How To Create A Stained Glass Project
Many of you have seen the photos (and complimented me, THANK YOU!) of the completed stained glass project I’ve been working on.
I took a class through LSU’s leisure classes program in stained glass. It was 2 hours a week for six weeks.
Our teacher challenged us with projects that are above beginner level, but not too complicated. She wanted to be able to teach us everything we needed to know to be able to move upward in complexity without having to have another class - and she did it!
For those who are interested, here are the basic steps.
Our first class involved no work; it was lecture on stained glass, a bit of history of stained glass, different types of glass and a description and demonstration of the tools we would need for the next class. Since the room was equipped with the expensive stuff (glass grinder, soldering irons), we only had to buy the most basic of tools - total cost of tools less than $40.
The first work we did was tracing, then cutting our pattern. Two exact copies of the pattern are needed: One is on heavier-weight paper that is cut to form the pattern or template pieces for the glass cutting; the second is on lighter weight paper, that is used later as a guide when it comes time to actually assemble the piece.
Notice that the individual pieces are numbered; I also made a notation as to which color each piece would be. The numbering is absolutely necessary; and I found marking each pattern piece with a color code was very helpful when I went to buy my glass. The numbering is important because even though two pieces may have the same shape, there will be slight differences in their size and shape because of slight differences in how you cut the pattern pieces; and for the piece to fit together properly, the cut glass pieces need to be placed EXACTLY in the spot they were cut for.
Here are photos of my two copies, and the cut pattern:
In cutting out the pattern pieces, scissors called “lead pattern scissors” are used. These scissors actually cut out a strip of paper from between the pattern pieces that is the EXACT size needed to allow for the width of the leading. In the photo below, notice the strips of paper in the lap. These are the strips being cut out as the pattern pieces are being cut:
After that, we used some cheap, plain glass to practice scoring and cutting glass, both straight lines and curved ones:
For the next class, we had to have our glass, to be cut during class. The glass for my piece came to less than $30. The store where I bought it sells the glass by weight, and sells you exactly what you need - I did not have to buy an entire square of glass, when a small piece was all I needed.
We placed our pattern pieces on the glass, and used silver sharpies (it shows up really well) to trace the pattern pieces. Here are my glass pieces before being cut, and some after being cut:
After being cut, it’s important to number each of the cut glass pieces with the same number as the pattern piece, for reasons stated above - that is, even though some pieces may have the same shape as other pieces, there will be slight differences in size/shape due to slight differences occurring when you cut the pattern, and then cut the glass. So it’s important to have the glass pieces numbered to place in the exact spot they were cut for. Also, the numbers written on the top side of the glass pieces helped me keep track of which side of the glass was to be placed up during assembly.
And, assembly is the very next step!
Below are photos of my piece during the assembly process. Notice that the lighter-weight pattern guide paper is on a workboard, and held in place by two wooden slats that are long enough so that the final piece won’t extend beyond them. These slats are needed to keep the paper guide in place, and to keep your glass pieces in place. There are some nails that we use to keep things in place and tight, once we had the pieces placed, while we worked on the next section.
Work begins in the left corner, and proceeds up and out from there. Look how far I got before I had to stop! Not very far - I accidentally smashed a piece of glass with a hammer because I missed the nail I was trying to hammer in! And then I had to go get more glass and cut it in order to finish assembly. Also notice the red on the paper pattern - that’s blood because I cut my finger on a small glass shard and didn’t realize it until, well, until I saw all the blood. I forgot a basic instruction: Use a whisk broom to keep your work area clean, people!
If you look closely, you’ll see a series of 3 lines around the edges of the guide paper.
The center line is the glass line - that’s where the glass should end. The outside line is 5/32” outside of the glass line - that’s the marker for the outer edge of the zinc framing material. The inside line is 1/4” in from the outer edge of the frame line, and that represents the INSIDE margin of the framing material. All of this helps you to determine where to end your lead pieces, which don’t go to the end of the glass that will be covered by the frame, but will need to be touching the frame material when soldering takes place. Hell. Nobody told me there would be math!
Why out 5/32”? That’s how deep the groove is that the glass will fit into. Why 1/4” in from there? That’s the total width of the zinc framing material (called “came”).
While you’re assembling a piece, you might notice that a piece of glass is slightly larger than the guide paper. It you can’t fit it in, it needs to be ground down a bit, to size. Here’s the glass grinder. Eye protection is a must! I also got a mask to cover my nose, because small, almost microscopic pieces of glass pretty much fly everywhere, including up your nose. And I didn’t like it.
And, here it is, final assembly complete, ready to be soldered!
This was a strange feeling, finishing this thing. I worked and worked and worked, and then it was finished, just all of a sudden!
If you’re interested in stained glass, I recommend taking a class. For one thing, they will have the equipment you need to work with, and your only investment will be the cost of the class, your glass and a few basic tools; you can buy the other stuff later, if you think your interest is such that you’ll continue to work with glass.
Also, the advice and assistance of the glass professional teaching our class was invaluable! Although it’s a fairly simple process, there are some “tricks of the trade” to it that probably would NOT be in a beginner’s book, and you will be much less frustrated when you know and can apply these from the beginning.