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!)
Sal ammoniac is a naturally occurring ammonia salt that is
used for "tinning", which means coating with solder.
Some metals like copper can be tinned quite easily using just
flux, while other metals like the steel jackets on soldering tips
take a bit more coercing. That's where the sal ammoniac comes in.
The sal ammoniac tinning block has the ability to clean the tip
better than flux can so that solder will easily adhere to it.
Now here's something I learned from a real old timer I worked
for twenty years ago. You can break off a chunk from a sal
ammoniac block and dissolve it to make sal ammoniac water. (About
two or three tablespoons full to a cup of water.)
Find Sal-ammoniac Here! (Click on Chemicals on the menu at left.)
Our thanks to Avis Ann
Rosenlund for our November tip of the month!
"I keep my small pieces of 'leftover' glass in a file box that is normally used for tax records. It is divided and a solid, durable container that allows you to keep the pieces sorted by general color. i.e. reds, yellows, blues, browns, etc. that you can label on the top of each divider. If you have lots of 'leftover' glass you can use separate boxes for each color and label these. I also find this helps me in going through the glass to find the right piece as it is standing on edge instead of laying flat in a 'junk glass' box. It helps in preventing cut fingers by pawing through the box and also helps in preventing scratches from one piece to another. Helps me.....hope it can help someone else! Avis Ann Rosenlund"
Last month we talked about how to prevent foil splits while
foiling, but there will still be times when your foil will split
and you either don't notice it until the piece is soldered in, or
the curve you are foiling is so extreme that you just can't avoid
it. Now you need the cure!
If you work with copper foil you have probably already had to
deal with the problem of cracked or split foil.
If you think back, you will see that just about every time you have had a split in your foil it occurred in the foil of an inside curve.
Look at the illustration of the two concentric circles. You know immediately that the line around circle "A" is longer than the circle around circle "B". If you imagine that the orange area represents copper foil wrapped around the edge and folded into the center you will see that the foil has gone from a larger circumference to a smaller one. If you have foiled tight circles or curves you know that this is accomplished by allowing puckers to form (taking up the extra length) and pressing them flat.
When adjusting the fit of your panels use the cartoon as a
guide to finding the suspected misfits but never start to adjust
a piece of glass until you have compared it to the pattern used
to cut the piece. Since patterns are made from tracings of
the cartoon and and the glass is cut from the pattern, not the
cartoon, variations in the tracing can lead you to adjust the
wrong pieces and make matters worse!
If you can't even get a hint of where the problem is from the cartoon you can just compare the pieces to the patterns one at a time until you find the problems. Remember that if you did not cut your pattern with a pattern shear or double bladed knife the glass should be slightly smaller than the pattern all the way around. This extra space is necessary to allow for copper foil between the pieces of glass, room for solder to flow between the glass pieces for strength and to allow for slight irregularities in the cut edge.
A properly fit panel will have wiggle room before it is foiled. If you slide your hand across the pieces in an assembly jig you will hear a clickety click as the pieces shift against one another. Most of this room will be taken up after the panel is foiled.
My favorite surface for cutting glass is ordinary plexiglass plastic sheet in either 1/8" or 1/4" thickness. Working on plexiglass I can move the glass as I cut it enabling me to score any curve or circle without lifting the glass cutter. In fact, when I score a circle I draw the cutter in a straight line toward me and rotate the glass.
You can then "open" the score line all the way around the circle(1) before adding "relief score lines"(2) to help remove the scrap from around the circle.
The resulting circle is much cleaner than those cut using traditional methods.
Why do I have trouble cutting a straight line using a ruler?
There are a lot of different factors that can lead to failure in doing good ruler cuts.
The first one is equipment. The ruler you use should be at
least 1/8" thick with a non-slip backing. Otherwise your
cutter may tend to run up onto the edge of the ruler and your
score will not be effective. (You can add self adhesive cork, or
even a few layers of masking tape to make your own non-slip
The second factor to be considered is the sheer complexity of
the task. What at first appears simple, when analyzed, is much
more complicated. Your concentration must be split between your
right and left hands. Believe it or not holding a ruler requires
attention. It must be held absolutely still which requires even
pressure applied to both ends and the middle simultaneously. Add
to this, keeping the hand holding the ruler out of the way of the
Finally there is the score itself. While the
ruler may control the direction in which the cutter travels, it
can't insure that the cutter is not slightly twisted, in which
case you will produce a scratch on the glass rather than a score
NOTE: Perhaps most important in sucessful ruler cutting is getting a chance to practice on scrap window glass until you can do it with confidence!
Our thanks to Richard Cole for our May tip!
When soldering the back of a foiled panel we always try not to damage the smooth soldered lines that we worked so hard on, on the front. To avoid this, I wet a terrycloth towel, ring it out so that its not dripping and flatten it out either full or folded, depending on the size of the piece, but always as flat as possible for the best contact. Don't worry about cracking the glass since the glass and wet towel heat up together at same time, there is NO sudden temperature change so the glass will not crack. I do every panel with this towel method, and believe me it helps!!!!!
So you've got all your glass cut and are ready to foil your panel. You've decided to use 7/32" foil, a good choice, but before you just blindly begin wrapping your pieces take a look at your panel.
"Sometimes a solder line is just a solder line." (but not always)
Sometimes a solder line is a flower stem, a bicycle spoke, a ship's riggings or what have you! When it is, it deserves special attention.
A flower stem is not just the metal needed to hold your glass together. It is a design element. To make it look like a flower stem it must be wider than your other solder lines so that it will stand out. You can accomplish this by using a wider foil such as 1/4", or even 5/16".
The illustration shows the narrower 7/32" foil overlapped by the wider 1/4" foil.
On the other side of things, in situations like bicycle spokes where you want to make those lines finer, apply a narrower foil such as 3/16" foil first. Let it wrap around the corners then apply the 7/32" foil starting right at the corners.
Most glasses whether opalescent (having an opaque white base color) or cathedral (any clear colored glass) have some kind of visual "grain". The outcome of your stained glass projects can be greatly enhanced by paying attention to and using this grain as an integral design element. Mark the grain direction that will best suggest the "flow" of a flowers' petals or the wings of a butterfly, right on your patterns before you cut them apart. When tracing your patterns onto the glass, just make sure the lines on the patterns are lined up with the lines on the glass sheet.
When making a border around a panel there seems to be a natural tendency to run the grain in long lines up the side of a panel. This is a holdover from our recollection of wooden frames but is generally not the best way to go in glass. If you run your grain the short way you will benefit in two ways.
Good copper foiling technique is just as important to your finished product as good cutting, but you have to know the fine points.
The foil you select will have a great effect on the appearance and strength of your product. We start out with 7/32" as the "default" size on any work under two feet in both width and height. (For larger panels it is necessary to assess the way the glass pieces mesh together. It may be necessary to step up to 1/4" foil for strength if the design has many long straight parallel lines.)
With 7/32" foil your products will not have the amateurish look 1/4" foil often creates, yet it is virtually as easy to apply and solder. 3/16" foil will give a finer line but is difficult to apply, is harder to solder neatly, may be structurally unsuitable for larger work and because the line is so narrow it tends to accentuate your cutting inaccuracies. Of course there are times when other sizes are needed for a special look, for example in a prairie style design, a wider foil looks better.