Stained Glass – Copper Foil Method
Welcome! I started in Stained Glass in the early 1980’s and made a few pieces that are still with me. This panel was probably my biggest project in those days. Like most things, I picked up a book and learned how to do the work that way. I had very few tools and one Christmas, that’s what I asked for, that new glass grinder put my carborundum file out of business.
The copper foil method was probably invented by Louis Comfort Tiffany, although there is some debate about that. First you cut your glass with a diamond wheel cutter, a more modern invention than Mr. Tiffany used. Then you need to remove any unwanted sharp points, rough edges and get the final shape you need for your design. Clean the glass of any dust or glass particles and wrap the edges with your copper foil. Modern foil has adhesive on one side, it can be clear, black or white adhesive, you just pick the color that will work best with your project. Burnish the foil to the glass, I use a wooden burnisher but there are several types available, you are basically rubbing the copper foil to seal the edges and make it smooth on the faces and edges of each piece of glass. Pin the glass to a cork board to hold it in the pattern you want, make sure there’s a pin’s worth of gap between each piece for the solder to flow into.
An early window panel – 1982
Now comes the solder, there are several types, most contain lead in varying percentages, you can still find 100% lead solder. Just make sure that it’s solid core, you don’t want acid or rosin core solder. When you’re soldering, use a flux that’s intended for use on stained glass, easily available online or a local hobby store. With a brush, apply the flux lightly, too much or too wet will cause your solder to sizzle until the flux is burned away. Run your soldering iron down each join, be patient, you’ll need to practice to get a good solder bead on your work, finish that up on both sides. Large pieces will need some reinforcement to keep the work from bending or flexing. Wash it all up carefully, then you can decide if you want to add a patina to change the solder from shiny silver to either shades of black or copper. Wash it up again and find a bright window to show it off!
This window and one other just like it were salvaged more than 30 years ago from the Dewey, Oklahoma United Methodist Church.
My Dad and the other men of the church built a new sanctuary, moved all the old windows they could use into it and the rest were salvage.
Dad saved two of them for me and Mom kept them in storage for more than 30 years!
I brought them home in November of 2013 and spent most of 2014 building 4 lamps from the salvaged glass. I’ve been thrilled with the learning process and the sense of accomplishment gained in building these shades and lanterns. You can see them in the page links above.