Sunday, July 10, 2011

Foiling Your Stained Glass Suncatcher Project

Once you have all the pieces of your pattern cut out, you are ready to start foiling your stained glass suncatcher project.

Every piece of glass must be correctly wrapped in copper foil in order for your finished project to hold together without falling apart.
  • To start, it's important that all the pieces of your pattern are free from oils and glass particles. Failure to thoroughly clean each piece of glass could prevent the foil from properly adhering to the glass.
  • Once your glass is cleaned, remove the paper backing from the back of the foil as you work along the edge of the glass.
  • Center the glass on the foil so that the overhang on each side of the glass is as even as possible. Then carefully wrap the foil around the edge of each piece of glass. Overlap at least 1/4" of foil from where you started your wrap and cut off the excess.
  • Next crimp the foil tightly around the edges of the stained glass.

    Use a foil crimping tool, a fid, a blunt piece of wood or just your fingernail to burnish the foil on both sides of the outside edge of the glass so that it sticks firmly and evenly to the glass.

    Your finished edge should be smooth without any noticeable crimps or humps. The strength and appearance of your finished stained glass suncatcher will be ruined if you do a sloppy wrap job.
  • When you're satisfied with all your wrapping and burnishing, you are ready to position the pieces of glass on your pattern.

    • If you are making a panel, use strips to keep your pattern square.
    • If you are making a free form suncatcher project, hold the pieces in place with plastic headed push pins or nails if you are using a wood backer board.
  • After your pieces are positioned to your liking, it's time to tack solder all the joints in your project.

    Melt enough solder onto each joint to hold the pieces firmly together. You don't need to be super neat during this step, just use enough solder to keep your pieces from sliding apart. The "tacks" will be remelted when you finish your seams.
  • Next, use a brush to apply flux along the foiled seams of your project.

    Make sure not to use too much flux and that you don't flux portions of your pattern you don't expect to be soldering in one sitting.

    Soldering flux left too long on copper will cause it to oxidize and tarnish. In this condition it is difficult to solder a decent looking joint without needing to clean or re-foil the glass.

    If you do get called away from your project after the flux has been applied, try using some household white vinegar mixed with table salt and some water to remove the oxidation.
  • After you're finished tacking up your project, you are ready for beading.

    As the name implies, with the tip of the iron held horizontally to the seam, you slowly move the soldering iron and the solder along the joint to form a rounded bead.

    Apply just enough solder to form a bead along the seam.

    • Too much solder or an iron that is too cool will cause an uneven ridged bead.
    • Using too little solder or too hot an iron will cause a flat seam with no bead.

    Experience and practice are the best teachers here. After a while you will learn how to solder a uniform bead on both sides of your pattern.

    For strength, always bead both sides of your project.

  • If your project is a panel and you don't plan to frame it or use U lead came on the outside edges, you will need to give the outside edges of your project a more finished appearance by beading the edges.
    Beading the edges is a two stage process; "tinning" and final beading.

    • Apply a thin coat of solder to the edges of both sides of your project. This is called "tinning".

    • Next, bead the edges by holding the edge you need to solder horizontal to the work table.

      Melt enough solder to the edge, so that it slowly rolls down the sides of the foil to form a uniform rounded edge.

      This takes practice to perfect but creates a professional look and improves the strength of the finished piece.

    Stained glass suncatchers with rounded outside edges must be beaded a little bit at a time. On curved edges, try beading only about an inch at a time.

    Let the solder set and then come back to add another inch or so to the bead, remembering to keep the edge you are working on horizontal to your table until the entire edge is beaded.
  • After your edges are all beaded, you can add loops to hang your stained glass suncatcher project.

    Curl a piece of copper or brass 18 or 20 gauge wire around a pencil and form a loop. Cut back about 1/4" from each end of the loop intersection.

    Tin the loop and tack it onto the edge of your project where you want to place your hanging chain.
  • The last step in foiling your stained glass suncatcher project is to wash your project with a mild detergent in warm water to remove all the remaining flux.

    You can use a commercially made flux remover but soap and water is cheaper and does the same job.
If you like, you are now ready to apply patina to your stained glass suncatcher project to change it's appearance.

The chemicals that are available are corrosive so wear rubber gloves and wash your hands after working with patina.

When you have the look you desire, wash and dry your project and apply carnuba or bees wax to seal and protect your finish.
Foiling your stained glass suncatcher project is arguably the most important step for creating a professional looking project.

1 comment:

  1. Good information on foiling and soldering. It helped me with my two little project