Saturday, April 30, 2011

How To Create Your Own Stained Glass Suncatcher Patterns

Before you learn how to create your own stained glass suncatcher patterns, you must first be somewhat familiar with how to cut and put together stained glass projects.

Like some architects who create designs that look great on paper, in reality the actual construction may not be feasable.

There are some cuts that are "impossible" to make and even if you are able to make them with aTaurus 3.0 Ring Saw, the pieces could not be foiled for easy construction.

Taurus 3.0 Ring Saw

A little common sense here goes a long way.
  • First get yourself a picture or photograph of the design you plan to create your suncatcher from and enlarge it to your satisfaction. Coloring books are a great place to get patterns from.
If you have a copy machine, enlarge your picture enough to fit easily on a 8 1/2" x 11" sheet of paper and print it out in black and white.
  • Next if you have a light box, trace only the outline of your picture on an overlay piece.
Make sure that there are no impossible cuts and that the lines flow together without any sharp angles.

You will have to get creative here and use your artistic abilities and knowledge of stained glass construction to add or delete lines where necessary.

The idea here is to create a pattern that has reasonable stained glass cuts.

When you're finished tracing, go over your your pattern again and refine it. Make sure there are no pointed edges and no "impossible cuts".

When you're satisfied with your pattern, you can either enlarge it farther if you plan on making a wall hanging, or reduce it if you plan to create a suncatcher or wind chime project.
  • Next, use a pair of double bladed scissors to cut out your pieces.
  • If you are making a suncatcher or wind chime, all you need to do next is transfer your pattern to the stained glass using a white glass marking pen, cut out your pieces, foil and solder.
  • If you are creating a wall hanging or stained glass picture, you will need to arrange the pieces of the pattern you cut out, inside the border or frame you plan to use.
    Tape the pieces of your pattern together on top of another piece of paper that will be your background and trace the outline of your pattern on the background.
    Add lines on the background where you think they will look best to bring your pattern together and then cut out your background pieces with double bladed scissors as you did with your pattern.
    Number the pieces by the color of the stained glass you are going to use and you're finished.
As you gain experience learning how to create your own stained glass suncatcher patterns, you can progress to more difficult projects such as wall hangings, room dividers, window and door inserts, etc.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

How To Drill A Hole In Your Stained Glass Suncatchers

One of the best ways to learn how to drill a hole in your stained glass suncatchers is by using a drill press with a Diamond Drill Bit.

Although this can get quite expensive, a drill press is the easiest and best way to keep your drill bit perpendicular to the stained glass work piece.

The trick to drilling any type of glass with a Diamond Tech Core Drill Bit Set, is to use the slowest speed possible with a lot of lubrication; water, mineral oil or oil to keep the heat down.

Remember, when using a drill press it's important that you drill VERY SLOWLY .

People often get in too much of a hurry to drill through the piece, apply too much pressure on the drill press handle and wind up breaking the piece or burning up their diamond bit.

To prevent any chipping around the exit hole on the reverse side of your piece, some people stop drilling the hole when they are about half way through the thickness of the glass and finish the hole from the opposite side of the piece.

Not all glass chips when drilled and not all glass can be drilled.

Safety glass and tempered glass is almost impossible to drill after it has been tempered.

Before you start drilling a bunch of holes through your stained glass suncatcher projects; it's a good idea to drill a practice hole all the way through the type of glass you'll be using to see if it actually does chip.

Since it's easier to drill straight through the glass whenever possible, a "dry hole run" can save you a great deal of time.

Some people I know use a Dremel tool with a diamond drill bit to drill through their stained glass suncatchers.

The problem with a Dremel tool is the high speed at which the motor runs.

You need to go as slowly as possible when drilling glass in order to save your bit and not crack your glass.

In any event, this is how to do it.
  • Put your piece of stained glass on a piece of Styrofoam in a shallow pan and pour just enough water in the pan to just cover the glass.
  • If your piece of glass is too large to fit in a pan, use clay or some similar waterproof material to build a "dam" around the area you will be drilling.

  • Fill the dam with water, mineral oil, olive oil, or any other commercial lubricant.
The drill bit must be cooled by water at all times, otherwise the heat generated by the friction will either crack your glass piece, burn up your diamond drill bit, or both.
  • Set your speed as low as possible and start drilling your hole at a slight angle to create a slight indentation in your glass. Your bit will want to skip on the glass as you start out so keep a firm grip.
  • Once you start your indentation, straighten up the Dremel and push slowly but steadily into the glass until it pushes completely through.
It takes some practice but after two or three holes you should be able to drill your holes without much of a problem

A Dremel drill press makes the job of drilling glass much easier.

You can set the depth of your drill to go just through the glass without punching a hole in your pan and you don't have to worry about keeping the bit perpendicular to the work surface.

You can use a regular drill to bore holes through stained glass if you don't already own a Dremel.

The main problems with using a regular drill, is again the speed of the drill and it's unwieldy nature.

You can also drill a hole in your stained glass suncatchers using your glass grinder and a 1/8 Glastar Bit head.

The only problem using this method is keeping the glass and the bit wet as you drill.

Hold your stained glass at an angle to get the hole started and then gradually bring it upright.

