Glassworkers Tips Archive 1999

Got a Favorite Glassworking Tip?

Just click on the icon and send it in!

If we use it we'll credit you here and send you a free pattern.

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



12/99 A Third Hand

Our Thanks to Amanda Turner for our December tip!

I use a small vise mounted on my workbench with rubber pads glued to the jaws to protect my work.
This is great to hold small objects that need the edges soldered. It holds them at a 90 degree angle and frees up both hands.

Amanda Turner


11/99 Preparing to Cut Glass

Our Thanks to Kathleen Gallagher for our November tip!

Before scoring with your glass cutter, always prepare by sweeping your working surface to get rid of tiny pieces of glass or little beads of lead.

If caught beneath your piece of glass during scoring , the scoring pressure applied by your cutter might cause the score line to begin to run or cause the whole sheet to shatter.

Kathleen Gallagher


10/99 Holding 3-D Work for Soldering

Our Thanks to Bob Isaacs for our October tip!

When soldering two pieces of glass which have to be held at an angle just use large lumps of Blue Tack.
Simply attach them to the inside of the angled glass, use your adjustable set square to get the angle and the separation of the two sheets correct, then tack solder the job together.

This works even on very small jobs and for any angle you want, the Blue Tack allows you to make very small adjustments to the work piece separation and/or angle and holds the bits securely while soldering.

Caution, don't put the Blue Tack near the spot which you are going to solder, it smells pretty bad when heated.

Regards,   Bob Isaacs

NOTE: Blue Tack is available at stationery stores.


8/99-9/99 Designing Lamps

Designing Panel Lamps

1) Lets start with the simplest example, a panel lamp made up of one tier of flat panels. The first thing you need to think about is the overall width of the lamp. Decide what you want by looking at the area where the lamp will go or at the base that it will go on. Hold up a ruler or hold your hands apart while viewing the lamps future home and get an idea of the size you want.

2) To design the panel for the lamp start with the size you decided on for the width. Using the formula pi(D) (pi times Diameter where pi is about equal to 3.14) you can get the circumference of the bottom of the lamp.
Ex: You want the shade to have a diameter (width) of about 16". Using the formula Pi(D) you multiply 16" by 3.14 to get 50.24" as the circumference of the lamp.

3) Next decide on the number of panels you want the lamp to have. The more panels in the shade the rounder it will look. Six is the minimum number to use without getting a very angular look but 8 is much more common and a lot rounder looking.

4) Divide the circumference (as determined in step 2 above) by the number of panels you decided on to get the width for the bottom of each panel.
We've decided on an 8 panel shade so we'll divide the circumference 50.24" by the 8 sides to the shade. The result of 50.24 divided by 8 = 6.28 or about 6 1/4". That is how wide each panel will be at the bottom.

5) Now you need to decide on how tall you want the lamp to be. If the lamp is going on a base that you have, the shade should be tall enough to hang on the harp with the bottom falling just at or below the bottom of the harp. For our hypothetical shade we'll imagine that we're using an 8" harp and designing a shade with a 9" depth.

6) Now that we have decided how deep the shade must be we can determine the length the side panel must be in order to make a shade of the desired height. To get started we'll forget about the cap altogether and just let the shade come to a point at the top. (Keep in mind that you may have problems with the sides of the shade hitting the harp, but you'll find out about that later when you make a cardboard mockup of the shade.)
Look at illustration 1. It is a flat octagon (inscribed within a 16" circle) divided up into eight equal sections. Obviously if you just cut the octagon up and use the panels to make a lamp the lamp will be flat. Each panel is just long enough to meet in the middle while laying flat.

Illustration 1

  • In order to make the lamp taller you need to extend the pointy end (center) of the panels. The longer each panel is the taller they will stand up in the middle of the octagon.

  • To determine just how much to extend the length of each panel we'll employ a bit of junior high school geometry, and you said you'd never use that stuff! The Pythagorean theorem states that the sum of the squares of the sides of a right triangle is equal to the square of the hypotenuse, expressed as "a" squared + "b" squared = "c" squared.

  • In our application of this formula "a" represents the height of the lamp ( as decided on in step 5, for our example we have decided on 9"), "b" (shown as the green line in illustration 1) represents the distance from the center of the circle to the middle of one of the flat sides (by flat side I mean the purple line in the illustration that is actually the width of the panel at the bottom) and "c" is the length of the final panel measured from the point to the middle of the panel bottom (shown in purple in ill.1). This is of course an unknown, and the answer we need.

7) Actually right now "b" is unknown too but we can get that answer by doing a quick construction on paper using a straight edge ruler, and a compass.

