Thursday, December 25, 2014

The Joys Of Stained Glass Plating

Stained glass plating has been practiced since late in the last century when Louis Comfort Tiffany and John La Farge began the practice in earnest. Both did a lot of plating during their lifetimes.

Plating, also called overlay in stained glass terminology, involves using more than a single layer of stained glass in your projects. The Plating of stained glass together allows you the freedom to use any color or texture combination.

Each layer of stained glass is soldered on top of other layers to provide a variety of three dimensional effects.

Plating is not commonly practiced in the construction of stained glass suncatchers for several reasons.

First and foremost, when viewed from the front, stained glass plating looks great. However, when viewed from the back of the suncatcher or panel, plating looks much less aesthetic, in fact it can look plain ugly. This is because most plating occurs on the reverse of the suncatcher or panel.

Many stained glass artisans shy away from plating for a variety of reasons, but why do they bother with plating in the first place?  Well, there are several reasons.

Plating transforms an otherwise common piece of work into a truly unique, "one of a kind" work of art like the example below that was created by Chuck Franklin Studios.

Waterfall Window
Typical of stained glass done by Tiffany studios in the early 1900′s, this window features plating and the attaching of pieces to the front of the window to give it a 3-D effect.   The plating of several layers of glass on top of each other produces the rich colors and depth. The logs in the foreground were rounded and protruded from the rest of the window.

When done properly, plating adds a sense of distance to a piece. It will also make your solder or lead lines look less distinct.

Plating can also be used to add "shading" and other effects to your piece.

Plating glass together does not restrict you to a single color, texture or type of stained glass. You can superimpose images on top of each other using different types of stained glass to achieve many desired effects.

To create the effect of "distance" to a piece, the layer closest to the viewer should be a thick, dense, opal glass. A dense glass diffuses the light that passes through the various layers and gives the desired diffused look.

A lot of Tiffany panels have been made with this effect.

When you want to add shading to your piece, you need a relatively dense glass or the lines become too pronounced.

When superimposing images on top of each other, you need to complete the background first. The second, "plating layer" is then superimposed on top of the completed background to create a sculptured effect that when done correctly will not have lead lines.

Another three dimensional effect that can be created by plating is a "faceted" or "ragged" effect.

To achieve this effect, multiple layers of stained glass are placed over each other. The best "faceted" effect can be achieved by organizing the different plated layers to give them a "more intense" look. The layers absorb more light and should cast shadows on other parts of the work.

You can make any piece look "rougher" by varying the angles of the plated glass on the upper layers.

There are some problems associated with Plating stained glass; accurate cuts, moisture, and weight distribution being the most prominent.

Depending on the pattern, accurate cuts become central to Plating stained glass projects; especially when one layer needs to be placed exactly on top of another layer.

Moisture can also be a problem when two layers are placed exactly on top of each other, however both problems can easily be handled by making accurate cuts and thoroughly drying each layer before soldering.  When constructing layers, dry each layer thoroughly with a hair dryer as you build up your project.  

You can also allow residual moisture to escape by providing a "vent" between layers is the layers are large.   This can be done by putting a dollop of Vaseline on the top and bottom of the plated piece before soldering. The Vaseline stops the solder from holding at these locations and allows for the release of moisture that can build up and destroy the look of your project.

Occasionally the soldering flux will spit or spatter between the layers during soldering. When this happens, you have to de-solder the piece, clean it, and re-solder.

Another problem with multilayer plating is that it becomes almost impossible to lay the project flat on your work surface to solder.  To keep your project level during soldering, you need to support the various layers of stained glass from underneath so the weight of the panel is equally distributed.

When plating only a few areas of a wall hanging or a panel, you need to take into account the weight distribution of the completed panel. The weight of the panel is no longer carried through the vertical plane of the glass.

When adding smaller more complex curves and shapes to a piece, it is more likely to have the necessary strength than when you add longer, narrower pieces which are more likely to bow or "warp". Since most stained glass Platings are a work in progress, add curves to your design to provide strength to the project.

You will encounter major weight distribution problems when the bottom portion of the panel is constructed from a single layer of glass and the upper portion is a multilayer construction. The entire project will be top heavy.

You can solve the problem by adding a clear piece of glass plate to the back of the piece, on the very bottom, to offset the weight distribution. You will have problems if you decide to frame the piece, but you can always carve away the bottom section of a frame to accommodate the increased width if you are using a wooden frame.

