Solder is used to hold the various pieces of stained glass together in a stained glass panel. To achieve a professional quality, solder lines need to be smooth and uniform. This can be achieved by following basic steps and using quality tools and supplies.
The tools and supplies needed for soldering include a soldering iron, solder and flux. The soldering iron should have a ceramic heating element with either a built in temperature controller or plugged into a separate temperature controller unit. The solder used needs to be a 60/40 mixture of alloys for the majority of your soldering. For decorative soldering, an alloy mixture of 60/37 solder is recommended. An odorless non-smoking liquid flux is the preferred flux.
Basic Steps for Soldering
- Heat the soldering iron to 68 on the temperature controller
- Use an abrasive pad or wet sponge to clean the iron’s tip before you begin and periodically as you work.
- Lightly apply flux to a section of the stained glass project you are working on
- Using 60/40 solder, unroll it to a manageable length, and then lightly touch the area to be worked on.
- Place the solder on the tip of your iron and move both the iron and the solder at a slow constant rate following the fluxed copper foil seams.
- When you need to end or stop, do not just move the iron vertically off, but rather slide the iron towards the glass.
- Don’t solder out to the perimeter of your stained glass piece, leave approximately ½ inch along the edge. This will allow the zinc came to fit over your glass.
- When finished with one side of your stained glass piece, carefully turn it over and repeat the same process on that side.
How to Avoid Common Problems
- Pits or bubbles in solder lines – Too much flux causes pits and bubbles
- Portions of copper foil visible – Using too little flux, portions of the copper foil will remain visible
- Lumpy lines – The iron is not hot enough, turn the temperature up in small increments
- Glass breaks – Either the iron was too hot or it was held in one place too long
- Solder spits and sputters – Too much flux was used
- Lines flat – The iron was moved too quickly or not enough solder was used
- Solder bulges – The iron was moved too slowly or too much solder was used
- Peaks in solder – The iron was not hot enough
- Solder seeps through to the other side – The iron was too hot
- Copper foil lifts up when soldering – This could be a result from too hot of an iron, moving too slowly, too much flux or a bad foiling job
While patina will mask some inconsistencies in your solder lines, others will still be noticeable and take away from the professional look of your piece. With patience, practice and the correct tools and supplies you can have professional solder lines.