  • Just draw a line the length we decided the panel bottom would be, 6 1/4". Now set your compass to the length of the radius of the circle. Our diameter is 16" so the radius will be half of that, 8". Place the point of the compass at each end of the line and draw an arc.

  • Where the two arcs cross will be the point of the panel. Draw a line from each end of the panel bottom line to the point where the arcs cross and you have created a single slice of the pie shown in illustration 1. If you now measure to find the center of the bottom and draw a line from the point to the middle of the bottom, the line you draw will be the green line in ill. 1.

  • Measure it, you have your value for "b". (Actually you could have used the Pythagorean theorem here too but the solution is a bit tougher because you'd be solving for a or b, so we've taken the easy out.)

    In this example the value for "b" measures out to be about 7.3 inches.

    Now let's plug the numbers into the formula.

"a" square=9x9=81 "b" square = 7.3x7.3=53.29 a square + b square = 81+53.29=134.29
So if a square + b square =c square, c square =134.29
The square root of 134.29=11.59 or about 11 5/8".

8) OOOOkkkkkkkay now. We can just extend the green line from ill. 1 to the new length of 11 5/8" and draw lines from the ends of the panel bottom up to the new point of the panel at the end of the extended green line.
Wow, like magic we've got ourselves a panel pattern.....with one minor detail left. We need to make room for a washer or cap at the top so the harp can go through. If the washer is 1" wide we can use the old familiar pi(d) formula. D=1"(the diameter of the washer) x 3.14(pi)=3.14 (the circumference of the washer).
Divide 3.14 by the number of panels, 8 = .3925, or about 3/8" plus a little bit. This is the width we need at the top of each panel to fit the washer in.
Just find the point near the top where the panel is 3/8" wide and cut it off there as shown by the blue line in ill. 2

9) Cut 8 panels from heavy cardboard and tape up a mock-up shade.

10) Try it on your lamp base and if you like what you see, make a lamp! ___
To be continued....


7/99 Dealing with Pits and Interrupted score lines

If you've been involved in stained glass for over...say, 15 minutes, you've already had to deal with it.
You're going along happily scoring your glass and it happens. Your cutter just hangs up, stops dead. You've fallen into a pit in the surface of the glass and you're beginning to sweat. Worse yet, the line you were scoring was an inside curve. Things are starting to look pretty grim. What can you do?

Well there are a few things you need to know to get yourself out of this one.

  • First off, here just as in basic glass cutting confidence is 90% of the battle, (but confidence doesn't cut it 'till you know what to do.) So remain calm.

  • Don't lift your cutter off the glass. Just reduce your pressure a bit and if you're using only one hand to score the glass it is time to call for reinforcements, (your other hand).
    Use the thumb and index finger of the other hand to grasp the cutter all the way at the bottom just above the wheel. Rest the heel of this hand on the glass for stability and use the fingers to ease the wheel up and out of the pit.

  • Complete your score line as usual.

O.K. That's a start but your score line may have lost its' integrity at the point of the pit and you've got to deal with it carefully.

  • Even if your score is just a moderate curve that was a straight forward cut before, now you will have to take it out in stages. In the illustration you can see the shape of the piece you are trying to cut traced on the glass. The arrow points to the fault (caused by the pit) in the score line. The "added score line" was made after it was known that there was a problem and that piece is then removed first.
  • Now that you have removed the excess glass the scrap that will come out next is more flexible because it is skinnier. That will prevent it from exerting too much stress in unwanted directions. You need to start opening the score line at the fault. Place you plier across the fault as shown in the second illustration. This will start the score opening on both sides of the fault at the same time and as both sides open the break will meet in the middle.
  • NEVER start this type of problem score with a running plier! The line will run off through your piece at the fault EVERY time.

  • Once you have gotten the line open across the fault you're pretty much back to business as usual.


6/99 A third hand

Our Thanks to Peggy Ayling for our June tip!

For ease in attaching hanging chains and loops, also for connecting zinc around my projects I have a 6" x 6" piece of wood 18" long with a groove about 2" deep and between an 1/8 and 1/4 inches wide cut into it.
It is sturdy enough to hold a 25" round panel while connecting the zinc and the hangers. It is like a third hand. It also is the right size for smaller pieces. No more hot zinc or chain etc to handle.
You can make it any size to fit your purpose. I have a smaller one with the a couple of grooves to accommodate some of the metal pieces I attach as wings etc.

Peggy Ayling


5/99 A dialog on grinder OVERuse

The following is an excerpt from a dialog that occurred in an internet chat addressing the common practice of using the grinder as a basic cutting tool for stained glass rather than as a substitute for grozing with pliers.

