Sunday, August 28, 2011

Making Boxes With Stained Glass

Making boxes with stained glass is not an extremely challenging process, but it does take time and some knowledge to construct them properly.

Stained glass boxes make wonderful gifts.

Every box you create will be to some extent unique.

This means that every stained glass box you give to that very special person, will really be a truly special gift.

Making boxes with stained glass is nothing more than cutting uniform rectangles and constructing them into a three dimensional box shape with one end open.

The most difficult part is making precision cuts and determining the dimensions for all the sides.

The Morton Portable Glass Shop makes the job of making precision cuts a snap and should be one of your investments if you plan to make boxes or panel lamps on a regular basis.

Portable Glass Shop

Not all the sides are cut exactly the same height and width.

If you want your finished box to look like a box instead of a 3D trapezoid, you need to add or subtract the width of the glass you are using from the sides you are cutting.

For instance; a box 5" by 8" by 1 3/4" high, made from 1/8" stained glass, should be cut to the following measurements.

1 pc. 5" by 8" for the top
1 pc. 4 7/8" by 7 7/8" for the bottom (with eased corners).

2 pcs 1 3/4" by 7 3/4"
2 pcs 1 3/4" by 4 3/4"

The front and back pieces of your box must be cut 1/4" less than the actual size of the
top of the box you are making.

The "Professional Boxer" pictured to the left is made by Emerald-Rainbow and can make the assembly of your stained glass box an easier process.

The "Morton Assembly Tray" pictured below can also be used to assemble your box after all the pieces of your box are foiled and tinned.

Morton Assembly Tray
Both systems are relatively inexpensive and both work equally well.

The corners of your box will not be butted together. Instead, the edges will form a "vee" for the solder joint.

This is the reason why each of the sides were cut 1/8" short.

First, tack one corner together at the top and bottom of the joint using either of the above assembly systems. Then continue to tack together the other sides of the box.

Next, solder all of the inside seams of your box together.

Wait a few seconds for each inside corner joint to set before continuing to the next corner or you could lose the shape of the box.

Now start to work on the outside corner seams.

In order to keep the inside seams from getting too hot, use the "tapping" method to solder a bead and fill in the outside corners of the box.

Don't try to run a full continuous bead or you will overheat the inside bead and possibly crack the glass.

Allow several seconds for the outside bead to cool before moving on.

Before continuing, make sure to tin every inside and outside edge on the entire box.

Determine which end of the box is up, and then use the "tapping" method to create a
nice rounded bead on all the outside edges.

Now is the time to attach the bottom of the box to the side frame you just completed.

Tack the four corners and make sure everything is squared up. Then proceed with
soldering all the inside seams the same way you soldered the four corners.

When you are finished with the inside, do all the outside seams.

DO NOT over solder your joints or you could get the underlying foil too hot and melt the glue that holds it to the glass. Worse yet, you could put a hole in the seam if you hold the iron in one spot too long. Work quickly!

Except for the top hinge, your stained glass box is now complete.

You can now construct a hinge for your lid using a hollow tube and a solid rod.

First, cut your hollow tube to the length of the inside of your box using either a Dremel cutoff tool or a fine blade hacksaw. Be careful not to flatten out the end.

Next, cut two rods in the form of an "L" using a pair of electrician's pliers. The long end should be about 2" and the short end about 3/4" to 1".

Use steel wool to clean the tube and then tin it. Use a round toothpick broken in half and insert each half in the ends of the tube so the solder doesn't block the openings.

Center the tube on one end of the top and tack the tube into place on the top and bottom of one edge of the seam.

Once the tube is tacked to the lid, tape the lid on to the box and insert the short end of the "L" shaped rod into each end of the tube.

Next, tack the long edge of the "L" to the corner seam of the box on both ends. Be careful not to solder the tube or you will not be able to open the box lid.

Now finish soldering the seams of each "L" and gently remove the tape holding the lid on the box.

At this point you can tack a piece of chain to the left or right inside corner of the box.

Cut the chain to length so that when the lid is fully open it will open just past the 90 degree point. If the lid opens too far, the box will be top heavy. If the lid does not open far enough, the lid will not stay open on its own.

Now solder the other end of the chain to the inside of the lid's seam.

This allows the chain to fall inside the box when it is closed.

You can also add a piece of filigree for use as a handle, or just twist a piece of wire into an oval, tin it and tack it to the center of the lid's seam.

Be careful not to solder the lid to the box when you do this step.

Your can now patina and wax your stained glass box if you like, or just wash it up and use it as is.

Making boxes with stained glass is time consuming but in reality quite easy.

There is an excellent but lengthy comprehensive tutorial series that explains how to make boxes with stained glass that you should view if you have the time.

The URLs are listed below:

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5
Part 6
Part 7
Part 8
Part 9
Part 10
Part 11
Part 12
Part 13

Arts & Craft Books


  1. Any idea where I can find the Emerald Rainbow Professional Boxer?

    1. You can find it here among other places.

      Hope this helps.

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