Creating Stained Glass Panels

Used in cathedrals to show glorious scenes of saints, and for animals and plants in other venues stained glass panels are beautiful works of art. Though complex looking, these stained glass windows are actually fairly simple, and with a little effort anyone can recreate the art.

The biggest concern when creating stained glass panels is of course safety. The art you are creating includes exposed glass edges, a hot soldering iron, chemicals, and power tools. If you keep safety in mind and maintain a well-organized workspace your hobby will be perfectly safe. As with most crafts you will need to acquire some tools and materials before you begin. You will need glass cutters to score the glass for breaking. As with most tools the higher quality cutter will cost more to purchase, but can make the difference between success and accidental breakage. Another glass specific tool you will need is a pair of combination breaker-grozer pliers. A glass grinder will be needed for making adjustments to glass edges after breaking. Mastering this tool can help your pieces fit together more precise, increasing your appearance quality. More material and tools will be introduced to you as we begin to construct a stained glass panel.

To get started grab the sheet of glass you will be working on with one hand holding the top edge and the other holding the bottom with the sheet in a vertical position. Never carry a sheet of glass in the horizontal position to avoid cracks and breakage! To place the glass on your workbench while vertical place the center of the sheet against the bench edge. Then roll the glass onto the table and slide completely onto the bench surface.

For your first project choose a novice pattern with a simple design and relatively short lines to score. You will need two copies of your pattern so trace the original pattern onto a sheet of standard paper and heavy pattern paper with a sheet of carbon. Assign numbers to each piece as a way of keeping track of your pieces as you create and build the project. Then use special glass pattern shears to cut your pattern out of the heavy paper.

Select one piece of your pattern and trace the shape onto your glass using a glass-marking pen. Do not forget to mark on the glass the number assigned to that piece of the pattern. Then you need to score the lines you traced onto the glass. Apply firm constant pressure with your glass-cutting tool and make one smooth cut along your line. After you score the line you will need to break the score. Some crafters opt to do this step by hand, while others use breaker-grozer pliers for the job. Either way apply a quick even pressure while doing the break to keep it as clean as possible. Continue to mark, score, and break until all the pieces of your project are created.

Starting in one corner of your project, next compare the glass piece you cut out with that piece in the uncut pattern. Mark any glass that crosses over the pattern lines and then use a grinder to remove the excess glass. Continue to do this to each piece until all pieces are the same as the pattern then place them within the assembly jig for the project.

For the foil wrapping step you need to ensure your hands and the glass are clean to ensure the tapes sticks correctly. Apply the foil wrap tape onto the glass edge with exactly the length of overhang on each side and work your way around the glass edge completely. Overlap the tape on the end about ¼” then crimp the foil over the glass edges. Complete this step by burnishing the foil smooth and then place the glass piece back into the jig.

The final step of your stained glass panel project will be to solder all joints together. Slowly move the hot soldering iron over all the seams coating the foil in solder. Once the initial side is complete roll the project over and solder the seams from the other side. Once you have all the seams covered in solder you should clean your project with a soft rag and glass cleaner. After cleaning the stained glass panel is ready to be proudly displayed for all to enjoy. When others comment on the beauty of the panel you can smile and say you did it all yourself!

Creating stained glass panels is a very fun and rewarding hobby, which can also become a little extra income if you are so inclined. There is so much to learn with stained glass, please take the time to seek out more learning resources than just a small article. To learn techniques and skills to improve your skill look into local classes and workshops. Also speak with artisans in your area, most are more than willing to pass on pointers to a fellow glass worker.