Because of the complexity of their design, most plated stained glass pieces have no set pattern. Their designs are modified while under construction, usually with the aid of light boxes.

 If you decide to experiment with Plating, you can either start with an existing panel and add a layer or two, or start with a design of your own and add to it as the project grows. Get a base design and add a layer or two. Try out different types and color combinations until you are happy with your outcome.

When plating onto an existing panel, reduce the solder lines on the back of the panel to a flat line. Then cut the plating pieces and solder them onto the panel.

Plating is to some extent a trial and error process. Take your time and experiment with it. You will be surprised with the results you can achieve.

Arts & Craft Books

Friday, November 7, 2014

Decorative Soldering - How To Easily Create Accents To Your Stained Glass Suncatchers

There are several decorative soldering techniques used to easily create accents for your stained glass suncatcher projects that cost very little if anything to implement.

Some single strand copper wire is all you need to give a flower, a fish or an insect a more realistic looking appearance.  An extra bead of solder strategically placed on your project can also add an interesting look.

You can purchase single strand copper wire from many sources online or you can strip the wire insulation from any scrap piece of single or multi-strand wire and use it in your decorative soldering.

Decorative soldering accents can be made to any project by simply tinning and bending copper wire to shape and tacking it to your pattern.

An otherwise drab looking butterfly can be jazzed up by bending a couple of copper wires to the shape of an antennae and tacking it on the head.

An extra little "blob" of solder tacked on the ends also adds a unique realistic look.

The same technique can be used to jazz up the butterfly's wings.

Tacking thin pieces of wire across the wing areas can more realistically simulate a butterfly's wing pattern.

This also can be done to add scales to fish patterns.  A strategically placed piece of wire makes a gill look like a gill. 

Flowers and leaves can also be enhanced by adding thin pieces of tinned wire.

Veins in plant leaves almost never look "right" in a finished project but, when you add wire veins to the leaf or flower petals you get a totally new look. 

The Maple leaf to the left is an example of how much more realistic you can make your suncatcher look.

Solder beads can be added to many otherwise drab looking projects to give them some personality. 

The starfish and the portion of the jewelry box below demonstrate how decorative solder beading on an otherwise dull project can enhance the overall look of the finished product.


The technique of using copper wire accents to provide a support for solder beads is used in many freehand projects.  This is also used with flowers and a multitude of other original freehand projects. 

Below are examples of this technique.

The next time you plan your stained glass suncatcher project, try some decorative soldering techniques to create accents that will distinguish yours from the many other projects available in the marketplace.

Decorative soldering with copper wires, some extra solder and time costs you nothing except your time.

Arts & Craft Books

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Using Fused Glass In Your Suncatcher Projects

Some stained glass artisans have been using fused glass in their suncatcher projects with varying degrees of success.

But since there are many forms of glass art, we might as well include fused glass as part of this discussion.

Fused glass is also called "warm glass", "kiln glass", or "kilnformed glass".  It is basically the melting of two or more pieces of glass together in a kiln to form unique color combinations and shapes.

Fused glass is commonly used to create unique bowls, plates, jewelry, tiles and sculptures however it has also been recently incorporated into stained glass windows, wall hangings. and suncatchers.  In the wall hanging below, the birds are fused glass and the window uses the copper foil technique.

The basic idea behind fused glass is to create art objects by melting glass in a kiln.  This simple idea is behind hundreds of techniques that are accessible to people around the world. 

Fused glass had been growing quickly in popularity and unlike stained glass, the finished projects have no lead lines.

Unlike dimensional foiled stained glass projects, fused glass can be created without having to cut, grind, foil, and assemble hundreds of smaller pieces.

Unlike leaning how to construct stained glass projects, the learning curve for fused glass is virtually non existent.

Anyone's garage can be converted into a fused glass studio and there are fewer physical demands on the artisan.  All you need to do is purchase a kiln, place the glass into the kiln and turn it on.  The basic techniques are as follows:
  • Fused Glass:
Simply place two or more pieces of glass in the kiln and heat until they fuse together into a single piece of glass.

  • Slumped or Draped Glass:
Place a piece of glass over a ceramic mold and heat it until it "slumps" into the shape of the mold.  The glass used is often fused glass with the design elements already "fused" into the design.

