Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Simple Tips For Using Copper Wire In Suncatcher Construction

Using copper wire in suncatcher construction is something you can easily take advantage of when constructing suncatchers.

Copper wire is used in various gauges throughout the united states and world wide in hundreds of thousands of applications.    

In addition to being readily available, it isn't overly pricey considering the increased rise in copper prices.

When using copper wire in suncatcher construction you need to first tin the wire.

Although you can purchase pre-tinned copper wire in various gauges from any art glass house, you can do it yourself and save yourself some money, especially if you know an electrician who can give you some scrap wire.

Strip off the insulation with a pocket knife and pull the wire through a piece of folded sandpaper to brighten it up and remove any residual coating.

Then simply apply a good coat of flux to the bright wireand tin it like you would with foil.

Copper wire comes in various diameters and is measured by guage. (see below)

The higher the gauge number of the wire, the thinner the wire.

A common 16 gauge copper wire is used in many household applications such as for outdoor extension cords, etc. and is heavier than a higher numbered 20 gauge wire.

A 16 gauge or heavier wire is frequently used in stained glass suncatcher construction for insect antennae, legs, flower stems, bird beaks, etc. 

It is used in box constructions for hinges or in corners to add durability to the finished project.

Lighter gauge wire is often used for augmenting the patterns on stained glass projects in order to provide a more realistic looking finished product.

These applications include fish scales, bird feathers, flower petal veins, etc. 

Wrap a piece of tinned copper wire around a pencil or dowel to make hanger rings for your finished suncatcher projects.

You can also use "tigertail" to hand your suncatchers.

Tigertail is made up of multistrands of very fine wire twisted together to form a thin diameter cable. The multi-strand "cable" is then usually coated with plastic or nylon to create a tough and resilient small diameter wire that is used in jewelry making, "beading" or to hang suncatchers.

You can strip off the coating from tigertail or any multistranded copper wire, tin it and use it as an overlay for your project.  You can make some neat plant leaves, bird feathers, fish scale patterns, etc.from it and once tinned tack it to the seams in your suncatcher for "effect".

Although it is generally used in jewelery making, it has been found to be a very strong and quite invisible wire for hanging stained glass suncatchers.

Another obvious reason for using copper wire in suncatcher construction is to strengthen larger projects and to add rigidity.

Single strand copper wire in itself does not add much to the strength of a suncatcher or panel however, copper braid or stranded wire can be integrated into the joints of foiled work to substantially strengthen a project.

When tinned, the braid picks up more solder and becomes extremely stiff.   When impregnated with the solder, the tinned braid becomes much stronger than the solder itself or a tinned single strand of copper wire of the same diameter.

The purpose of reinforcement is to prevent sagging or bowing in the middle of a panel or large stained glass suncatcher, so make sure you extend the tinned braid to the frame on each side of your project.

I'm sure you can find many other ways of using copper wire in stained glass construction, just use your imagination.

Arts & Craft Books

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Steps To Creating Unique Stained Glass Patterns

Learning the steps to creating unique stained glass patterns is not that difficult however it does require some guidance and a few items you need to acquire.

You will need some original photographs or images, a flatbed or office jet type scanner and a photo editing software program of some sort.

The latter can downloaded for free from several sources online.

To create your own unique stained glass patterns you can use pictures, photographs, on line renderings, etc. for your pattern, but make sure that whatever you use has contrasting colors.

This is important so you can make a clean distinction between edges when tracing your pattern.

With animal pictures in particular, the head, ears, eyes, and body parts should all be visibly clear and distinct.

Images that can be broken down easily into individually distinct pieces are obviously preferred.

If you run out of your own pictures, you can always do a Google search for "free .... images" and replace the .... with the name of the type image you are looking to convert into a stained glass suncatcher project.

You can also find free clip art on the Internet by Googling "free .... clipart" and inserting your preference in the .... area.

Clip art images usually have distinct edges and are more easily converted into stained glass projects.

When you decide on what image you want to convert, save it on your computer as a .jpeg file for use later.

If you decide on using your own personal photographs, you can save it on your computer using a flatbed scanner or one of the many "all in one" office scanner, copier, fax combos on the market.

Next scan the image and save it on your hard drive for later use or copy the image directly onto a piece of 8 1/2" x 11" paper.

Change your printer preference properties so it copies using only the black ink cartridge or gray scale.  This makes the edges show up clearer when going on to the next step.

Using a "light box" or just putting the printed picture on a sunlit window, trace the image on to a second blank sheet of paper using a lead pencil so you can easily make changes.

