1998 Glassworking Tips Archive


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3/01 Preventing Hinge Seize 

11/2000 Garage Sale Glass Holder

10/2000 Mounting Panels in Curved Spaces

9/2000 Repair tips for came and foil work

8/2000 The Only Sure Fire Preventative for Mirror Black Edge

7/2000 Adding Computer Generated Text and Graphics to your work!

6/2000 Cleaning Grout Haze from Mosaics

5/2000 Prepare Now to Match Glass Later

4/2000 Preventing Soldering Cracks in "Problem Glasses"

3/2000 Avoiding "Lost Pieces" in Mosaic Stones

2/2000 Designing Lamps (Cont'd from 1/2000)

1/2000 Designing Lamps (and boxes too) -Cont'd from 9/99

12/99 A Third Hand

11/99 Preparing to Cut Glass

10/99 Holding 3-D Work for Soldering

8/99-9/99 Designing Lamps  - (This one is pretty long and took quite some work to put together so I thought it was fair as a two month tip!)

7/99 Dealing with Pits and Interrupted score lines

6/99 A third hand

5/99 A dialog on grinder OVERuse

4/99 Handy Iron Holder

3/99 Came carrier/storage container

2/99 Inexpensive glass rack

1/99 Protect your Patterns!

12/98 Plastic Patterns

11/98 Turning Panels Over Safely- (Addition to Techniques Discussed at the Help Desk)

10/98 Desoldering for Repairs in Flat Work

9/98 Hold Your Patterns with Glue Stick

8/98 The "Tiffany Whisper", or Don't Rely on the Adhesive

7/98 Hold Your Work with "Upholstered Bricks"

6/98 Antique Patina

5/98 Choosing the Right Lamp Base

4/98 Cutting Narrow Strips

3/98 Creating a Personal Sample Set

2/98 Creating Easy Assembly Jigs for Curved or Irregular Shaped Panels

1/98 Finishing Touches for Frames

12/97 Preventing Grinder Head "Lockup"

11/97 Create a Color Reference Collection

10/97 Make foiling easier on the eyes

9/97 A Neat Variation for Zinc Frames

8/97 Framing panels with Wood Frame Stock or Rigid Came

7/97 Contributor Quick Tips: Hinge Help and Reviving Old Foil

6/97 No-Spill Flux Holder

5/97 Adjustable Fit For Easy Installations

4/97 Cutting a "V" Notch Without a Band Saw

3/97 Glass Cleaner

2/97 A Few Notes on Selecting and Matching Glass

1/97 Reusable Patterns

12/96 Sal Ammoniac / Sal Ammoniac Water?!

11/96 Organizing Scrap Glass

10/96 Fixing Foil Splits

9/96 Preventing Foil Splits

8/96 Adjusting Fit

7/96 Try Cutting Glass on a Plexiglas Surface (Cutting Circles)

6/96 Straight Cutting Against a Ruler

5/96 Preventing Solder Run Throughs

4/96 Special Foil Applications

3/96 Use of Glass "Grain"

2/96 Choosing your foil size



12/98 Plastic Patterns

For December we have a tip that works well along with our September 98' tip.

Cut your patterns from heavy mylar plastic sheets, readily available at drafting supply shops and many copy centers. The patterns are reusable again and again and because the mylar is transparent you can see the glass through it if you need to get the piece aligned just right.

You can use clear double stick tape to hold the patterns onto your glass. It comes in little dispensers that let you just swipe it onto the back of the mylar and is readily available at office supply centers.


11/98 Turning Panels Over Safely-  (Addition to Techniques Discussed at the Help Desk)

Our Thanks to Diane Tooroian for our November tip!

In a tip on one of your answers about turning large panels, you mentioned using a board with a lip on it.

I have better luck with two boards. The first one I use on my table, and I build my panel on that one. After soldering the top side, I slide the panel nearly to the edge of the board, tip board and panel up together to a vertical position, place the second board on the side that has been soldered, and drop (lower) it down. The glass is never moved by itself, until both sides are soldered. I find that the boards are helpful during the cleaning process also.

Diane Tooroian


10/98 Desoldering for Repairs in Flat Work

Many glass workers dread repairs that require desoldering and removal of glass pieces. While repairing stained glass may never be fun, here's a tip that may make things a bit easier.

It just seems natural that if you intend to desolder something that you'd start by removing as much solder as you can. Perhaps you'd hold the panel upright and melt the solder lines and let the solder drip off. Then you'd turn the piece over and do the same on the back. Now you've removed probably 90% of the solder. The only problem is that the last 10% is still holding your piece in place like glue, (or maybe like solder).
You try to get rid of the last bit of solder, maybe even try using a solder wick, but nothing helps. The piece is just not coming out. Maybe you've tried to slip a strip of card in between, but the glass is just too close together.