  • Cast Glass:
There are several variations of glass casting that include the lost wax method, pate de verre, etc. but the idea is for the glass to be melted enough to easily flow into a mold of some type.  All cast glass projects are thick, three dimensional objects.

All kiln formed glass is, as the name implies, created in a kiln specifically designed for this use.  Ceramic kilns can be used, but since they are not specifically designed for fusing glass, they do not produce consistent results.

Ceramic kilns and glass kilns differ in the placement of their heating elements and their operating temperature range.  Because of the demands made in fusing different types of glass together, almost all glass kilns have computerized controllers.

Incorporating fused glass into your suncatcher project is simply a matter of creating your fused glass design, foiling it in the usual manner, and soldering it into the stained glass project.

The possibilities for using fused glass in stained glass projects are endless and left to your

Arts & Craft Books

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Why Copper Foils Are Made With Different Colored Backing

Copper foils were originally made with a copper colored backing, sticky enough to adhere to the stained glass.

As stained glass gained in popularity and consumers became more conscious of  little details that detracted from the aesthetic value of the finished product, manufacturers began to make copper foils with different colored backing.

But, why are different colored backs needed or even wanted?

The answer is quite simple.  To create more attractive looking seams in the finished product.

For opaque stained glass, the standard backed copper foil (front and back) works just fine.  This is because the back of the foil cannot be seen through the glass when the solder seam is completed.

However, with clear glass, transparent stained glass or beveled glass patterns; the back of the foil that is used in the project's construction can be easily seen when looking through the edge of the glass into the seam.

When the back color of the foil does not match the natural color of the solder or when the color of the patina you use is not copper colored, the back color of the foil used can be distracting and look unsightly on the finished project. 

Suncatchers are especially susceptible to unsightly looking seams.

To handle the problem, manufacturers started making silver and black baked foils for the stained 
glass market.

Now when you create a beveled glass design or incorporate one into a suncatcher or glass panel, and apply a black patina to your project; you can use a black backed foil so the finished seams match the color of the patina in your project.

If you are making a project and leaving the solder without applying a patina, you can use a silver packed foil to match the silver solder seams.  If you want to use a copper patina, use regular copper foil, etc. 

There is no true brass color patina, but there is a brass back foil that is most often used with clear glass that will be brass plated after soldering.  Brass backed foil is not often soldered.

Occasionally you may want to avoid tinning a project that is foiled with copper tape, to make it silver. 

In these instances you can use a double silvered tape.  This is a specialty tape that is silvered on both sides and is useful when you have edges that you are not soldering but that you want to make look silver. 

 Another specialty foil that comes in different colored backing is a scalloped edge foil called Wave Foil.

As the name implies, the foil has a wavy pattern on one side and is straight on the other side. 

It is normally about 5/16" wide and is also made in a copper, black or silver back.

Scalloped edge foils can be used to add unique detail and create interest in your stained glass projects.

You can foil one or both sides of a seam, line up the scallops to create a continuous "wave" or offset the scallops, or you can use the foil as an overlay to a stained glass project.

Used as an overlay, apply the foil so the dips in the scallops on the surface of the glass line up with or cover the straight edge that would normally be wrapped around the underside of the glass.

I'm sure you can find other interesting uses for scalloped or "wave" foils that can enhance the look of your stained glass projects.

To sum it up, there are now five types of foils manufactured for use in the stained glass industry.
  • Standard copper foil with copper back
  • Copper foil with silver back
  • Copper foil with black back
  • Double silver foil (both sides are silver)
  • Actual Brass foil (brass both sides)
We hope this helps with your understanding of using different colored backing on copper foils.

Arts & Craft Books

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

How Are Overlays Used In Stained Glass Projects?

Overlays are used in stained glass projects when the artisan wants to create a special effect, add more detail, create a different dimension to a project, or just to create more interest in the finished product to make it unique.

Tiffany style lampshades frequently use overlays in their design to enhance the overall beauty and
intricacies of the finished shade.

Generally, overlays are fabricated from copper or brass sheets and are then added to a project to create the desired effect.

Overlays can make a single piece of stained glass look like several pieces of glass soldered together or they can be used to create solder lines that look like they end in the middle of a glass piece.

Overlays are often used in stained glass projects to create details that would normally be impossible or at the least, extremely time consuming to create using pieces of cut glass alone.

Copper is the best medium for creating overlays because of it's malleability.