You have to hold the piece steady all the while you are pushing it into the grinder head until it punches through.

I use this method as a last resort for three reasons.
  • It generally causes the glass to chip around the hole.
  • The glass tends to skip too much when starting your hole.
  • The glass tends to break much more frequently.
If you plan on drilling only one or two holes in your stained glass suncatchers, this method is probably better than buying any additional, more expensive equipment.

However, if you plan on drilling a hole in your stained glass suncatchers for hangings or wind chimes on a regular basis; you should probably invest in a Dremel or a small drill press that can be used for other kinds of work.

There are many places online where you can purchase diamond bits at reasonable prices.

You can even ask your dentist for his "old" diamond bits. He probably won't give them to you because of government regulations, but he may give you a couple of new ones or tell you where you can purchase them.

Now that you've learned how to drill a hole in your stained glass suncatchers, go for it!

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Preparing A Stained Glass Suncatcher Template

Preparing a stained glass suncatcher template is useful when you plan to produce several suncatchers that need to be exactly alike.

Although this is usually done for small production runs that are offered for sale; it's always a good idea to prepare a template for later use.

The first step is to copy, number, identify and then cut out the pieces of your pattern.

A copy of your pattern will be used to trace on the glass so you can cut your pieces accurately.

A second copy of your pattern is necessary for laying out and identifying the cut pieces of glass for soldering. Both should be numbered and identified the same.

Using double bladed scissors, cut out the pieces of your template using business card stock or cardboard. This is necessary when creating several items using the same template.

Some people go a step farther and laminate their stained glass suncatcher templates so they can be used over and over again without any significant damage.

If you are using clear glass, you can use a light box to trace your template directly on the glass without going through the trouble of cutting out the pattern.

The problem with using a light box, is that you give up the precision that is necessary for creating the tight soldering joints you need when using the foil method.

Using a light box is also not recommended when using came instead of foil.

If you are only cutting out a few pieces and the dimensions of your finished suncatcher is not that important, then using a light box to trace your template directly on the glass is perfectly acceptable.

The next step is to lay down your template and trace your pattern pieces on the smoothest side of the glass you are using.

If you want the textured side of the glass to be towards the front, cut your glass from the back. Otherwise cut it from the front. It's really irrelevant.

Just remember to keep your numbered pieces in the same order for each type of glass you are using in your project.

If you're scoring the front of the glass; lay the pattern pieces numbered face down. If you're scoring the back of the glass; lay the pattern pieces numbered face up.

Always try to solder the backside of your stained glass suncatcher first to get a straighter front side with thinner lead lines.

You will find that the back side of the first side you solder is always flatter and generally nicer than the front side.

However, with practice you will soon be able to keep the joints on both sides equal in thickness, regardless of the inequalities of the thickness of the type glass you are using.

Preparing a stained glass suncatcher template
is a relatively simple process that ensures the accurate replication of your project at a later date.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Repairing Stained Glass Suncatchers

Repairing stained glass suncatchers can be done relatively easily using some basic tools and a bit of patience.

Nothing is as disheartening as a beautiful stained glass suncatcher that falls from its perch and breaks.

Fortunately, broken stained glass suncatchers can be repaired with some matching glass and a few basics that you should already have in your toolbox.

You will obviously need a soldering iron, soldering flux and solder.

In addition you should have available some stiff business card paper, a pencil, a pair of scissors, a waterproof glass writing pen, a glass cutter, pliers, foil, patina to match the existing piece, some soap and water.

  1. Using the stiff paper, draw a pattern of the area where the broken piece of stained glass is located. Follow the existing solder lines as close as you can.

  2. Cut out the pattern and make sure it matches up to the area where the broken glass is located.

  3. Lay the pattern on a new piece of matching glass and outline the pattern on the glass using your waterproof marking pen.

  4. Cut out the replacement piece of stained glass with your glass cutter and break off any excess with your pliers.

  5. Break out the cracked piece of glass and remove all the old glass using your pliers.

  6. Using your soldering iron, heat the solder that held the old broken glass piece into the stained glass suncatcher and gently scrape as much of it away as possible.

  7. Using your pliers, gently pull away the rest of the stained glass pieces along with any remaining foil that held the piece in place.

  8. Wrap the replacement piece with foil, brush on some flux and replace the broken piece. Make sure you brush flux onto the adjacent pieces of the suncatcher pattern so the solder will attach itself more easily.

  9. "Tin" the outside of the replacement piece, place it into the hole where the broken piece was located and tack it into place.

  10. If the replacement piece looks O.K., solder a seam all the way around the project on both sides.

  11. Clean the stained glass suncatcher with soap and water, then thoroughly dry out the project.

  12. Brush on patina and let it set long enough for it to match the existing pantina of the repaired suncatcher.

Stained glass is created by combining colored glass pieces into a mosaic type of display and dates back over a thousand years. You can be sure that during it's existence, millions of projects have been broken through daily use or other accidental occurrences.

This does not mean they are totally useless.

Repairing stained glass suncatchers has been done successfully for as long as they have been in existence using these basic steps and will continue to be done until we stop making stained glass projects.

The trick to repairing stained glass suncatchers or any other stained glass project is to take your time, go slowly and be patient.