The art of creating beautiful windows and objects from colored glass has been with us for more than a thousand years. In this tutorial, you’ll find simple stained glass for beginners to try. In the process, you may even find a new, lifetime hobby that you are passionate about.
Throughout history, glass has been colored with additives or by painting clear glass and then kiln-fusing it. Early glass was precious and expensive. Craftsmen spent a lifetime honing the art of turning the colored pieces into windows that were so well-constructed we can see them hundreds of years after their creators last touched them. Now, an art that was seen only in windows in prominent buildings such as churches, has become a satisfying and relatively inexpensive hobby.
Today’s crafters enjoy creating lamp shades, lanterns, sun catchers, panels for mirrors, windows, Christmas tree ornaments, and jewelry from colored glass. Today’s glass comes in many textures as well as colors.
What stained glass materials will I need?
A pattern, pick something you really love.
Came is used in strips. It has channels on both sides into which you insert your glass. Came is used in the construction of windows.
Lead nippers will be needed, if you are using came.
A fid to open the channel in the came and to close it after inserting the glass is also necessary. A fid is also used in small stained glass projects.
Cement, if you are using came
Running pliers to break the glass after you have scored it.
Grozing pliers to nibble the edges of the cut glass.
A glass cutter with a tapper end. The tapper end is used to tap a cut when it does not break.
A soldering pen (A Weller 100 WP-3 is a good pen).
Solder wick to remove excess solder.
Solder, lead solder is easier to work with but non-lead solder is available.
Finger bandages because you WILL cut your fingers if you are new to this. Cloth finger bandages are also good to wrap around your thumbs when they become sore from pushing glass against the grinder.
A bowl of ice to quickly remove the pain of a burn
Wood, hammer, and saw to create a 3-sided frame to hold your project.
Simple Stained Glass for Beginners Notes
Constructing a stained-glass window is an ambitious project for a beginner. Everything must fit exactly and every joint must be precise if the window is to be tight and structurally sound. Likewise, a complicated lamp shade is usually beyond the skills of the novice. A much easier project for the beginner is a Christmas tree ornament. You can make a number of these in a day and give them as gifts. This simple project will give you experience in scoring, breaking, grinding, foiling, and soldering just one piece of glass.
You will require the basic supplies listed above with the exception of those specified for use with came projects. You will also require:
A roll of copper foil that is made specifically for use in stained glass projects. An X-ACTO knife. A piece of fine wire. Some velvet ribbon. A tire writer marker (the marker that is used to make marks on car tires, usually available at your auto supply store).
READ ALL INSTRUCTIONS AND ASSEMBLE ALL TOOLS BEFORE YOU START. PUT ON YOUR APRON AND YOUR PROTECTIVE GLASSES BEFORE YOU CUT GLASS.
To Begin your Simple Stained Glass
Draw a pattern of a heart (or whatever you want to make). Place the pattern, with the point of the heart furthest away from you; under the edge of the glass closest to you. If the glass is dark red, use your tire writer marker to trace the pattern directly onto the glass. You will score the glass by starting near the top of the heart and working the scores down to the edge of the glass. You will not get a perfect heart, of course, but you should end up with an inverted-triangular piece of cut glass that is the approximate size of your heart decoration. You will then use your running pliers to break the glass and use your grozers to nibble away at the edges until you have a piece that is ‘almost’ a heart. Follow the instructions that came with your grinder to turn this piece into a heart shape. Grinding involves the use of water and is messy, so wear an apron. When your glass resembles a heart, clean it very well.
Now you will foil it. Foil comes in thin rolls with a backing that you will remove as you work, and it is what will allow you to attach pieces of glass. In this project, it helps to create a frame for your heart. Start near, but not at, the bottom of the heart and simply wrap the foil completely around the edge of the glass. Use the heat of your fingers to create a bond between the foil and the glass. Rub out any bubbles. Then use your fid tool to really rub the foil against the glass edge. You can use your X-ACTO knife to trim any stray edges.
Precision is important, so take your time until you are used to this skill.
When you have mastered this skill, you will want to try using scalloped foil to create a beautiful edge for your hearts. Once your piece is foiled, you will brush the entire edge with flux. Now, using your hot soldering pen with extreme caution in one hand, and holding the strip of solder in the other, you will melt the solder onto the fluxed edge. As a finishing touch, make a loop of wire, flux and solder it, and apply it with solder to the top of the heart. Let your heart rest for a few minutes. Clean it. Tie a velvet ribbon through the loop and hang it one the tree. If you wish, you can apply a liquid patina to the edge of the heart after soldering it.
By now you should have a grasp of how small stained glass objects are constructed. If you want to make a sun catcher, follow the same steps but place the pieces beside each other and solder them together. Three-dimensional objects such as lampshades require more work, but the basic techniques are the same ones you used to make your Christmas hearts. As you gain confidence, you will doubtless experiment with creating beaded solder edges, foiling and soldering beveled glass panels together to capture a treasured photo inside, and using glass bevels as wings for Christmas angels. Your initial investment will pay for itself when you can give your family and friends handmade stained glass items. Your investment in developing your skills will provide you with a lifetime of pleasure as a stained glass artist.
You also might like my posts Cool Crafts to Make At Home and Time for Reflection to Bring Balance and Sanity in Life and 12 Beloved Historical Thriller Books.
You will want to watch some online tutorials for simple stained glass for beginners techniques. Below are some I really like.
Until next time,
Here’s an amazing class on soldering too.