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TECHNICAL TIPS for working with Stained Glass

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Stained Glass Workshop Technical Tips:

Keep your cement and brush wet 'til next time Cementing Leaded panels: Tip Nr 10
Keeping a Leaded Window Panel Square: Tip Number 9
Marking Cutting Lines on glass: for Band and Wire Saws: Tip Number 8
Lead Free Solder: Tip number 7
Cutting Glass: Tip number 6
Floppy Lamp Syndrome: Tip number 5
Reinforcing Lead Panels: Tip number 4
Keep Level While Soldering! Tip number 3
Get your copper tape to stick: Tip number 2
Soldering Wide Seams: Tip number one

Tec Tip Number 10 (March 2008)
Keeping your Lead Light Cement and brush wet until next time.
Two excellent tips from Tony Banfield.

1) I picked up the freezer tip fom Vic.....after a cementing session,I just put my cement-brush (still with residue of fresh cement) into a plastic bag, inside a hinged-lid plastic box and pop it in the bottom (coldest) part of the freezer...no taint. Next cementing, take it out five minutes before use and it's still wet and undried-out.
2) Vic (or Ernie) gave me another great cement saver tip....about 1" of water (which won't react with or dissolve the underlying oily cement) poured onto the top of your cement before re-lidding keeps it absolutely crust-free.....next cementing, just pour off the water and dig into nice fresh cement...no crust, no waste !

Tec Tip Number 9 (October 2002)
Making a Window Panel (KEEP IT SQUARE!)

When you're drawing a plan for a window panel remember that the space might not always be as square as it looks, i.e. neither right angled or

If I measure (and even if I don't personally, I tell the client or their contractor to do the same) I always do this:

1) Take the measurements in centimeters, then AGAIN in inches...you're very unlikely to get it wrong TWICE in BOTH systems.
2)Measure ALL diagonals in inches AND centimeters. If the diagonals aren't the same (in either system), the aperture's out of whack.
3) If possible, take/make a paper/hardboard template, even for rectangular apertures.
4)make sure that the measurer is giving TIGHT sizes into the rebates....I tell them to let ME make the allowances for a good fit, and to make sure that they're not just measuring the "daylight" size.

Tommy's Tip Number 8 (August 2002)
Marking Cut Lines for Band and Wire Saws

This is a TOP TIP for band saw users. As you know, your band saw blade will cut faster, and last longer, the more water and the wetter the glass, while you are cutting. The trouble is, this will wash off your marker line (even lines made with a Sharpie pen, almost immediately).

Well the solution of course, is to cover your line with Vaseline. Then you can cut in any amount of water, and the line will still be there.

Tip taken from the How-To CD supplied with a Gryphon Band Saw.

Click here for other Band Saw "words of wisdom."

Tommy's Tip Number 7 (January 2002)
Lead Free Solder

What are the advantages/disadvantages of using a lead-free solder 97% tin / 3% copper

Yes this lead free solder gained prominence in the late 80's when a lot of scare mongering was being used to push this product. The reality is that with the small amount of lead involved in regular solder, you would be more at risk jogging next to a main road. If the person still feels uncomfortable about this a small air filter on the bench will reduce the risk even further.

It must be remembered that simple hygiene & common sense should prevail, washing hands not allowing food to come in contact with the work area, etc. You would not walk straight in from gardening and proceed to prepare a meal.

As for the reports of people having to stop because of high lead levels, this is usually in a high production studio where there is a very large amount of repairing of old lead lights. It must be remembered that many of our older leaded lights were made some very nasty stuff was used to make lead light cement and with the disintegrating lead this type of work can cause problems.

So, lead free solder is available by special order from all the main stockists but it is very expensive, hard to work with and yet the health risk is minimal.

An additional thought from Rona Moody:

A more important concern with young children (I agree fully with the Tommy's Tips response) is that children should not be able to get at offcuts of calm/came/kame - call it what you will - if they're of the age when everything is stuck in the mouth.
The H & S chap at one of the country's biggest lead producers told me that the biggest concern for a stained glass artist is dropping a box of lead on a foot - again, make sure it's safe so that doesn't happen (though most hobbyists don't buy lead in big enough quantities for this to be a problem).

Tommy's Tip Number 6 (October 2000)
Cutting Glass

This season I will start off with a basic tip that should help the new starters. CUTTING GLASS! Well, that's a misnomer if ever, we do not cut glass we score the surface. Think of it as a very good friend of mine once described it, as a bowl of custard with a skin on. If we push hard when trying to cut in half or go too quick the lot vanishes. If on the other hand we apply just enough pressure not to much not to little, hey presto two halves.

We all watch golfers with their funny routines when teeing off. Well that helps them not only to concentrate but also to get the balance of the body just right. The same applies when cutting glass. No. No. You don't have to stand there flailing your arms about but you do relax and stand in front of your glass with the glass slightly to the right, if you are that handed, and to the left if left handed. Take the hand without a cutter in and lift the wrist off the table holding the glass with the ends of your fingers, not too tight.