Depending on what you want to achieve; overlays can be made from large adhesive backed copper sheets, standard copper foil tape or on larger projects, from thicker copper sheets.


Adhesive back copper sheets are by far the best option for covering an entire glass piece and creating an intricate design overlay.

To do this, use the piece of glass you are going to cover as a template and then cut out it's outline from the copper sheet with an Exacto knife or a good pair of scissors.  Do not peel off the backing until ready to use.

Next, trace or freehand the design you want to use directly on to the copper sheet and cut out the places where you want the stained glass to show through with a sharp Exacto knife.

Now all you need to do is peel off the backing and burnish the overlay on to the glass surface.

An alternate method that is sometimes used is to first peel off the backing from the copper sheet and apply it directly on to the stained glass you used as a pattern.

Then trace your design on to the copper and cut out the areas you want the glass to show through with a sharp pointed Exacto knife.

The problem with this method is that you will dull your knife blade much more quickly and if you press too hard, you can unintentionally score the glass beneath.

  • If your glass piece is small enough, you can cover the entire glass piece at once by making the overlay large enough to wrap over the glass edge and around to the back.  
  • You can also cut the overlay to fit the glass face, apply the overlay as indicated above, and then foil the edges of the glass piece like you would with any other project. 
  • Or; you can first foil the piece as you would any other project and then apply the overlay, making sure that the edges are met and covered enough for the solder to hold them together. 
Depending on the size of your project, the design of your overlay and the overlay material that you are using; all three methods have their place and work well.

Be careful when making overlays from foil tape or thinner sheets of copper.   They can distort and warp if you try to tin the overlay or solder it before attaching it.

Do this during assembly, not before.

Also don't use a lot of flux when soldering or tinning overlays.  Excess flux can seep under the overlay and cause the adhesive to lift, especially when using thinner copper overlays.


You can use a piece of standard copper foil tape to create an overlay directly on the face of a stained glass piece.

Apply it to the front of the glass the same way you would foil the edge of a piece of glass.  Just don't apply too much pressure when burnishing or you could crack your glass.

The copper foil tape when burnished, trimmed and soldered makes a solder line of the surface of the glass that can be made into interesting designs.

When using opaque or semi-clear stained glass, you may want to duplicate the pattern on the reverse of the piece you are working on, especially if the piece is a stained glass suncatcher or other project that can be viewed from both sides.

This method is often used to make a single piece of stained glass look like two or more pieces soldered together.

It is also used to create a veined effect on leaves, flowers, bird feathers, fish scales, bird beaks and legs, etc.


Overlays made from thicker copper sheets are usually pre-tinned and attached to the piece during final assembly.

Because copper sheets are thicker, they are less likely to distort or warp during the tinning process. However, they also require more heat for the solder to adhere during the tinning.

Rather than soldering them after they are fully in place, it is best to pre-tin thicker gauge copper overlays before placing them on the sheet of stained glass to minimize the chance of heat fracture.

 Arts & Craft Books

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Why Foils Are Made In Different Widths?

Newcomers to the stained glass hobby often ask “Why are foils are made in different widths?” and “Which size foil should I use?”.

The obvious answer to the first question is that because glass is manufactured in different thicknesses, foils need to be made in different widths to accommodate the thicknesses of the glass that is being used.

Most of the commercially made stained glass that is being produced today is uniform in thicknesses and is about 1/8” thick. 

Since most stained glass suncatchers are made with commercially produced glass, a 7/32” wide copper foil is recommended for foiling these type projects. This width provides sufficient overlap on both sides of the glass to solder and hold the pieces together without having an overly wide solder bead.

Hand made stained glasses, textured stained glass and semi-handmade glasses are not produced uniformly and have no “standard” thickness.  These stained glasses are normally used in Tiffany style lampshades, “Church” windows and other types of high end wall hangings and will require different widths of copper foil to achieve a uniform solder bead on the finished product.

Different width foils offer you the flexibility to create different effects on your finished project.   When working with thinner glass, a narrow foil provides the necessary amount of overlap without covering too much of the glass.  On thicker glass projects, a wider foil is required to properly wrap the glass and give the same effect.

Copper foils are also made in different widths to offer artists the opportunity to create designs or accent specific areas of project by using wider or narrower solder lines. You can make your solder lines wider or narrower by simply changing the width of the copper foil you are using. Changing the amount of overlap is what determines the width of the solder seam joining your pieces together.