Remember that the finished project is in stained glass so don't make any super sharp angles, tight corners, etc.  Keep in mind that you need to fabricate each piece in glass so, if you need additional lines to make the piece "work", put them in where required.

It's a good idea to first trace the outline and then the inside shapes.  Just make sure you can cut and foil each piece from stained glass.

When you have your initial tracing, remove it from the light box or window and use your imagination.

Here is where you add additional lines or create new shapes.  It is also where you need to remove or make changes to pieces that you know cannot be cut with your equipment at hand.

When you are satisfied with your tracing, scan the pencil drawing and save it on your hard drive.

Use photo editing software to make your pattern the size you want it to be or just use your copier to blow up the pattern.  You can always go to a print shop and have them blow up the pattern if it is cost effective.

Next, print your images out on heavy bond paper that you would use to make business cards.

You can purchase this in quantity from Staples, Office Depot, etc.

Cut around the outside of each piece of the image with a pair of scissors and place the pieces on a piece of paper a bit larger than your finished project.

Connect each piece together with lines but make sure that they can be cut into a finished stained glass piece.  Use common sense.  Some pieces look good on paper but cannot be formed into a finished project.  Thin or narrow pieces when foiled often do not show the color of the glass and are the first pieces to get broken in the foiling process.

When you are satisfied with your pattern, number each of the pieces in the pattern along with the color of each piece.

In order to make sure all the lines in your final stained glass project are oriented in the same direction, identify each piece of the pattern with a small arrow or double backslash mark to show the direction of the grain of the glass.

With some projects and glass it doesn't really matter, but for some projects like fish, butterflies, flowers,etc. it can make or break your finished project.

Always make two copies of the finished stained glass pattern.

One copy will be taped onto your working surface to build your stained glass project on and the other will be used to trace and cut the individual pieces onto the stained glass.

It's a good idea to use crystal clear packing tape and covering each of your numbered pieces so they can be re-used more than once.

For longer use, you can also either laminate or tape over the copy you are using on your work surface.

Creating unique stained glass patterns is easy once you get your feet wet and understand that some pieces cannot be easily cut from glass.

Arts & Craft Books

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Two Cutting Tips For Creating Professional Looking Stained Glass Suncatchers

These two cutting tips for creating professional looking stained glass suncatchers are basic and easy to remember.

Inevitably, even professional glass cutters make a bad score now and then.

When you do make a bad score, remember not to re-score the same line on the same side of the glass.

All this does is make the cutting wheel on your glass cutter dull.

Re-scoring the same line also reduces your chances of making a clean break.

When you do make a bad score and must follow the original score line, just turn your work over and follow the original score on the reverse.

99 percent of the time you will get a clean break when you follow this simple tip.

Listen for a crisp, smooth consistent sound as you score your glass.

You can get the "crisp" cutting sound by applying even pressure on the score and running the score at a uniform speed.

If you get a scratchy sound when scoring, you are applying too much pressure and are probably moving to slow.

Always concentrate on applying an even pressure and a uniform speed when scoring stained glass. Remember that all cutters are not equal.

Different size cutting wheels require different cutting pressures, as do cutting wheels with different cutting angles.

Experience using each individual glass cutter is the only way to learn how much pressure is needed to make a perfect score.

If you're in the mood, you can always pull out a bathroom scale and actually measure the amount of pressure needed to make a score, but experience is the best teacher.

The type of glass you are cutting also makes a difference when scoring.

Some types of glass like opalescent, will not make any sound when correctly scored, while others like window pane glass will make a unique crisp "zinging" sound.

These two cutting tips for creating professional looking stained glass suncatchers should help you out if you're having trouble getting clean edge cuts.

Arts & Craft Books

Monday, June 18, 2012

Does Size Really Matter?

Does size really matter when cutting stained glass?

When I discuss size, I mean using the correct wheel size for the glass you are attempting to cut.

In short, the size of the wheel you are using in your glass cutting tool determines the amount of pressure you need to exert to penetrate the surface of the glass you are attempting to cut.

Part of learning how to cut stained glass suncatchers correctly is learning how to make clean cuts and in order to make a clean cut, you need to choose the correct size wheel for your glass cutting tool.

Does size really matter? You bet!

The smaller the wheel you use in your glass cutting tool, the less pressure you need to exert to penetrate and "score" the surface of the glass.

In general, small wheels with a diameter of about 1/10" are best for most thin and standard stained art glass thicknesses.

