How To Frame Stain Glass

Zinc Came Border

After soldering your stain glass, the next question is how to deal with the edges. If you have a heavier panel that needs a bit of strength, or want a definite border for artistic reasons, then a zinc frame is your answer.

This stain glass tutorial shows you how to measure, cut and solder a mitered frame together for a professional look. Your glasswork is worth it!

What You Need

tools and materials for stain glass making

Tools and materials for zinc framing

60/40 solder, flux, soldering iron and stand, wet sponge, Q-tips or cheap brush to apply the flux, your panel, cork or soft wood board, fine felt tip pen, push pins to hold the zinc in place, zinc came, set square, metal file and a came saw or fine-toothed hack saw. There are special saws for this (including electric!), but I moved the blade of my hack saw down a bit and it works fine.
Optional: miter box.

How To Make A Zinc Came Frame

First of all you need to cut the zinc came to fit. Mitered edges (those cut on a 45 degree angle) are best, otherwise you have an ugly view down the inside of the zinc came at each corner.

1. Measuring the zinc came

- Saw off a 2" piece of zinc to use as a marker
- Place this marker over the vertical edge of your panel so that the edge glass butts up to the heart of the zinc

measuring for zinc frame

Stain glass - how to measure the length for zinc came

- Giving yourself a bit of extra length on the left hand side, draw two lines down from the marker on to the horizonal came
- Draw another line diagonally across. This gives you the 45 degree angle
- Mark the other corner in the same fashion

2. Cutting the zinc came

Try to do this as accurately as you can. Some people use a miter box to cut the angles.

how to saw zinc came

How to cut zinc came for a mitered frame

- Place the blade over the cut line and saw straight down. It takes a bit of time and effort!
- Don't push too hard, as you might squash the zinc
- File the ends to tidy them up
- Repeat 1. and 2. above for three sides

mitered corners cut in zinc came

Mitered corners cut to the correct length

3. Measuring the final edge

- Pin your three edges in with the push pins, checking that they're at right angles
- Balance your final length of zinc over the top and mark the 45 degree angle as in 1. above. The marks in the photo looks 'off' because of camera distortion, so look at the pink lines below
- Cut the remaining two angles
- Pin the final came in place, checking that the stain glass panel is square

cutting final zinc came to size

Cutting final zinc came to the correct length

4. Stain Glass - How To Solder The Frame

Solder the four corners first, so that everything stays in place. Do this by melting a blob over the join and melting the stain glass solder with the flat face of your iron tip on the solder. See the video below if you're not sure of how to do this.

Now each edge join needs to be soldered neatly to the zinc.

stain glass how to solder zinc

Soldering seams to zinc came

- Apply flux to each join. Do one side at a time so that you can get your iron in the right position easily
- With the chisel tip of your iron at right angles to the stain glass, melt off a small bit of solder on to the seam
- Keeping your tip at the same angle, slowly melt the solder until it merges with the seam and sticks to the zinc frame
- Work your way around the panel until each join is soldered to the frame
- Turn over and repeat on the other side

stained glass panel soldered to zinc frame

Stain glass panel with mitered zinc frame

Helpful Resources

This is a useful 3 minute video showing exactly what I've been describing, including soldering a corner join. Start watching at 1min 20 seconds if you're in a rush, as it repeats the same steps for each corner.
She's using a luxury electric saw, lucky thing!

Stain glass - how to make a zinc frame and solder a corner join

Perfect, all done! Now you're ready to attach some hooks for hanging.
If you don't want to hang it, go straight to the final step to patina and polish your stain glass.




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