Industry wide, the basic rule of thumb is that smaller pieces look more pleasing with narrow solder lines and larger pieces with wider lines, or lead came.

If you have a stained glass suncatcher or wall panel with a beveled insert, you may choose to accent the insert or other elements of your project by using different width solder lines. This is easily done by changing the width of the foil used in wrapping the glass or beveled insert.

Copper foils are found in 1/8", 5/32", 3/16", 7/32", 1/4", 5/16", 3/8", and 1/2" widths.   In fact you can even get wider (6” and 12”) widths in sheet form from some manufacturers.

The only requirement for foil width (outside of aesthetic value) is that the size used is wide enough to wrap the glass to hold the pieces together after they have been soldered.

For newcomers, the guide below should help you in determining what width foil to use for each type project.   However, it is only a guide.   You can use any size you want to achieve the desired effect.

  •  1/2" wide foil is used for very thick glass, for plating thicker or multiple layers, and for creating special effects or designs in seams. It is also used to create an overlay on glass pieces.

  • 3/8" wide foil is used for wrapping thick glasses (like ¼" and mirrors), plating pieces, and for decorative effects.

  • 5/16" foil is used for thicker glass, textured glasses, when plating pieces together, attaching or creating an overlay, and for wider solder seams.

  • 1/4" wide foil is commonly used to create wider soldered seams and give you a little extra width when working with thicker and textured stained glasses. It is also used to foil two pieces of glass together to create a single piece of glass (plating), and to attaching an overlay to a glass piece. Many beginner foilers find 732” too narrow to work with and use 1/4” as an alternative until they get used to the procedure.

  • 7/32" wide foil is the most commonly used size and is what most beginners start with. As previously stated, when used with most manufactured glasses made today, it will give an overlap that results in an aesthetically pleasing solder seam. It is also frequently used on thicker glasses to create a narrow solder seam.

  • 3/16" wide foil is normally used for beveled glass pieces, glass slides, single strength glass, jewels, and for smaller pieces. If you are looking for a narrow seam on standard 1/8" thick glass and you take care when wrapping the edges, it will produce a very nice narrow seam.

  • 5/32" foil is used for jewels, glass nuggets, thinner glasses, “micro glass”, glass slides, single strength glass and mirrors. It is generally used when you want a very narrow solder line.

  • 1/8" foil is the most common width used for glass nuggets. It allows you to expose as much of the nugget's surface as possible and is often used in stained glass suncatcher projects. Wider foils will cover up a lot of the nugget's surface, making it almost disappear in the finished piece when it is soldered. 1/8” wide foil is also used with jewels, sea shells, micro glass, glass slides, single strength glass, mirrors, and other types of very thin glasses.

Hopefully, this will explain why foils are made in different widths.

Arts & Craft Books

Monday, May 26, 2014

Protecting Your Suncatcher Patterns

Protecting your suncatcher patterns for future use is a simple task if you don't mind investing in a laminating machine.

When I first got into making stained glass projects many years ago, I ruined a lot of patterns and wasted a lot of time re-cutting when they became damaged or wet from using the grinder.

Through trial and error,  I quickly learned that you can re-use your patterns longer by cutting them out of heavier card stock.

To re-use your favorite patterns  for a much longer period of time, I started using wide, clear packing tape on both sides of the pattern for protection.

This works well, but for using a pattern over and over again without having to pay any special attention to it, laminate your pieces.

This way when using the grinder you can lift the wet glass straight on to the laminated pattern and it will easily slide into place without damaging the pattern.

A thermal laminator is a great investment and is easy to use on almost any thickness of card stock.

The machines allow you to laminate your patterns into various thicknesses.

If you plan to use a pattern numerous times for commercial type applications, laminate your pattern to 10 mil.  A 3 mil or 5 mil thicknesses is sufficient for most hobby work.

Thick card stock can get expensive when you are working on many different types of projects.

You can keep down the cost by going to your local print shop and asking them to keep a box of scrap card stock cut offs for you.

Most print shop operators will not have a problem doing this for you and will most likely not even charge you for it.

When you're working on a project, you can protect your patterns and keep them together in sandwich type to gallon size zip lock freezer bags.

Tape the pieces to the bag as you cut out each piece.  This also protects your laminated patterns from excessive moisture when using your grinder or wet circular saw.

