How to Make Stained Glass Art

Create a distinctive stained glass design to dress up any window.


Materials and Tools:

variety of small pieces of hand-rolled art glass
8½-by-8-inch piece of clear architectural glass
2 medium glass nuggets
1 large glass nugget
14-gauge copper wire
needle-nose pliers
breaker/grozer pliers
glass cutter
running pliers
45-degree drafting triangle
water-soluble pen
glass grinder
7/32 copper foil
3/8 copper foil
60/40 solder
water-soluble flux
stained-glass soldering iron with temperature control
latex gloves
0000 steel wool
dish soap (without bleach or ammonia)
shop towel
eye protection
old shirt or apron
piece of drywall board
twine, chain or fishing line for hanging


1. Select a piece of glass to feature in your design and build on its color.

2. Draw the chosen design on paper. Number each section of the drawing. Cut apart the paper pattern pieces.

3. Trace the shapes on the colored glass according to the paper pattern. Draw on the cut side of the glass or flip the pattern over if you want the uncut side to be the front of the design.

4. Measure two 2-by-8-inch and two 2-by-8½-inch strips on the architectural glass. Score the glass with a glass cutter and break the pieces apart with breaking pliers. Create mitered corners on the ends of the strips using a 45-degree triangle, scoring and breaking the glass.

5. Wearing safety glasses, score and cut the glass pieces. Remove unwanted pieces with breaking pliers and continue in this fashion until all the glass is cut into the desired shapes. Be especially careful when scoring and breaking some of the smaller pieces. Note: You can use two pairs of breaking pliers, one to hold the piece you want and one to remove the glass you don't want. Cut the longer strips of architectural glass with running pliers.

6. Grind the edges of the glass pieces to remove any teeth or sharp edges. Grinding makes the edges rough so the foil will stick to the glass. Rinse and dry all the pieces to remove ink or grinder dust.

7. Start at the edge of a glass piece and wrap the foil around the edge-be sure to keep it centered. Overlap the beginning ½-inch and then rip the foil with your fingers and line up the end on top of the existing foil. The colored hand-rolled glass may use a variety of foil sizes. The most common glass sizes are 7/32-inch, ¼-inch and 3/8-inch. Wrap the clear architectural glass with 3/8-inch foil.

8. Before you get to a curve, stretch the foil over with your fingertip before pinching down the curve. This prevents ripping when you pinch down. Pinch the foil along the remaining sides of glass with your fingers, using your thumbnail to flatten the corners.

9. Use a fid tool to burnish the foil with gentle pressure. Burnish the foil on both sides of the glass as well as along the edge.

10. Place the foiled glass on a soldering surface such as a drywall board and be sure the frame is square.

11. Wearing latex gloves, set the soldering iron to 900 degrees and flux all the foil on the front of the design.

12. Touch the solder with the tip of the soldering iron. If it melts immediately, you're ready to begin. Melt the solder on the corners of the frame first to secure the outer edges. Solder the inside design elements.

13. The solder won't flow where there's no flux, so if the solder isn't sticking, it may need more flux. Cover all the foil on the front with melted solder, running the soldering along the foil and allowing the solder to run off the tip.

14. Flip the piece over and repeat for the back of the design. Also solder the inside of the piece where there's open space. Don't forget the edges. Make sure all the foil is covered with solder.

15. Place the two smaller decorative nuggets that were foiled and burnished according to your selected pattern.

16. Starting with the back of the design facing you, cut about 8 inches of 14-gauge copper wire and curl it with a pair of needle-nose pliers. Attach it to the back of the design in the appropriate place.

17. Add the larger nugget to the back of the copper and attach it with solder at least halfway around. Cut 2 more inches of copper and use needle-nose pliers to create a ring with a bit of a tail. Attach these rings to the back of the glass frames on the corners for hanging.

18. Turn the design so the front is facing you and apply a smooth finishing bead of solder along the existing solder lines, lowering the soldering-iron temperature to about 800 degrees. This will allow the solder to hold its shape and create a smooth finishing bead. Move the iron slowly. The trick is not to move so fast that you aren't letting the solder fully melt and not to move so slowly that the solder is melting through to the other side of the design.

19. Add a finishing bead of solder on the back of the piece as described for the front.

20. Wash the piece with "0000" steel wool and dish soap. Use steel wool to clean the solder lines and to remove all the flux. This will enable the patina to adhere to the metal, and the steel wool won't scratch the glass. Be careful not to scrub back any of the foil.

21. Wearing an old shirt or apron, brush on the patina. Patina will burn your skin a bit, so rinse it off well. When the piece is covered with patina, rinse it off to stop the patina from continuing to darken.

22. Dry the design and buff the solder lines with a clean dry towel. Hang your stained-glass piece in any window with twine, chain or fishing line.

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