What can you do? ................................................Well,

Believe it or not, you need to add solder!
The problem is that you need to get the solder all around the piece hot enough at the same time to allow the piece to drop or be pushed out. As you slide your iron around and round the piece you can see the solder harden just a second after the iron slides by. This happens because glass can't hold much heat, solder can, but you have removed almost all the solder already.

If you instead of removing solder had just run your iron around and around the perimeter of the piece until all of the solder was molten at once, you would have been able to lift the panel up a bit and push the glass piece right out!

It will help to put a rag behind the piece you are going to remove so the molten solder won't run through.


9/98 Hold Your Patterns with Glue Stick

Our Thanks to Linda Smashnuk for our September tip!


I make a photocopy of my pattern for foil projects, and then cut out the photocopied patterns with pattern shears. Next I use a glue stick to hold the pattern on the glass while I cut AND GRIND the pieces. If you cut and grind right away, before the glue dries, it is easy to get it off the pieces, and you have a perfect edge to grind to - takes much less time in fitting!


Linda Smashnuk


8/98 The "Tiffany Whisper", or: Don't Rely on the Adhesive

If you ask an appraiser how they tell a genuine Tiffany lamp from a reproduction you may well hear about the "Tiffany whisper". This phrase describes a subtle rattling sound produced by tapping on the side of the lamp. Funny thing is, the whisper wasn't there when the lamp was new, it is a sign of age. As the lamp got older the adhesive that once held the copper foil in place so it could be soldered dried up. Now, about 90 or so years later, all that holds the lamp together is the metal work.

Are you depending on the adhesive of the foil as a structural element in your work?
(And what will become of your project some day when the adhesive dries up and goes away?)

Be sure to:

  • Use a wide enough foil to build a structurally adequate metal line for the size of your work.
  • Build enough solder onto that foil to support the glass and structure of your creation, both inside and outside or front and back. Solder is not merely cosmetic. It is the main structural material of your product.
  • Study where the greatest stresses in your piece are and be sure you have added extra metal to strengthen these areas. Pay particular attention to hanging and attachment points like cross bars and hinges
  • If you are not sure that your solder line can handle the load, consider soldering wire into the line for reinforcement.
  • If you ever find yourself thinking about the glue as part of the strength of your project....just stop and think again!

    P.S. We just finished a total rebuild on a very nice lamp (not one of ours) that was only about 10 years old. When the adhesive gave out the lamp pretty much unraveled and fell from the ceiling looking somewhat like a tangled slinky.


7/98 Hold Your Work with "Upholstered Bricks"

For holding boxes, lamps and all kinds of three dimensional work in the best positions for soldering we use "upholstered bricks". Just take any regular brick and some heavy canvas or other thick fabric. Carefully wrap the canvas around the brick using hot melt glue (or contact cement etc.) to hold it in place to create non-scratching supports for your work.

Use of them in whatever positions necessary...stack them, turn them at odd angles, up on end, be creative. Keep several of them on hand and with a bit of tinkering you can create just the right support for almost any work.


6/98 Antique Patina

Our Thanks to Grace Castro for our June tip!

From my experience, best results are achieved when patina is applied to solder which has been cleaned with dish soap or patina cleaner.
To achieve a true antique look, especially when using black or copper color patina, try using a metal paste polish (example Mothers), wearing gloves and using a soft cloth, apply a small amount paste to the solder a section at a time.
You then use extra fine steel wool to rub the paste.
The more rubbing you do, the softer and more even look will be achieved. I call this
"the new antique look" shining and soft.
The less rubbing, the more mottled look of antique will be achieved. I call this "the old worn look" a more realistic look.
After polishing with steel wool, re-clean, dry and you should achieve excellent results. This will give the product a more original antique look.
The beauty of this is, if you don't like the look, just re-apply the patina and try again.

Grace Castro , Kaleidoscope Glass

Editor's note: Extreme care should be exercised when using steel wool on lead bearing solders. Wear gloves and dispose of the used steel wool promptly. In all likelihood the paste wax will contain any lead dust within the steel wool pad, but be sure to control any excess dust that may be produced.


5/98 Choosing the Right Lamp Base

One of the more frequently asked questions I get is how to choose the correct lamp base for a given shade.