Arts & Craft Books

Thursday, May 8, 2014

How to Make Wind Chimes For Use With Your Stained Glass Suncatchers

Learning how to make wind chimes for use with your stained glass suncatcher hangings is not difficult once you have the basics down pat.

Wind chimes have been around for a long time and are used throughout the world not only for their aesthetic value but as a holistic source of mind healing.

The tones emitted by wind chimes vary considerably.  They can be gentle low bongs, to low whistles, to high pitched tings and clacks.  The material that the wind chime is made of determines what type of sound is emitted.

One thing you can be certain of is that listening to any type of wind chime will give you a feeling of peace and tranquility.

Learning how to make stained glass suncatcher wind chimes was covered in a previous post so we will not rehash that subject.  Instead, we will concentrate on how to make wind chimes to hang from your stained glass projects.

Fortunately, making your own wind chimes is a very inexpensive proposition.  You can use items you already have around your home or are ready to pitch to the scrap heap.

Regardless of the materials used, almost all round wind chimes follow the same basic design pattern, with a four part construction sequence.
Round Pipe Wind Chime
  • The "lid"
  • The center "banger"
  • The lower wind "catcher"
  • The surrounding "chimes"
The center mounted wind catcher is comprised of a "banger" attached to a lower wind "catcher"

The center "banger" hangs in the middle of the wind chime and bangs into the surrounding sound producing materials (chimes) as the wind "catcher" is moved around by the wind.

The "lid":

Because most wind chimes are circular in design, you need a lid at the very top of your wind chimes to spread apart the sound producing materials.  Without a lid of some sort you would have a tangled mess.

Pick any colorful round lid for this purpose.  If you don't have one of the color you desire, pull out a can of spray paint and give it a shot of paint to your liking.

When your lid is dry, locate the center and punch a tiny hole through it with an awl.

Next, slide a piece of fishing monofilament or nylon thread through the hole and tie a bulky knot in it on the top side of the lid.

Measure the monofilament or thread to the length you desire and cut it.

Next, decide on how many hanging chimes you are going to use in your wind chime.

The number should be even numbered; 2, 4, 6, 8 or more in order to maintain balance.

Each hanging chime should have another chime hanging directly opposite to it.

Lay out the position of the holes needed on the outside of the lid and punch the holes through the lid as evenly as possible with the awl.

The center "banger":

The next step is to install the center "banger" of choice in the center of the lid.

The material you choose for the "banger" is important.

It must be of sufficient mass and hard enough to create a noise when it hits the chime material, yet light enough to be easily pulled into the surrounding chimes by the lower wind catcher.

If it is too large or too heavy, the wind catcher below will not be able to move the "banger" with the breeze and the wind chimes will not work effectively.

Once you have a suitable material, (preferably something round or circular) install your chosen banger at the center point of the center string in the lid.

The lower wind "catcher":

that is surrounded by several chimes.   The beautiful sounds you hear are made when the banger is pulled by the lower wind pickup into the sound producing chimes.

Just below the "banger" at the base of the center string, install your wind catcher.

The wind catcher can be anything that has the ability to catch a breeze.  Anything with a large flat surface will work just fine as long as it has some weight to it.

A wide piece of stained glass, a small plastic lid or even a large cut off spoon will work just fine.

The surrounding "chimes":

The next step is to hang the chimes at the proper distance from the lid and at the same height as the center "banger".

The hanging height is important because in order to make the chime sound pleasant, the center "banger" must be able to hit the chimes with enough force to create a pleasing sound.

To give your finished wind chimes a unique look, the string length of your chimes can vary but in order to work properly, it must be balanced.

If you have one chime 6" long, the chime opposite it should also be 6" long if it is made from the same material.

If using hollow pipe, bamboo, etc. you can vary the lengths of each chime to offset the weight and length of each piece of string.  This gets a bit complicated and requires a lot of trial and error to keep everything in balance.

If you use the same materials and match up the lengths of each chime with the chime opposite it, you should have no problems.

Drill holes through the tops of each of the chimes and the wind catcher before you attach them to the string.  This way they will hang evenly when the job is complete.

Hanging the Wind Chime to the Suncatcher:

Punch two more holes in the lid spaced evenly apart from the center.  Slide a length of monofilament through one hole and tie a large knot at the bottom to hold it in place.

