Sunday, September 25, 2011

Karen's Suncatcher Corner: 9 Steps For Creating Stained Glass Suncatchers

There are basically 9 steps for creating stained glass suncatchers that will make the job of project construction easier to accomplish.

  • Design Your Pattern on Paper

The first step in creating stained glass suncatchers is to decide on what you want to create and then put it on heavy stock paper. Business card stock or heavier works well.

Pattern design can be as simple as cutting stained glass triangles, squares, hexagons, octagons, circles, half circles or combining these into an attractive design.

More challenging complex pattern designs such as multi-part scenes, fish, angels, animals, insects, holiday motifs, etc. can also be created limited only by your imagination.

Decide on what you want to create, put it on paper and make sure it can be turned into a stained glass suncatcher.

Beginners often create deep detail when designing their patterns only to find later that the pieces are extremely difficult or impossible to form into a finished suncatcher.

Avoid sharp curves and very small pieces that cannot be cut from glass or properly foiled.
  • Transfer Your Paper Pattern To The Glass
Once you're satisfied with your paper pattern and are sure that it can be easily made into a stained glass suncatcher, it's time to transfer your pattern onto the glass.

You can cut out the paper pieces with double cut scissors, identify and number them by color and trace each piece onto the glass with a white glass marking pen.

Alternately, you can make or purchase a "light box" or "light table"to trace the pattern directly on the stained glass. This is a time saver and almost a necessity for serious artisans.

Whichever method you choose, make sure you take into consideration the amount you need to deduct from each piece for the foil or lead came method of construction you plan to use.
After your pattern is transferred to the glass, cut out each piece and finish it to size using your grinder, glass band saw or circle saw. Dry fit all the pieces and make sure they fit precisely before going on to the next step.
    If you plan on using the foil method of construction:
Wash each piece of stained glass with a dish detergent and thoroughly dry before beginning to foil your project.

Choose the correct width of foil and carefully foil each piece you cut out in the previous steps. Make sure you burnish each piece so the foil sticks properly during the soldering process.
    If you plan on using the lead came method of construction:
Using a lead came vise or a partner with a pair of pliers, stretch the lead came you plan to use for your suncatcher to relieve the "stress" in the metal.

Don't stretch it too much or you will not be able to fit the glass into the slot in the came.

The point here is to remove any kinks in the came and to reduce it's total dimensions.
The stretching actually changes the internal composition of the lead and makes it easier to work with.
  • Cut The Lead Came To Length
Cut each piece of "H" came to fit around each piece of stained glass making sure that the next piece buts into the cut without leaving any space.

The outside "U" channel should be cut in the same manner, to but up to the "H" came without any space.

Use a came saw, came knife, miter saw or an "Exacto" saw to cut the lead.
  • Assemble The Lead Came Around The Glass
Dry fit all the pieces of your stained glass suncatcher on your workbench and flux all the came joints on both sides of your pattern in preparation for soldering.
Solder all the joints in your stained glass suncatcher first on the front side. Make sure not to use too hot of an iron or to hold on the joint too long. Either can put holes in the came joint and cause an unsightly appearance.

Flip your stained glass suncatcher over and solder the back side using the same technique.

Always apply solder to the top of the flat side of your iron and briefly touch the solder joint to get the best appearance and strength.
  • Cement Your Finished Suncatcher
Cement your finished suncatcher using the process described here.
  • Add Additional Reinforcement When Necessary
Occasionally it may be necessary to add reinforcing bars to your suncatcher project when it is constructed using the foil method and has a large number of cuts or is larger than 3 feet square.

Normally all foiled stained glass projects larger than 3 square feet should be reinforced in some manner.

The weight of the individual pieces of stained glass held together by the soft copper and lead solder joints can cause the panel to bow, flex, and eventually fail.

There are two popular methods used to reinforce larger stain glass projects.
  • Adding reinforcing "bars" into the design.
  • Adding a strong line over the top and or sides of the existing project.
We will be posting more on reinforcing various stained glass projects in the near future.

That's all there is to it. Sit back and enjoy your stained glass suncatchers!

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