and convex jaws. The jaws of these pliers will "run" a score line from one end of the glass to another. The curved jaws exert an even pressure on both sides of score line to start and run a break. This results in a clean break along the scored line. Running pliers usually can ge purchased for under $10.

Grozer or Breaking pliers are used to remove small pieces of glass that remain after the glass has been scored and broken. Most of these pliers have a 3/8" curved, serrated jaw and cost in the $6. to $10. range.

  • Shears are used to cut foil and lead came and cost anywhere from $7. to $20.
  • Soldering Irons come in a variety of Watts, shapes and sizes.
Weller W100PG

The Weller W100PG, 100 Watt Soldering Iron is a professional stained glass iron, specifically designed for all types of stained glass work. The temperature is controlled by changing the tips. It comes packaged with one 3/8", 700 degree tip, and a rest for the soldering iron. The price for the iron is in the $70. range, with extra 600 to 800 degree tips costing approximately $12. each.

There are hundreds of types of soldering irons available for more specific applications. You can purchase what your budget dictates and upgrade when you become more comfortable with the process.
  • Grinders come in many price ranges and brands but all do the same thing. They are used to finish grind to size the stained glass to match the pattern.

Gryphon Twister

Glastar G14

A compact, economical glass grinder that provides all the power and performance features you need in one machine is the Glastar, G14 Diamond Star Grinder. It is equipped with a 3/4" plated diamond head, tool drawer, open-grid 9-1/4" x 8-1/4" work surface, 1/18 HP motor, has a five year, unrestricted, no-fault warranty on all parts and labor.

If money is not a problem, the Gryphon Twister Grinder is the Cadillac of grinders. It offers advance comfort with a rotating base that converts from horizontal to inclined.

This allows you to sit or stand while grinding and reduces the "stoop" fatigue factor. It comes with additional bits, face shield, and costs about $175.

  • Last but not least is a good worktable to make your artistic creations on.

For this you can use a counter top, an old door, or anything else that comes to mind. I recommend that you purchase a heat proof work surface to protect whatever you decide to use as a work table. A light weight piece of stainless steel with an insulating back can be purchased for under $10. and is available in many online stores.

Once you gather the basic tools, you can begin acquiring the rest of your supplies and start creating your stained glass project.

That will be covered next.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Stained Glass - Where Did It Come From?

Stained glass originated sometime before the middle ages, however, most historians believe it actually received it's name during this period.

Church artisans created different colored glass for use in their churches, by using silver paste stains to coat the glass, and then fire the pieces in a kiln, in order to obtain the desired colors.

Different mixes were used to create different colors. The kiln temperatures and oxygen content in the kilns were also manipulated to create various color shades, surface textures, and finishes, that occurred during the cooling stage.

Stained glass is a very old art form that is now seen almost everywhere in our culture.

There are two basic methods of stained glass construction that is commonly used today.

Lead Came Method

The lead came method, is by far the oldest method in use, and dates back to the middle ages where church window construction was the main end use.

The stained glass is cut into fitted patterns, and held together by strips of grooved lead. The long strips of lead have a single or double channel groove in them, that match the approximate thickness of the glass.

The stained glass edges are then slipped into the channels, trimmed to size, and soldered together to hold the glass in place.

The result is a strong, solid framed, piece that is perfectly suited for long lasting, window construction.

Copper Foil Method

No one is really sure when the copper foil method of joining stained glass came into vogue, but most modern historians attribute it's development to Louis Comfort Tiffany.

It is presumed he developed the method to more easily create the curvel lamp shades he is renowned for. In any event, it is the method most commonly used today.

Lengths of copper foil are tightly wrapped around the edges of each piece of stained glass in the pattern. The pieces are then carefully soldered together to create a "bead" on both sides of the pattern, that holds the piece together.

The copper foils are made in different widths, that correspond to the thickness of the stained glass, that is being used in the construction.

Modern copper foils are produced with an adhesive backing on one side to aid in wrapping the edge of the glass. The glues are heat resistant, for the most part, and substantially expedite the construction of a project.

The copper foil method of construction is perfect for curved projects, 3D projects, sun catchers, and most other projects. Larger, heavier projects require the incorporation of wire stiffeners, to help hold the stained glass project together.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Waste Not, Want Not !

What do you do with leftover stained glass from all your projects?

Well, the best idea I've come up with is to first sort the glass by size and color.

Smaller pieces can be placed in plastic shoe boxes, labeled, and stacked for easy retrieval when needed for small projects or fusing.

Larger pieces should be sorted vertically and an old bookcase or kitchen cabinet is an excellent storage location.

My husband redesigned a spare bedroom with old kitchen and base cabinets on the walls that have plenty of storage space for my stained glass pieces.

Base cabinets are about the right height to work from and also provide storage for my grinders, ring saw, etc. The smaller drawers work fine for storing smaller supplies like foil, lead solder, grinder bits, etc.

Plastic coffee containers are great for beads, wire, and smaller glass pieces used in mosaics or other smaller projects.

Anyone with newer ideas? Please feel free to comment.