Stained Glass Tips and Tools For Beginners
If you're thinking about trying your hand at the craft of stained glass there are a few things that are helpful to know before you begin.
Stained Glass Classes
I highly recommend taking classes or joining a stained glass workshop where you can learn the basics of stained glass techniques. Many shops or studios that sell glass and tools will offer private, semi- private, and group lessons. You can also check with your local community college, as many of them have stained glass classes and workshops.
Most workshops will allow you to use most of their tools and equipment. When I first started taking classes the only tools that I needed to purchase right away were a cutter and grozer pliers.
Stained Glass Tools
What is a Cutter
A cutter is what you will score the surface of the glass with in preparation of breaking the glass with grozer, breaking or running pliers. There are many different styles and prices of cutters. The best type will have a carbide steel wheel, and will stay sharp for many repeated uses. Most cutters will have a steel ball at the top of the cutter. This is for tapping on the glass making it easier to break.
Cutter Style Tools
- All stained glass cutters have s a carbide steel wheel.
- With any cutter it is important to always have the wheel oiled. I keep my cutters standing in a jar, on top of a small sponge that is soaked in oil. This insures the wheel never dries out.
- When choosing a cutter you will want to buy one that you find most comfortable to use. This cutter is called a Pistol Grip, and is held in the hand rather than the other one, which is held like a pen. Some people find the Pistol Grip easier to hold, with less stress on the wrist.
Pliers For Stained Glass
These pliers are used for breaking away small pieces of scored glass.
These pliers are used when you need to make a straight cut.
Also used for accurate trimming.
After making a straight score with your cutters, position the pliers at the end of the score line and squeeze.
Soldering Irons for use with Glass
- When you are ready to use a soldering iron you will want to make sure that it is a high performance iron.
- Most household general purpose soldering guns or irons are under 40 watts. For stained glass you will need an iron that is 80 to 100 watts of power, and one that will reach 700 degrees.
- I would recommend an iron that has temperature control. This will allow you to have the iron hot enough to run a solder bead, and cool enough so that the glass will not be cracking on you.
- The tip or tips that come with the iron should have a pre-tinned, ironclad tip rather than a copper tip. Copper tips need to be replaced frequently when using them for stained glass.
- When using the soldering iron be sure that you have it on or in a stand. A damp sponge should be placed in or under the stand so that the tip of the iron can be easily cleaned. You may want to purchase a soldering iron tip cleaner rather than using the damp sponge.
Stained Glass Grinder
To get a piece of glass to fit perfectly for any stained glass project you may be doing, a glass grinder will most likely be needed. There are people that can cut the glass to the precise measurement and shape they need, but for most people, you will find the glass grinder a very handy tool.
Each piece of glass that is run across the grinder will need to be cleaned by washing it off, as you need to remove any glass dust that is left on it. Omitting this step will create problems when foiling.
When I bought my grinder I purchased a face shield along with it. This protects you from small pieces and shards of glass that can fly while using the grinder. You should also wear safety glasses when working with glass.
Health Tips For Working With Lead
When working with lead solder you should make sure that all cuts and sores on your hands are covered with a bandage or a Band-aid. The reason being for this is that lead can be absorbed through cuts and sores on your skin.
You should not smoke, drink or eat while doing stained glass in order to avoid ingesting any lead.
Always wash your hands really well with soap and water when you are finished working with the glass.
There are people that work with stained glass on a daily basis who go every three months to have blood work done, to assure that they do not have lead poisoning.
Before going out and purchasing all of the tools and supplies you need for stained glass, I personally would recommend you take a class or two before making any big purchases, as stained glass for a hobby can be expensive.
If you do decide to get into this hobby check in your local newspaper or on Craig's List as well as Kijiji for people selling their equipment, as you may be able to get everything for a very good price.
A Quote by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross (Swiss-American psychiatrist and author)
"People are like stained-glass windows. They sparkle and shine when the sun is out, but when the darkness sets in, their beauty is revealed only if there is a light from within."