The 1/10" wheel  Silberschnitt Adjustable Oil Wheel Easy Grip Cutter below is a top of the line Bohle cutter that allows users to adjust the cutter length to fit your hand size properly.  You simply twist the blue handle to adjust the length.

Silberschnitt Adjustable Oil Wheel Easy Grip Cutter
Wheel angle also affects how much pressure you need to exert to cut glass.

For standard thickness and thinner stained glass, (1/16th to 1/8th of an inch) the suggested perfect cutting angle is 120 degrees.

A wheel angle of 135 degrees is the most versatile and will score glass up to 10 mm in thickness.

For scoring glass over 10 mm thick, a glass cutter with a cutting wheel angle of 160 degrees is needed to do the best job.

Although using the correct wheel size and angle for cutting stained glass is not often discussed or even paid attention to, it is important to professionals who make many cuts on various thicknesses of glass daily.

When you find yourself pressing too hard to make a score or make too many bad cuts on your stained glass suncatcher projects, you might want to take a look at your cutting wheel size and angle of your wheel to remedy the situation.

Does size really matter
?  Yep!

Arts & Craft Books

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Using Beveled Glass For Suncatchers

Although beveled glass is normally used in the construction of wall hangings and panels, using beveled glass for suncatchers is not an uncommon practice.

Since beveled glass is normally made by grinding a 1/4" thick bevel on only one side of the periphery, a hanging suncatcher will obviously have one good side and one "flat" side when hung.

Regardless of that fact, beveled glass for suncatchers does provide an interesting effect.

The bevels in the pattern act as small prisms which create unique color diffractions that display a spectrum of colors that highlight the work as the suncatcher hangs and spins in the sunlight.

The added color spectrum that beveled glass patterns provide to suncatcher projects is usually absent in clear stained glass suncatchers.

You can purchase beveled glass cluster arrangements in a plethora of designs which can vary from simple three to four piece designs, to more complex combinations of many pieces.

Simple three or four piece designs are usually used in suncatchers, small wall hangings and occasionally in window transoms.

The more complex beveled glass designs are normally used in larger wall hangings, glass entrance doors and entrance door "side lights".
Victorian Flower Bevel Cluster

The  Victorian Flower Bevel Cluster  above can be used in either application.

When using beveled glass with clear and colored textured stained glass designs, novices might find the difference between glass thicknesses a problem during construction.

Typically, textured glass is 1/8" thick and has a distinct visible texture, while beveled glass is 1/4" thick.

However, the angle of the bevel makes foiling and soldering of the two glass thicknesses a relatively simple matter.

The trick is to take time with your foiling to ensure that the foil sticks on the glass securely.  This applies to all stained glass construction.

The combination of beveled glass juxtaposed to textured stained glass creates dramatic visual effects in almost any project, especially stained glass suncatchers.

If you have not yet used them, why not  try using beveled glass for suncatchers in your next project?

Arts & Craft Books

Friday, April 20, 2012

Making 3D Projects From Stained Glass Scraps

Making 3D projects from scraps of stained glass is a great way to use up your scraps and experiment with creating truly original, one of a kind suncatchers.

Almost any object can be created in tree dimensions however, different types of wildflowers are the most common 3D stained glass projects used to teach newcomers the basics.

3D stained glass wildflowers can be created in almost any color combination and from any type of glass.

You can use any size scrap to make any size flower petal and you can experiment using small pieces of foiled glass, glass nuggets or even small beveled glass for the centers.

Use your imagination and investigate different materials and techniques.

There are no set rules to follow, nor is there any right or wrong way for making 3D projects from stained glass scraps.

If you would like to experiment creating a large 3D sunflower suncatcher, you can use the following idea to get you started:

Begin by forming the center of the sunflower from a large foiled glass nugget or several nuggets. (Preferably black or brown)

As an alternate to glass nuggets, you can cut and grind stained glass into a round circle.

Rough up the circumference of each nugget on your grinder so the foil adheres more easily and foil each nugget with 1/4" copper foil.  

Make the center as large or as small as you like.  You are the creator!

Next,  you need to make the petals from scraps of yellow glass.

You can draw a freehand pattern using the following as an example and size it to match the size of the center you created.

Don't worry if all the pieces aren't the same, just try to make them somewhat uniform.

When you have enough petals to rim the center of the flower (probably about 25 to 30) you can begin foiling the petals.

When foiling you can foil the entire outside of each petal or for a more realistic looking flower, you can just foil the wide base of each petal.

When you foil just the base, you will need to foil both sides as well as the edges of each petal.  This allows for a more sturdy solder joint when you attach each of the sunflower petals to the nugget center.

