Assemble Your Own Stained Glass Starter Kit: Checklist And Instructions

Learn the supplies and basic steps to making your own Tiffany-style stained glass. Project details and an introduction to this hobby.

Making stained glass art is a wonderful hobby. It combines pure creativity with exacting craftsmanship to create a thing of beauty. There is no other feeling like hanging a piece of stained glass you have made and watching the light stream through, illuminating the glass and making the floor glow different colors.

That said, making stained glass art is not an easy, quick, or cheap hobby to pick up. First and foremost, you need undisturbed space. Works may take weeks to complete, and they must remain undisturbed during this period. Once you have a dedicated space, let's look at the other required materials to make Tiffany-style stained glass pieces:

- cutter: a glass cutter usually has a diamond-hard wheel at one end to score the glass. This instrument does not actually separate the glass into pieces, but it cuts a small groove in the surface of the glass along which the glass can be broken. Be sure to always cut the glass completely - you will end up with sharps of unusable glass if you only cut a piece of glass part-way.

- pliers: generally, pliers are used to hold the scored glass. Once the glass has been cut, it can be broken easily by bending it in the opposite direction of the score. Many artists use pliers to hold the glass to avoid getting their hands cut. If you are using a single pair of pliers, hold the larger part of glass in your hand and break off the smaller with the pliers.

- gloves: a pair of gloves strong enough to withstand small shards of glass but thin enough to allow you maneuverability can be invaluable.

- glass grinder: this machine wets the glass pieces as it smoothes them and removes shards created by the cutting process.

- copper tape: the copper tape is pure copper on one side and sticky on the other. It wraps each segment of finished, cut glass, folding slightly over the top and under the bottom to allow the solder to bond the glass together.

- solder: sold in hardware stores, this metal is melted onto the copper-wrapped glass to hold it together.

- soldering iron: this tool, shaped like a screwdriver, heats to melt the solder at a simple touch. It helps even out the solder along the copper tape.

- flux: this liquid is brushed onto the solder to help the melted metal flow along the copper and keeps the solder from oxidizing

- cardboard: cardboard cutouts can help you plan how you will cut the glass to the desired shape.

- glass: glass can be bought in sheets of almost any size, any texture, and any color..

I recommend reading a book on making stained glass or preferably taking a class, but here is a summary of the steps to making a finished piece.

1. Draw a 1:1 scale version of what you want the piece to look like. Leave a few millimeters of space between pieces of glass (these will be filled with copper tape and solder). Try to avoid long, thin pieces of glass or pieces that contain an acute angle (and angle less than 90 degrees) - these can easily break either during the construction or after the piece is finished. If they crack afterward, you will not be able to replace them.

2. Cut cardboard pieces for every glass piece you will ultimately cut. Use these as models to cut the glass.

3. Cut the glass to the shape of the cardboard cut-outs. Don't be afraid to cut too large a piece at first and then whittle the glass down. For example, if cutting a U shape into a piece of glass, start by cutting small curves and eventually arriving at the final shape. Use the grinder to smooth the edges.

4. Assemble all the cut glass pieces over the 1:1 scale drawing. There should be space between each piece.

5. Now take each piece individually and wrap the edge with the copper tape. Fold the top and bottom of the copper over onto the glass. Remember that you won't see the copper since it will be covered with solder.

6. Reassemble the artwork. The glass pieces, now wrapped in copper, should be touching now but are not attached to each other.

7. Using the soldering iron and plenty of flux, solder the pieces together. Start by welding the joints, where separate pieces of glass meet, then solder the rest. The solder will not stick to the glass, only the copper.

8. Once the solder has cooled, carefully turn the artwork over and solder the other side.

9. Depending on the size of the piece, you should either solder the complete outside or use lead tubing. For smaller pieces or irregularly shaped pieces, use solder. For large, rectangular or circular pieces, use lead. Use the soldering iron to seal the lead in place.

10. When the piece is cool, wash away the excess flux with water, a little soap, and paper towels.

Admire your patience. You're done.

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