Wednesday, August 01, 2012

Learning Something New

I've wanted to teach myself how to do traditional stained glass for a while. After I picked up that beautiful old panel, I decided I'd go ahead and invest in the basic tools to get started.

I just recently came back from a trip to Ottawa, where I bought some coloured and textured glass to repair the panel, but I will need to go back for more lead came (the lead strips that hold all the pieces together), and possibly for a few extra tools.

For now, I bought only:
- Good quality glass cutter
- Running pliers (used to snap a scored piece of glass)
- Dyke (lead nippers)

- Lead came (to make some practice pieces)
- Coloured glass (mentioned above)

This afternoon I dug-out some old sheets of glass from storage (just plain new glass) to start on a practice piece.

I looked on the web through hundreds of photos, and I decided to copy this panel, with just a few small modifications:

I decided on 10" x 10", since I didn't want the panel too big, nor too small. I might end up hanging it in a window.

The first step was to quickly sketch out my pattern, which is just one strip 1 1/4" around, and another at 3/4" around, leaving a 6" square in the centre. I decided to add small corner blocks to the design after playing around on the computer to see how it might look.

Here I have all my pieces cut, leaving just a small allowance around the edges for the lead came. Start to finish, probably 30-40 minutes.

A few random freehand (somewhat complicated) practice curves. I can already tell that cutting the pieces won't be the issue, it will be about learning to control the cutter to get it to follow a line. It tends to want to do its own thing, or slide.

Here the pieces (including the centre square) have been painted with some of those glass paints I picked up last summer at a yard sale. I really like how the red turned out. The centre is supposed to be frosted glass, but it turned out pretty clear. These will need to be baked in the oven after 24hrs drying time (even though they are touch dry after a few hours). I'm hoping that the baking process will enhance the frosted look.

This part was rather fun. I just printed a life-sized pattern of the design above, and then painted it freehand (over the pattern) with a custom mixed light grey. Black was used for the highlights. This took less time than you might think.

Painting done, and left to dry.

Once it was dry enough to handle, I decided to do the leading. I don't have a lead stretcher, so I made do with my vice and a pair of pliers, which worked fine. For those who don't know, the lead came needs to be slightly stretched out before you use it. They come in 6' lengths, and generally you stretch it about an inch.

90% done:

I'm pretty proud of my joints. I actually really enjoy working with the lead. It cuts like butter, and intricate joints/mitres are easy to snip.

The panel is pretty much done and ready to be soldered, but I will need to take it all apart and bake the glass paint before I can do the soldering. I also don't have any solid-core solder, so I'll have to go pick some up. Seriously, I have about every other type of solder you can imagine.

That's it for today, but I'll have dozens of new photos to add soon.


  1. That looks like a fun project. What an interesting idea to paint the glass with paints. We always just use colored glass.

    1. I'm only using the paints for my first few pieces, so that I can get used to cutting glass. Once I'm comfortable enough, I'll be using coloured glass. What really sucks for me is that I don't have a stained glass shop in town. Ottawa is probably the closest place, and that's a 1 hour drive. I don't have a car either, so it's 20$ by bus (one way). I might try ordering some glass online.

  2. I have a feeling you make this look way easier than it actually is! I can guarantee you that I would struggle with this, haha.

    1. I suppose it depends on your skill set when you start. I'm very comfortable with the medium so far, but for most beginners, a class is usually suggested. There's a lot of finicky things to keep track of (like lead overlaps, joints, and allowances) but for the most part I'm very used to keeping track of these kinds of things.

      As for the painting portion, I'm an artist, so this comes quite easily/quickly/effortlessly for me. What would normally take someone hours, can take me 10 minutes to do.

  3. Hi, J.C. - You've made a really splendid first glass! And I have admiration for those curved pieces that you cut out because I know from experience that sometimes glass has a mind of its own, and doesn't snap the way you expected or wanted!