Sunday, June 26, 2011

What Is Lead Came?

Newcomers to the hobby of creating stained glass suncatchers occasionally ask us what is lead came?

For those of us who aren't familiar with the term; a came is a divider bar used between small pieces of glass that is used to make a larger glazed panel.

Came is often referred to as "leaded glass" while the process is often referred to as "leading".

Came is usually made from soft metals like lead, zinc, copper or brass in the form or an H shaped or U shaped cross section in various sizes.

5/64 Round U Lead Hobby Came 3/16 Round H Lead Came - 45 Lbs. Box

H shaped came is used for the interior construction of stained glass panels and U shaped came is used almost exclusively for the borders of glass projects.

The came joints are soldered together to create strength and is a good method for creating large stained glass patterns like windows or panels.

Lead came stained glass construction is historically the more traditional process for making stained glass projects.

Pieces of glass are cut to fit like a glove to fit inside the soft metal H or U shaped came channels.

Although the most common metal used for came is lead; copper, brass and zinc are also used for larger stained glass projects where extra strength or a different color is desired.

Stained glass suncatchers in particular are often constructed using a hybrid of both foil and came.

The interior glass pieces are usually foiled and then soldered to the U shaped came border.

This hybrid method is often used on smaller stained glass suncatcher projects to cut down on the "bulky" look and weight of the finished project.

In upcoming articles we will explain in detail how to construct stained glass projects using came and what equipment is necessary.

Friday, June 3, 2011

How To Bevel Plate Glass

Learning how to bevel plate glass is something for more the experienced stained glass artisans to tackle, however it's a relatively simple process that only requires some basic instruction, good equipment and some practice.

Beveling is done in four steps:
  • Step 1 - Roughing
  • Step 2 - Smoothing
  • Step 3 - Rough Polishing
  • Step 4 - Finish Polishing
Step - 1:

After learning how to cut plate glass correctly for beveling, each piece in your pattern must then get a rough bevel. This step is is called roughing.

A 100 grit electroplated diamond disc is usually used for rough shaping or roughing. Like rough sandpaper, it gives the initial bevel shape to the glass and produces a very rough surface that looks like a sandblasted or etched surface.

This step rough shapes the bevel on the glass to within 1/32" of the finished piece.

Step - 2:

The second step is smoothing. This step removes the deep scratches from the roughing step and gives the bevel closer to its final dimension. Like sandpapering wood, this step simply uses a finer "grit" wheel (400 or 600 grit) that grinds the rough bevel on the glass closer to it's final finished appearance.

A good smoothing or a rough bevel cut will make the surface perfectly flat and give it a satin like appearance without any surface imperfections or scratches.

Step - 3:

The third step which is called rough polishing takes away the satin finish that was created in the smoothing process and leaves a hazy looking surface on the glass. In this step, any facets that remained from step #2 are removed by a fine grit diamond disc which also makes the bevel more transparent.

Step - 4:

Finish polishing is the final step to the beveling process. It removes any frost or haze that remains from the rough polishing process on the bevel.

In this step a cerium oxide water mixture is used on a felt disc or wheel to give the bevel a high gloss sheen.

This step takes much more time than the previous steps, so don't rush it.

You will find that the more you work at it, the easier it is to make a "perfect bevel" on plate glass patterns for suncatchers, wall hangings or a zillion other applications.

Glastar G-15 Bevel Star Grinding And Polishing System

The Glastar G-15 Bevel Star Grinding And Polishing System pictured above is a complete, multi-functional beveling station that is designed for grinding and polishing straight edges and outside curves.

The Bevel Star comes with all the features you need to simply and easily create, repair and hand bevel your own glass projects.

Learning how to bevel plate glass "perfectly" doesn't just happen overnight, however most users experienced in stained glass should be able to create near perfect bevels with just a few hours of practice using good equipment.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

How To Cut Plate Glass Correctly For Beveling

Harvest Grain Yellow Bevel ClustersLearning how to cut plate glass correctly can be a tad more difficult than cutting the different types of stained glass you normally use for suncatchers.

The main difference between the two, is the thickness of the glass.

Beveled glass is usually made by taking 1⁄4"thick clear plate glass and creating a one inch bevel on one side around the entire periphery.

Once the bevels are cut, they act as prisms in the sunlight that create a color diffraction that highlights the glass work and provides a color spectrum which is absent in clear glass.

Cutting plate glass is different from cutting thinner glass because the break must travel completely through the thickness of the glass, as well as along the score line on the surface of the glass.

If the break doesn't go completely through the thickness of the glass, there will be a point somewhere along the cut where you will lose the clean break and have a jagged edge.

When you first start cutting 1/4" plate glass, it might look like the break is going through the entire thickness, yet the glass still doesn't break apart easily. This is relatively common problem when first learning how to cut plate glass.

Plate glass is softer than art glass. This means that you do not need to press as hard with your cutting tool when scoring the glass.

Many beginners make the mistake of pressing too hard and chipping the surface. Light pressure is all that is needed for a crisp score line.

The trick to a clean plate glass cut is to firmly tap the glass opposite the score line with the ball end of your glass cutter until you see a crack begin to "run".

Tapping releases tension along the score line and allows for a clean break on the scored side of the glass.

You might occasionally find some chipping on the side opposite the score which is sometimes created by tapping. This is relatively normal when learning.

When learning to cut plate glass correctly for beveling purposes; the chipped side is always the side you should plan to bevel.

As with stained glass, the more waste glass you have around your finished pattern, the easier it is to tap out the piece you need for your bevel.

Cut plate glass the same way you would cut stained glass.

Cut out your inside curves first and then get rid of the straight cuts and inside curves. Use your running pliers after tapping each line you score.

Long straight cuts on plate glass are the easiest to make.

Use a straight edge to score your line and then put your glass cutter underneath the scored line about an inch or so from one end. Then with your hands on both sides of the score, push downward sharply.

Do this on a short pile carpet or padded surface, NOT on a hard base floor or counter top.

You can also use a piece of dowel or anything else of like size as a fulcrum for making the break. Just keep in mind that this technique only works on plate glass 1/4" and under in thickness.

To make narrower straight line breaks, use your running pliers or firmly hold the piece of glass against the edge of a firmly mounted counter top with the score line opposite the counter top edge and push sharply.

It's always a good idea to wear gloves if you're not used to doing this.

The video below shows how easy it is for the professionals to cut plate glass correctly.

Learning how to cut plate glass correctly for beveling stained glass suncatchers is not that difficult, like anything else it just requires a bit of practice.