Sunday, February 13, 2011

My First Real Project!

So, in my typical fashion, I've gone all out with my stained glass fetish.  I completed my first big project the other day and took plenty of pictures along the way.  Here's a step-by-step:

1.  My humble work station.  The pattern I am attempting is on the right.  I printed out two copies and numbered the pieces in both.  I'll keep one copy whole and cut each piece out of the other so that I can trace the shapes on the glass.  From previous experience, I've learned that its better to use cardstock as it allows a more precise tracing to be made.

 2.  You can see the color pattern I made on the left.  The pattern itself came through an online search.  I used a free stained glass program trial to "trace" the pattern and insert the colors.  The trial only offers 52 colors but the paid version has 3200!!  I was still able to get close to what I wanted.  The glass and individual pattern pieces are on the right.

 3.  I've already cut out the red pieces in this photo and placed them on my master pattern.  Things are going quite slow at this point.  I'm still inexperienced in glass cutting, which means I'm having to make great use of the glass grinder which is in the upper left of the photo.

 4.  I now have the green, yellowish and clear glass cut and placed.  I had to take great care in cutting the three clear middle pieces.  Though I purchased a good amount of glass, much of it was scrap and were pretty small.  Those were the only three pieces of clear large enough to make those shapes.  Luckily, my glass cutting has improved slightly by this point.

5.  Here is a close up of the pieces and pattern cut outs.  You can see how close I was tracing them, trying to save glass.  My two cutters are shown also.  The one in the middle of the screen is a brass, oil-filled Toyo cutter with a carbide cutting wheel.  It seems to be the industry standard.  There are a number of features which make it quite nice: the carbide cutting wheel will last much, much longer than the steel wheels that come on standard cutters, such as the red one in the picture;  this cutter has an automatic oil dispenser.  When you press down on the glass, a wick pulls oil from the inside chamber, lubricating the wheel, extending cutting wheel life span, and aiding cutting.  The only thing that I use the other cutter for is tapping glass. When you make a score in the glass with a fairly tight radius, it can sometimes not break correctly unless you "run" the score by tapping it from underneath.  This fractures the glass at the score and makes for a cleaner cut.

 6.  This is where I'm at now.  By this point, I've improved my cutting significantly, resulting in more accurate shapes and sizing so that I don't have to use the grinder as much.  Its still a good idea to grind the edges of each piece of glass however, as this smooths them down and reduces the likelihood of cutting yourself.  Just the blue glass left to cut!

7.  This is everything, all cut, ground and laid out according to pattern.  Now that I know that everything fits, I'll need to foil the edges so that they can be soldered.  I'm quite ready for a break though. As it turns out, pretty much everything about stained glass works better when you are standing up and looking down at your work.  With this low table, its been a huge pain in the neck, literally!

8.  Please allow me to present my new work station! After a nice, child-less day of shopping with my wife, and yet another stop by the glass shop, I now have a much more user friendly work area.  I bought some more chemicals, solder, etc but most importantly, I purchased this nice, little work bench.  Only $100 from Harbor Freight Tools (and two hours of assembly), it should suit my needs quite nicely :)

 9.  If you thought cutting and grinding glass was tedious, just you wait.  I bought some hand-foilers to help make the job of foiling the glass a bit easier, but its still a time-consuming process.  I'd like to point out that there is still a small gap between each piece.  I learned reading "The Lazy Mans Guide to Stained Glass" that it is important to have this so that the solder can seep down between each piece and strengthen the work.  Btw, the book was a great resource and even better, its a free online PDF book!  Check it out here:                                                             's%20Guide.pdf)

 10.  I've not got everything spot soldered.  I used a liquid flux this time, instead of the paste flux.  I'm not sure yet if its better or worse actually.  I'll need to learn more about what I'm looking for in a flux before I can decide.  At any rate, after using flux in each of the corners (and realigning each and every piece), I was able to tack them all together so that I can begin getting down to business.  Since this was the back side of the piece, I decided to apply a generous amount of solder so that it would seep between the cracks and make the job of soldering the front a bit easier.  What a time consuming process!  I definitely need more practice soldering.  I guess speed will come with practice and confidence.  I think I need to study up on a few different soldering techniques.  For the back, I was just laying it down thick to fill the gaps.  Then, I went back and added solder, finally running the hot iron over the bead to try and make it look kinda nice.  For the front, I layed down the amount of solder I would need then, as with the back, one pass on each bead with the hot iron to make it look good.  Btw, I bought the Weller 100 iron, seems to be the most popular one to start with and works well from what I can tell.

 11.  Ok, I'm still not completely satisfied with my solder lines.  but for this only being my fourth project, it isn't too bad (I did three little 4x4 inch squares just to get the hang of things earlier this week).  I'm putting on the zinc edging in this picture.  Wow, what a nightmare!  First off, this stuff was curved the opposite way to start.  Trying to get to curve the correct way, without twisting or creasing was a bit pain.  Maybe next time I'll just solder the edge...

12.  All said and done, I think it came out OK :)  I'm concerned about the chain holding up, or rather the solder thats connecting it.  The solder didn't want to stick when I was tacking it.  Oh well, we'll see.  I have some different colors of patina, but since my wife and I liked the silver look, I decided to just clean off the flux and apply a layer of wax to the glass and beads to protect it.  Project Complete!

So, there it is, in all its photographic detail.  My first real project.  While it is a tedious task, this one taking the better part of 2 days, I find that I quite enjoy it.  It is art, which I want to explore, but its an art form in which I am in complete control, quite unlike the watercolor that my wife does (though she likes her sometimes unpredictable relationship with watercolor).  I'm already anxious to start another project, just need some ideas :)

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