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The Art of Stained Glass

stained glassAs with all forms of art, its beauty is defined by the sensations it arouses. Perhaps the most intriguing aspect in the art of stained glass is in its versatility. It's durable, yet fragile, challenging, but yielding to the experienced hands of the artist.

I discovered this form of art some seven years ago when my girlfriend and I decided to take a series of evening classes at a local stained glass retail store. We took six classes and I have been hooked ever since.

If you are in need of a way to take away the stresses of everyday life I would recommend stained glass as great way to "download" and at the same time get into a new hobby. It is a form of self-meditation. The steps you'll follow in arriving at your finished work of art will teach you self-discipline, and provide a great sense of artistic achievement. And if you're like me, you will not be able to get enough of it. That's when you'll want to expand out and begin doing projects for others.

But be careful, once word gets out that you're into stained glass, all of your relatives (you know the ones) will be the first to ask you to make them something. Actually, it's not so bad at first, because they make great test cases and you'll want to experiment.

Getting started with stained glass

Where to begin? Start with a search for stained glass classes. While not all towns have one (here is a great business opportunity for you) look into your telephone book or perform an Internet search.

Most local craft retailers usually offer instruction because it's a source of increased revenues to them (they know that you'll probably be buying your supplies from them). Cost of classes will be relatively moderate for the same reasons. Check out your local County Colleges as well. My instructor also taught night classes there.

TIP: Bring a friend with you; it will add to the fun and you'll be able to compare notes.

Stained glass tools and equipment

illustration of stained glass tools - glass cutter, breaker, came cutter, soldering iron

The place you'll be taking the classes from will no doubt also provide you with the basic stained glass beginners kit, which will contain the tools needed to get you started. Expect to find a glass cutter; there a variety of types and you should choose the one that your most comfortable with. I have tried a variety myself but in the end settled for the basic non-oil filled type. A breaker, similar to pliers, is used to snap off the glass after being scored. A specially designed scissor is used to cut out your pattern, and of course a soldering iron is used to join the cut pieces of glass together. Expect to pay somewhere in the neighborhood of $100.

There are other items that you'll need along the way, but they will be available to you during your classes, such as the grinder, which is used to grind down excess glass, not removed by the cutting process and to polish off the edges of the cut glass. This last part is important because of the foiling process that takes after the glass is ground down. Foiling is a process, whereby the copper foil is placed around the edges of the ground glass. The foil is sticky on one side allowing it to adhere to the glass. The purpose of the copper foil is to provide a surface for the solder to stick too.

stained glass patterns
Experimenting with different shapes and colors is
a great way to begin learning about stained glass.

A word on foiling. Most of us are familiar with the traditional form of stained glass that we have encountered in churches which employ the use of a lead came between the glass pieces. Copper foiling is an alternative to the lead came and is no doubt the first place a new student to the art of stained glass will begin. Only after one has mastered the "foil", should you proceed to the "came". Besides, foiling is a much easier process, especially for the beginner. I still prefer this method over the came method.

Stained glass step by step

There is a little more to the art of stained glass than what I have described thus far, but the fundamental steps outlined below will give you a basic outline on what to expect.

  • Plan your design; will it be for a window, skylight...the possibilities will astound you.

  • Let your imagination take you,

  • Sketch out your design or use a bought pattern available through your retailer,

  • Cut out the individual pieces from your pattern using those special scissors I mentioned earlier,

  • Apply the cut pattern pieces to the glass to be cut,

  • Using the glasscutter, score and break (not in the literal sense) each piece

  • Grind off the excess glass

  • "Foil" each piece of glass

  • Solder the pieces together

  • Clean your work, and

  • Display your masterpiece!

stained glassYou will soon come to discover your own favorite step in the art of stained glass. For some, it will be in the designing stages, that challenge of coming up with your own unique design. For myself, my love for the art lies in the cutting of the glass.

There is a final moment of truth that comes after you have scored the glass with the glass cutter; this is the part where I hold my breath. As you force the glass to run you'll begin to see the glass crack along the scored line as you hoped it would. With all things in the universe being wonderful, the glass breaks as you had intended. Occasionally it won't; that's the breaks! But don't worry, glass is relatively inexpensive and you'll get it the next time.

About the Author :
Nick Volpe gained expertise by designing and making stained glass works for family members and friends. You can view some of his work's at

More about working with stained glass around the Web:

Beginner Stained Glass

History of Stained Glass

Art Glass World's Free Stained Glass Patterns


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