Measure the amount of mono you want for the hanging loop, and cut it to length.  Then thread the end of the monofilament through the second hole and again tie a large knot to hold.

Your wind chime is now complete and can be hung alone or from the bottom ring of your reinforced stained glass suncatcher project.

Sit back and let the sounds of the chimes heal your soul.

Arts & Craft Books

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Stained Glass Suncather Wind Chimes

The construction of stained glass suncatcher wind chimes is similar to the basic construction of stained glass suncatchers.

Almost any stained glass suncatcher pattern can be modified  into a beautiful sun reflecting wind chime.  

It's just a matter of strengthening, balancing, and adding the appropriate sized wind chimes.

In general, suncatchers are some of the smallest projects made from stained glass. 

They are created for hanging in a window or from some point in the ceiling to gather and reflect light into the room.  

Their function is strictly decorative like Christmas balls on your Christmas tree and are usually free-form, round or constructed in small frames.

When constructing stained glass suncatcher wind chimes, you are adding audio functionality to your creation.  The pleasing tinkling of the wind chimes contributes to the aesthetic quality of the stained glass suncatcher.

In addition to adding another ring below your suncatcher pattern, there are three other changes you need to keep in mind when making stained glass wind chimes.
  1. You need to strengthen the outside edges of the suncatcher pattern you choose to use.
  2. You need to select the correct wind chime material to use with the pattern you chose.
  3. You need to correctly balance the finished stained glass suncatcher wind chime.
The top part of the Chinese suncatcher wind chime (pictured below) is made from relatively larger panes of glass which adds additional weight to the project.

The outside edges are fabricated from a copper foiled steel rod which strengthens the entire project.  

5/64 Round U Lead Hobby CameA copper or brass channel could also have been used by the artisan to strengthen the project with equivalent results.  

Round U came is produced in lead, copper or brass and can be purchased in bulk from a variety of suppliers.

The added ring below is centered for balance to hold the wind chimes
in line with the upper hanging ring.

With a free-form suncatcher like this one, centering is not much of a
problem however, it takes some finesse to locate and solder the rings of a square or rectangular stained glass suncatcher wind chime.

Selecting the correct wind chime material can become a challenge but regardless of what materials you choose to construct your wind chime with, they all follow a certain set design.

Most wind chimes are circular in design, like the example above.

They will all have a lid and a center mounted wind catcher surrounded by several sound producing hangers.  

You can use almost anything for the hangers; bells, pipe sections, old keys, marbles, stained glass pieces, seashells, bamboo, old silverware, etc.

The center mounted wind catcher hangs below what is called a "banger".  This is the object, usually round and hard, that actually creates noise and causes the chime effect.

The wind catcher hanging below the "banger" picks up the slightest breeze and moves the "banger" into contact with the surrounding chimes. 

In order to be effective, the center banger must be light enough to be easily moved by the wind catcher, yet hard enough to make a noise when it bangs into the surrounding chimes.

We will provide more on wind chime construction in upcoming posts.

When your wind chime is completed to your specifications just hang it from the lower ring of your reinforced stained glass suncatcher pattern, check for balance, and hang the completed stained glass suncatcher wind chime assembly in a breezy location.


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Saturday, March 29, 2014

Transforming Your Ideas Into Stained Glass

Transforming your ideas into glass suncatchers or wall hangings is entirely possible when you have something to work with.

Creating stained glass suncatchers is fun and profitable but like anything else you can get tired of replicating the same patterns (with slight modifcations) that everyone else is making.

Creativity making stained glass suncatchers is limited only by your imagination and your ability to transform them into a real products.

Here are some ideas on how you can accomplish it.
  • You went deep sea fishing with friends and was lucky enough to land a beautiful Mahi Mahi (dolphin).  Idea: Dolphin Suncatcher
  • You went for a drive in the local wildlife refuge and saw a beautiful pair of Wood Ducks.  Idea: Wood Duck Suncatcher
  • You took a walk and saw some beautiful Monarch butterflies on a milkweed plant.  Idea: Butterfly Suncatcher
  • On a spring walk in the woods you noticed a beautifully colored salamander under a rotted tree stump.  Idea: Spotted Salamander Suncatcher
  • You spotted some waterfowl while on the beach.  Idea:  Pelican Suncatcher
All of the above have potential and are great prospects for transforming your ideas into stained glass suncatchers

The first step is to record your idea to some sort of media you can work with.