You can make the petals more realistic looking by placing them in a kiln and slumping some of them slightly before foiling.  This also rounds the edges of each individual petal.

Some artisans use a torch in lieu of a kiln, but glass breakage often occurs when the petals cool unevenly.

Next, you are ready to assemble your 3D sunflower.

The petals will be attached in two layers to give the sunflower the 3D effect.

Attach the back layer of petals first and then attach the front layer, staggering the petals so that the second layer of petals lays in between each petal in the the bottom layer.

Once all the foil edges are tinned, place the nugget or nuggets center face up on your work surface.

Lay out the first layer of petals around the nugget center and adjust them to make sure they all fit.

One petal at a time, solder the petals onto the center.  Lift some of the petal ends so that all the petals aren't flat.

Now you can attach the second layer of petals between each base of the first layer the same way.

When finished, flip the piece over and solder the back.

When done correctly, the back petals will be attached to the back edge of the nugget center and the front petals will be attached at the front edge.

You can add a stem to each flower at the back of the center using either a brass rod or thin brass tubing.

You can create leaves for your sunflower using the same technique as for the petals.

Make them more realistic by dividing them in half, foiling them and then soldering them together in a V shape.  Use a couple of dowels or pencils to form a jig.

Attach the leaves to a brass rod like you used for the sunflower.

Make the flower and leaf stems more realistic by wrapping them with green floral tape or painting them green.

If you chose to completely foil the petals of your 3D sunflower, you could make them look more realistic by painting the edges to match the glass scraps you used for the petals.

Making 3D projects from stained glass scraps is by no means limited to just flowers, anything three dimensional can be created with stained glass.  

Arts & Craft Books

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Sunday, March 4, 2012

How To Etch Stained Glass Suncatchers

Recently I was asked about how to etch stained glass suncatchers.

After giving it some thought and wondering why someone would want to do it, I decided to write this post.

Learning how to etch stained glass suncatchers isn't difficult at all, however you need to acquire some basics before you dive into your project.

 You will need the following:
  • A clean work area.
  • Clear or opaque glass that has been wased and dried
  • A pattern of some sort if you are not artistically inclined.
  • A sharp bladed exacto knife
  • Mac-tac
  • A fid
  • Rubbing alcohol
  • A new (or well cleaned) soft flux brush
  • A fine tipped marking pen
  • Etching cream
  • Gloves

First you need to wash, rinse and thoroughly dry the glass project you are working with.

A thorough drying is necessary for the mac-tac to stick properly.

Next use rubbing alcohol to further clean the glass and make it easier for the etching cream to work properly.

Next, using your fine tipped marker, trace the pattern you chose onto the plastic mac-tac.

Make sure the marker ink is thoroughly dry or it will smear.

Next, position the pattern on the stained glass you want etched.

Peel back the backing from the mac-tac a little bit at a time as you position it on the glass and rub out any air bubbles.

You don't want any air bubbles under the mac-tac or your etching cream will etch where you don't want it to.

This is just like placing a new decal on your auto tag.

Now that you have the plastic on your glass without any air bubbles, you need to cut out the pattern you traced with your exacto knife.

Be sure to use a new blade in your knife so you don't rip or tear the plastic.

Be precise when you do this step. Cut exactly on the lines in the area you want the etching cream to be applied to the glass and then peel off the plastic from the area you want etched.

Any place where there is plastic left on the glass will NOT be etched.

After you have removed all the plastic from areas of the glass you want etched, double check your pattern for mistakes or jagged edges. Trim up areas where needed.

Once you apply the etching cream, it begins to etch immediately so be forewarned.

In a well ventilated area, put on your gloves and start applying the etching cream with the soft flux brush.

There is no need to overdo it, but make sure the areas you want etched are covered with enough cream to do the job.

When you're finished working the cream over the glass areas you want etched, let it stand for about 10 to 15 minutes.

When it's time, rinse the cream off the glass with warm running water from the sink. Don't use your kitchen sprayer.

I like to use a natural hair oil paint brush for this step. Make sure you wear gloves as you rinse the etching cream off your project and take care not to move the plastic mac-tac on the glass.

After all the etching cream is removed from your project, dry the glass with paper towels or pat dry with a terry cloth towel.

When the glass is fully dried and you are satisfied with the degree of etching, you can remove the plastic pattern.

If you feel that the glass needs to be etched a bit more, just repeat the above process and wait another 10 to 15 minutes.

That's all there is to it!

Etching clear glass gives a more dramatic look however, semi clear stained glass suncatchers can be etched to give your project a totally unique appearance.

