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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