This instruction to make stained glass shows you how to wrap and burnish your stained glass pieces neatly with copper foil. This is so that you can solder around each piece and join them all together.
There's also information on all the different colours, widths and weights of foil available, to help you choose the right one for your project.
Tools and materials for copper foil
A roll of copper foil - 7/32" wide is a good starting point. Cleaner. Scissors. Fid or spare wine cork. Exacto knife. Cut and ground artglass pieces. Pattern.
Copper foil tape comes on a roll and has a backing that you peel away to expose a sticky side.
It's worth spending some time making the foil as neat as possible at this stage, as any gaps or uneven areas will show up during soldering.
1 Wrapping the glass
- Clean each piece with rubbing alcohol to get rid of any grease that will stop the foil sticking
- Roughly roll out and cut enough tape for your piece of stained glass with a small overlap
- Peel a bit of the tape away from the backing and place the edge of the glass in the centre
Peeling off and centering the foil
- Start anywhere except for on an outer edge of your panel or on a corner of the piece. This will make the panel stronger
- Press down and continue around the whole piece, checking that the tape is staying centered and pressing down the outside edge as you go
- When you get back to the beginning, make sure that the overlapping bit of tape lines up exactly
Wrapping foil neatly around each piece
Trimming the join with a craft knife for perfect solder lines
2 Folding the foil over by hand
- Squeeze the foil on to the back and front edges with your finger and thumb. This is called 'crimping'.
- Make sure that the corners are neat by folding each side over first. Think of darts and dress-making!
3 Burnishing the stained glass copper foil
Now you need to burnish the edges to make them stick firmly.
Burnishing the foil with a fid
- Using a fid (you can use a wine cork or pencil for this) go over the outside edge, to make sure it is stuck properly
- Then do the same for both the back and front edges
- Trim any uneven bits carefully with a craft knife
- The neater your foil, the better your solder will look
Neatly copper foiled panel ready for soldering
- Copper foil for stained glass is available in widths from 1/8” (3mm) to ½” (13mm).
- Beginners like working with 7/32" and 1/4" widths.
- It also comes in different weights, from the thinnest 1mil to the heaviest 1.5mil.
- Beginners often use I.5mil as it doesn’t tear as easily and works well on unground edges.
- You can also buy silver, brass and black-backed foil. This is especially good if you are using transparent glass as you won’t want to see copper through it.
- It's best to think ahead and choose foil with a backing color to match the color of the patina you will be using, so that they blend together perfectly.
Here’s a really helpful instruction to make stained glass video, showing you the copper foil and soldering process. It lasts 2mins 30seconds.
The only thing I would be wary of is starting the foil off right at the corner of a shape, as it makes the joining of the two ends of tape together a bit more tricky.
Short video of foiling and soldering processes
Once you're happy that you've foiled, crimped and burnished as neatly as you can, you're ready for Stained Glass Soldering.
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