I have seen articles in magazines on just this subject and very often a formula is offered, involving the ratio between the height and width of the shade, etc. As far as I'm concerned the bottom line is that there are no absolutes in this decision. Too many other variables come into play, such as:

  • The shape of the shade. If it gets wide very quickly at the top and then pretty much stays the same width all the way down, like some of Tiffany's wisteria shades, the shade looks "heavy" and requires a more substantial base to look good.
  • A shade that starts out like the one above, but has a very short skirt, (is not a deep shade), has to be mounted on a very short harp to keep the socket from showing.
  • Where will the shade be viewed. Will it be placed up high on top of a mantle piece, or down low on an end table? If you are going to place it down low, you might consider a taller base, because the shade will tend to hide the base as you view it from above. If you place the same lamp up high, you might prefer a shorter harp so you will not be looking up at the socket, and probably a shorter base as well.

Sometimes the same lamp looks just as good on two very different bases of quite different heights. It's a matter of how the base counter-balances the weight and feel of the lamp.

So how do you select a base? My best advice is trial and error.
If the shade already exists and you know where the lamp will be placed, take the shade with you to the store, try to find a support about the same height you plan to set the lamp at, and just start trying bases out! Don't forget to consider changing the harp or adding a shade riser to adjust how high the shade rides on the base.
If on the other hand you don't have a finished shade and you've just got to have the base in your hands before you start the lamp, consider working with a cardboard mockup. We routinely create cardboard mockups of every new shape before we convert it into glass.



4/98 Cutting Narrow Strips

Way back in our craft show days we used to sell stained glass lollypop suncatchers. About as simple as you could get.... Just a circle and a straight glass strip about 3/16" wide by 4" long with a bit of came wrapped around them and a hanging loop.

This simple suncatcher, while nothing special to the masses, had a way of drawing the hobbyists out of the crowd, always with the same question. "How did you cut that skinny strip?"

Here's how:
Start by cutting a strip twice as wide and a half inch longer than the strip you want, then score it right up the middle. With a pair of glass breaking pliers in each hand, grip the glass on each side of the score line. Position your pliers at one end of the strip rather than in the middle. (I like to let the pliers actually extend off the end of the glass.) Just part the glass as usual. You should get two identical strips with little trouble, then trim them to length.

This works where trying to take a skinny strip from a larger piece would fail because the two skinny strips are equal in every way. Neither is stronger than the other. Both are subjected to equal twisting forces during the breaking operation as you bend the ends of the glass downward.


3/98 Creating a Personal Sample Set

Our Thanks to Barbara Snell for our March tip!

Here is a tip that helps me with glass selection...

Usually when I go to my local glass shop, I will buy a piece of glass that has caught my eye. When paying for it I always ask what kind of glass it is and the stock number. At home, I will cut a 1 1/2" X 3" sample and write the name and number of the glass in gold pen on the glass, then store it in my "glass sample" box. I now have a sample of each piece of glass that I have at home so that when I begin a new project I can do my glass selection from the samples first before handling the larger pieces. Also, if I no longer have any more glass of a particular sample, I know exactly what I need to order.
And if I do not have a color I want... I can take the samples to the store for mixing and matching...
This helps me a lot because once I get to the shop ALL the glass looks so good to me I want to buy it all. The samples help me make decisions much faster.

Barbara Snell


2/98 Creating Easy Assembly Jigs for Curved or Irregular Shaped Panels

We always recommend soldering works of any significant size in an assembly jig. Using a jig assures that everything comes out in just the size and shape intended.

When making square or rectangular shaped panels creating a jig is easy, (just tack a few straight strips of wood down to a board and you have a jig), but making a jig for round, oval or irregular shaped panels may seem like an impossible task. Here's an easy solution.

We always cut patterns for our panels from poster board anyway, so when we need an irregular jig for the panel we just start by drawing the design a ways into the paper as in illustration 1
Next cut the perimeter of the pattern out with an exacto knife. We like to do the cutting on top of some thick plate glass. If you must you can cut on newspaper, but the blade will drag.
Now set the pattern aside and apply several layers of masking tape to the back of the poster board at 1" or 2" intervals all around the opening. Build the tape up to about a 1/16" thickness and tack or staple the jig through the tape, to a wooden or homosote board. This will elevate the poster board high enough to effectively hold your glass in place!


1/98 Finishing Touches for Frames

Our Thanks to Paige Carter for our January tip!

Paige suggests using brass corner stampings similar to the one pictured at left to dress up zinc frames around stained glass panels.
(And why not lead or brass frames as well?)

Just position and solder one of these brass stampings in each corner, front and back to conceal the soldering of the frame which is often unattractive. If tinned over with solder you can patina and/or polish them to match the rest of your piece. If your glass supplier has a limited selection of corner stampings in stock Paige suggests checking your local hobby shop.

To add that extra finishing touch Paige attaches a ninth corner at the top of the frame to conceal the hanging loop on the panel.


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