Learning how to etch stained glass suncatchers isn't rocket science and can be mastered in just a few hours.

Have fun!

Arts & Craft Books

You can purchase all your items above if you don't already have them.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Caring For Your Soldering Iron's Tip

Caring for your soldering iron's tip is easy to do and will keep your iron working like new for quite a long time.

Almost all soldering irons that are sold today are constructed with "Iron Clad" tips.

Except for the chisel end of the tip, Iron Clad tips are usually nickel or chrome plated over a copper core.

Solder will not stick to chrome or nickel plating but it will stick to iron, which is why the chisel end of soldering iron tips are not plated.

If you don't properly "season" the tip of a new soldering iron before using it, the tip will quickly corrode on you.

When you season the tip by "tinning", it prevents rusting and allows proper heat transfer to the tip's surface.

Tinning is simply the process of coating the tip of the iron with a layer of solder to extend the life of the soldering iron and improve soldering performance.

Impurities in the solder can build up on your tip and make soldering more difficult. The "crud" build up on a dirty tip affects the temperature at the tip and makes it harder to solder a uniform joint.

When your tip does become "blackened" and will not come clean using a wet sponge, break out your brass brush or your tinning block.

Put some flux on the sal ammoniac Tinning Block and gently rub the tip of your hot iron in it. Add solder to the mix and wipe off the tip with a damp sponge to remove any left over debris.

Tinning Block

If your tip is extremely dirty, you may need to repeat the process.

Don't put too much pressure on the tip of your iron when cleaning with a sal ammoniac block. It is an abrasive mineral and can wear away the iron cladding on the tip of your iron when used excessively.

You can also use a brass wire brush can to clean the crud off your tip before re-tinning.

Using a high quality solder is the easiest way to noticeably lengthen the life of your soldering iron tips.

Using a solder that has a high tin content and high metal purity such as Canfield 60/40 Solder - 1 Lb., will keep your tip looking like new for years to come.

Different types of solders that are commonly used for stained glass construction have different melting points and working properties.
  • 60/40 Solder
60/40 solder is made of 60% tin and 40% lead. It has a melting point of 374 ºF but doesn't become completely solid again until it cools down to 361ºF. Because of it's 13 degree working range it is the most commonly used solder for stained glass work.
  • 50/50 Solder
50/50 solder is composed of 50% tin and 50% lead. It becomes a liquid at 421ºF and regains it's solid state at 361ºF. It's 60 degree working range makes it usable for lead came stained glass work.
  • 63/37 Solder
63/37 solder is made from 63% tin and 37% lead. It liquifies at 361ºF and instantly becomes solid at that same temperature. With a working range of 0 degrees it is mainly used in circuit board applications and seldom used for stained glass construction.
  • Lead Free solders are a mixture of metals that melt at different temperatures, depending on the manufacturer that produced them. Lead free solders are most frequently used in plumbing applications.
Alloy         %Tin         %Lead      Solid         Liquid        Working Range

50/50           50                 50            361º            421º                    60º
60/40           60                 40            361º            374º                    16º
63/37            63                 37            361º            361º                      0º

Caring for your soldering iron tip is not that difficult.

To keep the tip of your iron clean as you work, keep a damp sponge or a bronze mesh pad handy.

A properly cleaned tip looks bright and shiny. To keep it that way, occasionally wipe it on a damp sponge or on a metal "Brillo" type pad.

Excessively cleaning your tip on a damp or wet sponge can cause early tip failure, so using a metal pad is preferable.

Repeatedly cleaning your tip on a damp sponge causes the temperature at the tip to dramatically rise and fall. This causes the metal at the tip to quickly expand and contract which will eventually cause metal fatigue and ruin your iron.

In addition, the impurities in the water can cause oxidation and unwanted mineral buildup.

Water based flux is acidic and corrosive, so don't continuously dip your soldering iron tip into water based flux to clean it.

The exception is when you tin or clean your tip on a sal ammoniac block with flux.  Sal ammoniac is an alkaline mineral and when combined with the acidic flux becomes neutral.

Never use sandpaper, a file or a grinding wheel to clean your tip. Instead, use a good quality fine brass or copper wire brush to clean off excess "grunge" from your tip before re-tinning.

When you're finished working on your stained glass project, wipe off the tip and load it up with solder before unplugging the iron.

In essence you are re-tinning your tip and protecting it from oxidizing.

Caring for your soldering iron's tip doesn't take much time or effort and will keep your iron working properly for many years.

Arts & Craft Books