Saturday, December 31, 2011

Colored stained glass cutting properties

Colored stained glass cutting properties vary by color, type of glass and by manufacturer.

You may have noticed when you're working on your stained glass suncatchers that some colors and types of glass cut easier than others.

But, do you know why?

To make a technical long story short, it's all about the additives introduced during the manufacturing process to color the glass.

The easiest stained glass colors to cut are green and blue.

The easiest glass to cut overall is green or blue cathedral glass.

Some types of glass cut easier than others and some brands cut differently.

For example; almost all red cathedral stained glass is easier to cut than red opalescent. 

In general, excluding the glass type, white stained glass is the hardest color to cut. This is due to the Antimony Oxides or Tin compounds that are used to give the white glass it's color.

Without the introduction of various compounds, stained glass would not be stained glass.  It would come out clear.

Sometimes when you cut red opalescent stained glass, you might notice a slight gold tinge along the score line. These are minute flakes of Gold Chloride that was used to color the stained glass red.

You won't see it in all types of red glass or in colors other than red.  This is because Gold Chloride isn't used to color blue, green, purple, violet, etc.

The oxides that are used to stain other colors of glass don't have the same properties as Gold Chloride and are not visible when you score a line.

Stained glass with different opacities also cut differently.  It takes a little practice and experience to learn how to cut different types and colors of glass, but it's not that difficult.

When you come across a glass that is hard to cut, just press a little harder on the cutting head.  But, don't press so hard that flakes of glass fly out from your score line.

When you make a perfect score you will hear a unique "static" like "zip" sound.  If you don't hear the sound, it doesn't mean that the score line won't break.
Some types of glass require more pressure and others just a slight amount of pressure to make a good score.

The same type, color and opacity of glass may cut differently from manufacturer to manufacturer.  All manufacturing processes are not the same.

When you purchase a new type and color glass from another supplier, make a test cut or two to get used to it.

It's better to screw up on a test cut, than to screw up your stained glass project.

Knowing the colored stained glass cutting properties of the different types, colors and manufacturers of the glass you are using, will eliminate a lot of potential problems before they occur.

Arts & Craft Books

How Do They Make Stained Glass Colors?

I'll bet many of you wonder how do they make stained glass colors.

Well, here is a simplified explanation.

Quartz sand or silica, is the main ingredient in stained glass.

The melting point of silica (silicon dioxide) is 1723 C. This is a relatively high melting point which makes silicon dioxide very difficult to melt without the use of additives.

Potash, lime, and soda are normally added to the silica to lower it's melting point and make it easier to work with.

The mixture is brought to temperature in a furnace where other compounds are then added to the mix to give it color.

When silica, potash, lime and soda is brought to temperature and melted, the clear mixture turns to glass when it cools.

Different stained glass colors are made by adding various metallic compounds to the molten glass as it is being heated.
  • Blue glass is made by adding Cobalt Oxide
  • Green glass is made by adding Iron Oxide or various compounds of Copper.
  • Red glass is made by adding Gold Chloride or Selenium Oxide.
  • Yellow glass is made by adding Cadmium Sulfide
  • Blue-Violet glass is made by adding Cobalt Oxide
  • Purple is made by adding Manganese Dioxide
  • Violet is made by adding Nickel Oxide
  • Yellow-Amber is made by adding Sulfur
  • Emerald Green is made by adding Chromic Oxide
  • Fluorescent Yellow, Green is made with Uranium Oxide
  • Amber Brown is made by adding Carbon Oxide
  • Greens and Browns are made by adding Iron Oxide
  • White is made with Antimony Oxides and Tin compounds
Other shades are made by adding various combinations of these compounds during the melting process.

Various copper compounds create the colors Blue, Green and Red and lead compounds are used for Yellow.

There are many different types of stained glass which are made by various manufacturers using their own techniques and formulas.

For instance, Dichroic glass is made by fusing two pieces of glass together, often with a thin metal wafer, glass pieces or other object sandwiched between them.

Because of the additives used to color and form the different types of glass, some colors are easier to cut than others.

Some types of glass are also more difficult to cut than others and will be discussed in future articles.

Now you know how they make stained glass colors.

Arts & Craft Books

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Soldering Safety Tips

Although most of us use common sense when constructing our stained glass projects; there are a few soldering safety tips you should pay attention to that will keep you healthy and safe.
  • First, make sure you solder your projects on a fire resistant surface.
Don't solder your stained glass projects on a metal, composite paper or a wooden work table. A non-flammable ceramic tile or glass table top is a perfect work surface for soldering stained glass.
  • Make sure you wear protective safety glasses when soldering. 
Regardless of how good you are at soldering, solder will occasionally "spit" or "spatter" when the iron gets too hot or there is a contaminant on the joints.

Hot solder really burns and if it gets into your eye could cause permanent blindness or serious damage to your eyesight.
  • Its always a good idea to have a first aid kit near your soldering area as well as a fully charged fire extinguisher.
  • Never leave your soldering iron plugged in and unattended; especially if you have pets. 
Cats are notorious for being nosy and could cause a fire if they knock over an unattended soldering iron.

Most heat controllers have an "On" light that will easily tell you when your iron is on.

Without a heat controller, you can't always tell if the iron is on unless you unplug it from the electrical outlet.
  • Make sure you don't overload your electrical outlets. 
Don't plug all your power tools into the same circuit you are using for your soldering iron unless you use a surge protector.   Surge protectors are the best insurance for preventing overloaded circuits.
  • Never solder your stained glass projects in an enclosed room without using a good quality fume extractor or an exhaust system.
Solder contains some percentage of lead which is toxic to humans and can cause a variety of illnesses.  When soldering stained glass, it's a good idea not to breath in any of these fumes, especially for a prolonged period..

Several excellent quality fume extraction systems are available for soldering stations that will collect and absorb noxious fumes, yet will not break your pocketbook.   A few of the more modestly priced are pictured below.  Just click on a picture for additional information.

           Inland Portable Fume Trap - International Voltage     Solder Fume Extractor    
           Bench Top Fume Extractor     Hakko Smoke Absorber Arm Stand

The easiest way to create an effective exhaust system is to install a cheap, high c.f.m. window fan close to your soldering station to suck out any toxic fumes.  The single or dual fan systems pictured below do the job and are moderately priced.


Commercial stained glass studios use high tech exhaust systems situated directly above soldering stations to remove fumes.  The prices for these systems are not realistic for the average hobbyist.
  • Wear a mask
Wearing a good quality breathing mask or respirator will also help if you do a lot of soldering. However, if you have in place a good quality fume extractor or exhaust system; a mask is not necessary. 
  • Wash Your Hands! 
It's also a good idea to keep your work surfaces clean and to wash your hands after handling lead solder.

Lead and acid flux will not pose a problem to your health if you just follow your mother's advice and wash your hands when you're finished up with your project.  Eating a snack or a sandwich while you are soldering a stained glass suncatcher isn't a good practice.

According to government statistics, children and pregnant women are affected more by lead than adults, so it's a good practice to keep high risk people away from your work area when you do your soldering.

These soldering safety tips are not intended to scare you away from working on stained glass.  They are simply sound, common sense practices, that should be implemented in any stained glass studio work area.

Be Safe! 

Arts & Craft Books