If you are artistic, you can simply draw or etch your ideas on paper, wood, etc. for future use.  If you are totally void of artistic abilities, just take a picture or video of your ideas for future reference.

Original Picture of Pelican
A cheap, pocket size digital camera is a great way to record things you have seen for future reference.

Snap pictures of your ideas and when you get home transfer the pictures to your computer. 

Then use any simple picture viewer to manipulate your images.

There are many free software programs available that can manipulate pictures, but IrfanView is one of the best and easiest to use.

Edge Detected Photograph of Pelican
It has an "edge detection" feature in the "effects" menu that you can use to more easily trace patterns from the copied pictures or photos on your computer. 

The next step is to make a copy or copies of the pictures you choose to transform into stained glass suncatchers.

If you do not already have a home copy machine, I strongly recommend purchasing any brand of "all in one" copier. 

These units have a copy, scan and fax feature built into one machine.  There are many brands available and most are reasonably priced.

Use heavy card stock paper so you can cut out and re-use the pieces after you trace and transfer the pieces onto the stained glass.  Office Depot or Staples has the paper available at reasonable prices.

Once you have copied the "edge enhanced" picture that you manipulated from the original photograph, you can use a led pencil or magic marker to trace out the glass pieces. 

Make sure the pieces you trace from the copy can be easily cut from stained glass.

During this step you do not need to get fancy with ornate close cuts, impossible angles or sharp edges.  Trace pieces that can be easily cut from the glass and assembled into a suncatcher.

(Note:  There are several software programs that claim they can make a photograph into a stained glass pattern.  Look for additional posts on this topic.)

Once the tracing is complete, just proceed with your project as you would with any other stained glass suncatcher pattern.  Reference
  • Cut
  • Foil
  • Tack and solder
  • Clean
  • Patina
  • Enjoy!  

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Saturday, March 22, 2014

How Much Is Too Much?

How much is too much to pay for a stained glass suncatcher? 

On occasion we have been asked about stained glass suncatcher pricing.

Often a small stained glass suncatcher project may seem overpriced to consumers who are used to purchasing similar mass produced items from Wally's World or other such outlets.

If you have your eye on a hand crafted stained glass item and are wondering if you are paying too much, perhaps you should continue reading and see what it takes to make a hand crafted stained glass suncatcher.

Stained glass costs vary greatly on the type and color of glass used but in general, glass sells from $4.00 to $8.00 a square foot.

Red, leaded and iridescent colors are the most expensive.

In addition to the cost of the glass used in the project, other items such as solder, foil, flux, patina and polishes need to be included in the cost.

Even though the cost for these items is nominal, a suncatcher project with a large number of pieces can eat up some copper foil.

Time is the greatest cost in determining what a hand crafted stained glass suncatcher project is worth.

The more pieces used in the project, the more time it takes to cut out the glass, foil the pieces and solder them together.

To give you an example:
  • A simple five piece star pattern requires four straight cuts per piece. To score and break five pieces takes about 3 or 4 minutes if you don't make any mistakes.
  • You then need to grind the pieces to ease the sharp edges in preparation for foiling. This only takes about a couple of minutes.
  • Next you need to wash and dry each piece in preparation for the foiling process. This takes about two or three minutes.
  •  Foiling and burnishing each piece takes about 2 minutes per piece.
  • Next you need to tack and solder all the pieces together. The total time required for fluxing, tacking and soldering is about 5 or 6 minutes (if you're good).
  • You will need to make and solder a "hanging ring" to the center of balance of your suncatcher. This takes about a minute or so.
  • Assuming you are going to apply a patina to your project, you will need to re-wash and thoroughly dry the project. This takes another couple of minutes.
  • Applying a patina takes another couple of minutes, depending on the color and time required to attain the tone you are after.
  • Polishing and drying the finished project will eat up another couple minutes of your time. 

Roughly speaking you have just put in at least a half hour of work to create a simple five piece stained glass suncatcher project, and this does not include any bad cuts or re-cutting.

Also remember that the above example is based on performing straight cuts. Projects with curved edges require much more time for cutting and grinding to shape.

So, what is a half hour of your time worth these days?

When you consider the cost of materials, the time and the effort involved in creating a hand crafted stained glass suncatcher or wall hanging; most of the time you are getting a good deal for the price you pay.

 I'll let you be the judge of how much is too much.

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