You are now going to cut glass, the action should come from the shoulder and the wrist should not bend, this will let you use your body weight to apply the pressure. If the glass crackles and splinters you are pressing too hard, you will recognise the sound of the cutter when you get it right.

Last but not least get hold of an old carpet tile to put your glass on when you are practising, makes life easier.

Tommy's Tip Number 5 (July 2000)
Floppy Lamp Syndrome

Well, we have all had it with flat panel lamps 'floppy lamp syndrome." No it is not a medical complaint and it has nothing to do with this glorious weather we are all enjoying. FLS is where all the panels have been stood together and soldered. Great its all stood on the bench and all square, now how do we move it and pick it up?

Take a stick of solder cut length to the diameter of the top and solder across, repeat this two or three times so that it looks like the spokes of a wheel at the top. Then solder the centre where they all cross together. Repeat the process on the other end. This will brace your lamp and allow you to work on it without it collapsing

When you are ready to fit your vase cap remove solder braces and fit the vase cap. When satisfied all is well remove braces from other end.
Job Done

Tommy's Fourth Tip (April 2000)
Reinforcing Leaded Panels

REINFORCING or STRENGTHENING.

This is a complete minefield.

First I will deal with the two we can always see. There is a "Saddle Bar". This is the steel bar often seen across the back of leads, mainly in churches. Usually 8mm coated steel bar held to the lead with copper ties, which are soldered on to the lead at joints.
A bit unsightly but the best in terms of strength and effectiveness.

Next we have "Rebar", a flat zinc coated bar of approximately 12mm x 3mm, flat section so that it can be bent to follow the horizontal line of the lead. Sits at the back of the lead and is soldered on direct to the lead.
Effective but unsightly.

Steels.
You cannot see these as they sit inside the lead came between the glass and the heart, size usually about 3mm x 1mm . Now this is the tricky bit to put this in you need to remember two points:

1. Cut your glass 1mm smaller on each row where you are going to put a steel.
2. Never, (no matter how easy it is) put your steel in the top of the came. If you do (and you will be tempted), water will seep in, the steel will rust and expand, and push the lead and glass apart. The picture (right) shows the correct way.

For added strength punch a hole through the border came and allow the steel to poke through so that it is just visible through the heart.

Tommy's Third Tip: (March 2000)
Keep your work level while soldering

Yes, I know I was supposed to do a tip for people who do lead work well, but it has to be a big sorry. This morning, Marge came to see me. Well, Marge has got into a pickle. She has come upon the age old problem of not being able to hold the joint she is soldering level, and as we all know, solder when hot will not defy gravity.

So I showed her the wedge system and we both agreed that this was as good as another pair of hands. Then cost came into the frame, so with that criteria I showed her my favourite, all singing, all dancing, multi-position props (Cost NIL!):

First scrounge two or three old cotton bank bags, (must be cotton never use nylon). Then get some polystyrene peanuts, (everyone packs everything in them). Fill the cotton bags 80% full and staple the end over like an envelope and hey presto: instant props which will mould to the shape of your project.

At this cost you can make as many as you need. If you would like the deluxe model, fill with dried peas.

Tommy's Second Tip:
Get your Copper Tape to Stick

A question I am always asked is "What is wrong with the foil? It has just come apart?

There are many reasons for this and as the market has evolved and glue has become better is is very rare for the foil to be at fault.

A very common point starts before you even put the foil on, its when you are washing your pieces of glass, ( you all do don't you?). A normal washing up liquid or soap contains certain elements that leave an invisible film after use on the glass. You may not be able to see it but it is there and it is this that creates a barrier between the glue and the glass, the rest is history.

So use a de-greasant type and don't be impatient. Let it dry. To rush at this point is a bit like running a marathon you may not get to the end.

Editor's Comment

Tommy's absolutely right about getting the glass clean and dry. I use an alternative method. I do not wash the glass after cutting and grinding. First of all, I always grind every edge, even if they look fine. Then I give it a good wipe with a paper kitchen towel which removes the water and dust easily. I'm too lazy to wash and dry, and this works well for me. The glass MUST be clean and dry.

Tommy's First Tip:  Soldering Wide Seams

Ever had the problem when soldering a copper foil project, where you just get the bead right and it suddenly melts and drops through?
Well, this will help:

1. You need two types of solder 40/60 and 60/40. 
The first number is the tin content.  The higher this number the lower the melting point.
2. You take the 40/60 and carry out all your tacking together and soldering of the back or inside of your project, forming a foundation.
3. When your project is tacked together change to the 60/40 to carry out all your beading and finishing. You will find that the slight difference in melting point will allow the previous soldering to act as a base for your finishing bead.
4. An added bonus is that 60/40 solder takes patina easier, giving a better finish.

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