How Do I Make A Stained Glass Lamp?

How do I make a stained glass lamp? Stain glass lamps are created using the copper foil method. At his 68th birthday party in 1916, according to a 1990 Time magazine article, Louis Comfort Tiffany, who is...

At his 68th birthday party in 1916, according to a 1990 Time magazine article, Louis Comfort Tiffany, who is considered one of the greatest painters and designers of American decorative art, summed up his ideas about decoration and art: A person searching "for gems from the earth or the pearls from the sea to decorate his person, he becomes an artist in embryo."

Tiffany's stained glass lamps brought art to the home. In those original lamps Tiffany used thousands of pieces of stained glass to create his beautiful decorative pieces. According to Alastair Duncan's 1982 book "Louis Comfort Tiffany (Library of American Art)", Tiffany's idea to create lamps came while collaborating with Thomas Edison in their work on lighting the first movie theater.

Those original lamps have been collected and sold for several thousands of dollars, according to Dr. Egon Neustadt's 1970 book "The Lamps of Tiffany".

Some even get pricier, according to Neustadt. In 1998, for instance, two lamps made the Top 10 list of U.S. auction prices for decorative arts. The lamps fetched nearly $2 million each.

"Some of the old Tiffany lamps are worth tens of thousands of dollars because they are made of 3,000, 4,000, 5,000 pieces of cut glass," says David Dillon, the owner of Austin Cut Glass in Austin, Texas where he has been in business 25 years.

But, as Dillon knows, you don't have to be Louis Tiffany to make a stained glass lamp.

"They are, however, a lot of work," he says. "Lamps can have anywhere from 40 or 50 pieces up to 8,000 or 9,000 pieces of glass."

"Stained glass lamps are all made by the copper foil method," he says.

This is the method Tiffany himself used to create the lampshade, according to Robert Koch's "Louis C. Tiffany: Rebel in Glass." To create the shades, the stained glass is fitted into copper foil enclosures.

When designing a lamp, Dillon says, the first step is to develop a template or form to use to cut your lamps.
"Lamps can be made in 4, 6, 8 or 12 panels," he says.

When working on a stained glass lamp, the process Dillon normally takes is to make each of the panels separately. Once he has all the panels made, he then connects them all together.

The panels are connected together through soldering, he says. "And when you solder all the panels together, you put a cap on it. The cap is where the little knob goes through to hold the lamp together."

"You can buy a cap from your local stain glass retailer," he says.

Online pricing shows that caps average about $4 apiece. They range from simple to ornate patterns.

The final step in making a stained glass lamp is the base, Dillon says. "You can purchase any type of base that you want and put the base on the lamp."

Online pricing shows that bases, depending on size, average about $65, for desk lamps. Taller bases, such as floor bases, average between about $170 and $200.

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