>..........While I certainly respect the ability to cut glass perfectly with no mechanical aids... in those rare instances when I have been able to accomplish the feat, I've found that copper foil doesn't stick well to a clean cut, so I find myself lightly grinding the edge in any case.

Copper foil will stick fine to a clean cut but not to DIRTY GLASS. Try just dipping your well cut pieces in plain water and towel drying them and I'll bet that problem would be solved.
>Do you never have to use groziers either? I rarely have a smooth edge after grozing. While I agree sometimes grinding is time wasted. I think teachers want students to be able to have the satisfaction of a completed project with minimal pain.

Don't get me wrong. I never said that I am against the use of grinders. I allow my students to use grinders in class but they must use it only when necessary, as an easy alternative to a grozing pliers. I've had many students take my class that had been instructed elsewhere that the proper stained glass technique involves intentionally cutting every piece of glass too large or with no allowance for foil, then grinding each piece down to size. This is almost as absurd as a carpenter replacing his saw with a belt sander.
I start every beginner class by making a small panel and explaining all the techniques used along the way. Just to prove the point I never use the grinder on this project but always demonstrate the use of the grinder on scrap as an alternative to grozing.
The BIG problem all begins because the beginner is allowed by this flawed technique of OVER GRINDING to produce a product that looks deceptively good. Once having made a nice looking product, the thought of the next not being as good or better is unbearable. Sure they'd like to try cutting the glass better but the fear that it will come out too small and the solder lines will be fat or uneven is overwhelming. Almost from the first project they're hooked!
I tell my students that there is no shame in making an imperfect piece. "Send it off to your relatives out of state. They'll LOVE it and you won't have to look at it!
Each new piece you make will be better than the last and you'll quickly learn to do it better."


In short, every craft properly done has its' own learning curve. Trying to avoid this "break in" period entirely results in never actually learning the craft.
So what, you ask?
There is a definite down side. Grinding a piece of oversized glass takes several times as long as it does to just cut the piece. Add to that the expense of constantly buying grinder heads and the wear and tear on your fingers from all that water and glass dust.

Gary Dodge


4/99 Handy Iron Holder

Our Thanks to Cynthia Wesley for our April tip!

I have found that rather than purchase a soldering iron stand a large eye screw from the hardware store is perfect for holding my hot iron. I screw it into the side of my wooden work bench where it can hang inverted and out of the way, yet handy!

Sincerely, Cynthia Wesley"

Colours by Cynthia Wesley"
Custom Stained Glass Artwork
Warren, Ohio

Editor's note: Take care that the iron is not located where you or someone else might get burnt. If you are not sure that your position is safe I would recommend that you also hang a deep tin can below the screw eye so that no one can accidentally come in contact with the business end of the iron


3/99 Came carrier/storage container

Our Thanks to Keith Lundquist for our March tip!

How do you keep lead came straight on the way home from the stained glass store?
I used to carefully grab the six-foot pieces in two hands, carry them out to the car and then lay them down in the trunk trying not to get a kink in them.
I made a "came carrier" out of 2" PVC pipe (used in outdoor irrigation or other plumbing work) with a cap at both ends. One cap is secured with PVC cement and the other end just fits on tightly.
Now when I go to the stained glass shop for lead came or zinc border, I bring along the PVC came carrier to safely carry home the materials. Came can also be stored in this container under a counter or over a workbench to avoid any unnecessary bending.
PVC pipe is inexpensive and can be purchased at most home improvement centers or hardware stores. Just make the carrier slightly over 6 feet long.

Keith Lundquist


2/99 Inexpensive glass rack

Our Thanks to Eileen Daum for our February tip!

I have a great inexpensive glass rack tip. I use discarded racks from dishwashers.
The bottom racks already have wheels on them and keep the glass sorted, the same way you keep your dishes separate. Some of the top racks also have wheels on them. They slide beautifully under my work bench, and they're FREE.
Make friends with your local appliance store..........
. they throw them out!

Eileen Daum


1/99 Protect your Patterns!

Our Thanks to Kathleen Jeffery for our January tip!

It's so wet and messy when you're grinding and fitting - what I do is use those inexpensive plastic sheet protectors and slip the good copy of my pattern inside. (For larger projects, I slit one side of two protectors and use clear tape to put them together). Then as I'm griding I place my pieces over the plastic protector to fit them to the pattern. This keeps my pattern clean and dry.

When I've completed my project, I just slip my cut pattern pieces inside the sheet protector along with the copy of the pattern and place the entire package in my binder for future reference - no lost pattern pieces!

Kathleen Jeffery