How to create a simple interior stained glass window

How to create a simple interior stained glass window

Using a few simple steps anyone can make an interior stained glass window. Stained glass projects are constructed using either the copper foil or lead method. Larger stained glass projects such as windows are usually done using the leaded glass technique. You can create your own custom design and have it made at a stained glass shop or put it together yourself. A small interior window is the best initial project for beginners. Exterior windows require additional steps to weatherproof them and larger projects must be stabilized by steel rods along the back of the design. However, a small interior window is easy enough for any beginner to create.

In order to make your own leaded stained glass window you will need:

safety glasses; gloves; a pattern; a corkboard surface slightly larger than the actual size of your pattern; T-pins used for quilting; precut glass or materials to cut your own glass (permanent marker, oil, scorer, grozing pliers, and a file or glass grinder); H and U shaped lead came; lead cutting pliers; solder; flux; a soldering iron; glaze, sometimes called glazing compound; rubber gloves; very fine sawdust or plaster of Paris powder; and a pencil. These supplies can be purchased at a local stained glass store or online, but generally cannot be found at a local hardware store.

First, pattern choice.

Pattern selection should be affected by the level of expertise you have with stained glass. The number of pieces and the complexity of lines to be cut adds difficulty to a project. Beginners should start with patterns containing approximately 10 pieces with relatively straight lines. A four or five-piece pattern consisting of a simple X design or border design is a great way to begin.

The size of your window should not exceed two feet in either direction unless you are prepared to reinforce the panel. After you have selected or drawn a pattern, enlarge a paper copy of the design to the actual size of your panel and make an extra copy. One of these copies will be your work surface to ensure that you line up the pieces accurately and the other will be used to aid in cutting the glass. Number the pieces on each pattern and cut up one of the copies of the pattern.

Second, purchase or cut the glass pieces.

Glass can be purchased in precut pieces, specialty stores will cut glass for you, or you can cut your own. If you choose to cut your own glass, trace and number the cut-up pattern pieces onto the glass using a permanent marker. Remember to wear safety goggles and gloves while handling glass. Dip the glass scorer in a small amount of oil and score the glass along the pattern lines traced onto the glass. To score the glass, press the scorer firmly onto the glass and run it from one edge of the glass to the pattern, then along the pattern line and across to the other side of the glass.

Follow the pattern line for as long as possible while keeping the score in a relatively straight line. An effective score will result in a continuous deep scratch across the surface of the piece. Then hold the grozing pliers centered on the scored line and squeeze. If you have made an effective score, the glass will snap along the scored line. Follow these steps to cut out each piece of the pattern. It will take at least four repeats of this process to cut a simple squared piece. After you have cut all the pieces, use your file or glass grinder to smooth the edges. You should not need the gloves or goggles after this point.

Third, prepare the lead came.

Place the uncut photocopy of your pattern on top of the corkboard. Using quilters T-pins around the edges of each glass piece, pin the pieces to the board directly on top of their place on the photocopied pattern. The pattern numbers can help you figure out where each piece belongs for similar shapes and sizes. Leave pins in between each piece to leave room for the lead came. The lead came can be purchased in a variety of widths and thicknesses. The precise width you need will depend upon the thickness of your glass. Generally, it should be slightly larger than the width of the glass, but to ensure that you get the correct size for your glass be sure to ask questions at your local stained glass store.

You should purchase enough C or U shaped Lead Came to go around the outer edge of your panel. If your project is a squared design you will need to cut four pieces of C or U Came at a 45-degree angle to form the leaded border. Be sure that the tip of each 45-degree angle comes to the corner of the panel. Remove the outer T-pins, slide the C or U-shaped lead that came onto the edge of the glass, and replace the pins so that you now have a lead border in place. If your project has a circular outer edge, simply bend the came around the edges. Cut the ends at a very slight angle so that they fit closely together.

Pin this in place around the edge of your panel.

The H shaped lead came is used to keep the inner pieces of glass in place; the center of the H fits between the edges of the glass and the sides of the H overlap onto the top and bottom portions of each piece. Cut the pieces of H came so that they are flush with the other pieces you will cut. This usually means you want to cut the came at the angle it connects with another piece: a 90-degree flush cut when the H came borders another piece of came at a 90 angle and a 45 degree cut when the came borders another piece of came at a 45-degree angle.

For a pattern where the came goes into a corner diagonally, clip the corners of each side of the came so that it forms a point going into the corner. After you have cut each piece of H shaped lead came, unpin the glass pieces and fit the came into its place in between the glass. After you have finished this step, your project should be held together with T-pins on the outer edges and H came should be holding the inner pieces in place.

Fourth, solder the lead came together.

The only solder needed on leaded glass projects is at points where the lead pieces meet. Before you solder, brush a small amount of flux over the joints of the project to ensure that the solder flows evenly. Touch your soldering iron to the solder to get a small amount of solder on the tip of the iron, then place this over the joint. Repeat this process using a small amount of solder until the joint between the lead came is at the same height as the came. Do not hold your soldering iron on the lead came for long periods of time or it will melt. Repeat this soldering technique at each joint between the came. After you have soldered the joints on one side of the panel it is solid enough to remove the T-pins. Turn the panel over and solder the joints on the other side also.

Fifth, glaze the panel.

The glaze is needed to stabilize the glass in the lead came. Wearing rubber gloves, place about a cup of glaze on one side of the panel and work it into the space between the came and glass, adding more glaze as needed to fill in space. Many people recommend using a glaze brush to force the glaze under the came while others prefer to use their hands.

Whichever method you choose, be careful not to allow too much skin contact with the glazing compound. Like other forms of cement, it won’t harm your skin if immediately washed off, but can be painful to remove after it has dried. After you have pushed the glaze under the came, sprinkle the top of the panel with a very fine sawdust or plaster of Paris powder. Using the same method as before, work this new addition into and under the lead came. This will harden the edges of the glaze under the came and dry up excess glaze on top of the panel.

Repeat this process for the other side of your project and allow it to dry for about an hour. After waiting for it to dry, brush off any excess glaze. Run a pencil around the edge of all the lead came at a 90-degree angle to remove any excess glaze at the edges. Do not angle the pencil under the came or it will remove too much glaze and you will lose stability and strength in your panel.

Congratulations, you have completed your custom stained glass window! There are still finishing touches you can add, such as patina to change the color of the lead or wood frames for a finished look. Regardless of how you choose to finish your project, you will enjoy its beauty for years to come.


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