Soldering Lead Came

Step By Step Tutorial


Using stained glass solder to join your panel together is the next step after leading it all up. This is one of the most exciting steps, because it allows you to pick up your panel and see the coloured light coming through it for the very first time.


What You Need

all tools for soldering

Tools for soldering stained glass

Soldering iron (at least 80W) and stand, a flux (tallow or other soldering flux such as Glastar Glasflux), 60/40 solder, wire brush, tip cleaner (either a commercial tinning block or a damp flannel), cheap brush.


How To Solder Stained Glass


1. Preparing the panel for soldering

- Turn your soldering iron on. They take a while to heat up.
- Clean each joint with a wire brush. This gets rid of any dirt that may have built up on your lead. You need a clean surface so that the solder will stick.
- It's best to solder soon after cleaning. This will stop any oxides building up on your lead joints.

cleaned lead joints after wire brush

Lead joint before cleaning with wire brush (left) and after (right)

2. Using the stained glass solder

If you're a beginner, it's a good idea to cut off some pieces of scrap lead and practice some soldering along them. This way you can get the feel for the way the solder melts, and how hot your iron needs to be.

Soldering fumes are dangerous. Try to do the soldering process by an open window, or buy a portable fume extractor if you’re going to do large amounts.

- Brush flux on to a lead joint.
- If you're right handed, place the end of the stick of solder right over the join with your left hand. Don't hold it too close to the end. The solder heats up along the stick and you could get burnt.
- Bring the hot tip of the soldering iron to the solder over the join. A drop will melt off onto the joint.

melting drop of solder onto came joint

Melting drop of solder on to lead came joint

- It’s better to put a small amount on first and add more. Solder sticks to the lead and is difficult to take off if you've put too much on.
- Hold the soldering iron still over the solder for a few seconds, letting it find its natural level. It should be a little rounded and covering the whole of the lead join.

melting solder with iron

Holding iron on solder drop to melt it

- Be careful not to take too long because the solder will melt too much and disappear through the gap.
- Try not to touch the lead with the tip as it could melt it.
- To keep your hand steady it sometimes helps to rest your right elbow on the worktop.
- Make sure you have soldered every joint. It's easy to miss one or two.


finished solder join

Finished solder join

3. Turning the panel over

- Be very careful turning your stained glass panel over. It is very fragile at this point.
- Wait until the last solder join has cooled down.
- Slide the panel slightly over the edge of your work surface and lift it upright.
- Lean it over carefully, supporting the back with your left hand.
- Now clean the joints with a wire brush and solder this side as above.
- If you have gaps at the joins where the lead doesn't fit very well, you can fill them in with little bits of lead cut from a spare flange. Do this one by one, otherwise they'll fall off.

filling gap with tiny bit of lead came

Filling gap with tiny bit of lead came

4. Cleaning the panel

- Clean all the flux off the soldered joints and lead came with the wire brush

solder joins cleaned with wire brush on cacti panel

Soldered joints clean after brushing

Soldering Hooks On


If your panel is for hanging in front of a window and doesn't need to be waterproof, you can add some hooks on at this point.

cactus panel with two hooks on top

Hooks soldered on top of panel

- Make or buy a couple of wire hooks
- Rest your panel upright between two bricks
- Solder the hooks carefully on to the border lead with the soldering iron


Troubleshooting


- Q. My solder isn't smooth, it's all crinkled.
A. Either you haven’t held the iron on the solder for long enough or it's not quite hot enough. You can re-do these joins.
- Q. My joints are all messy.
A. You might be moving the soldering iron when you're melting the solder. Add a little more solder and try to keep the iron still when you melt it.
- Q. My solder melts into the space between my lead.
A. You have cut your lead too short or not at the right angle, and the gap is too big to fill with solder. You can patch this up with a small piece of scrap lead. Cut it a bit bigger than you need so that it balances over the gap. Now solder over it. This takes a bit of practice. (see photo above)
- Q. My solder rolls off and won't stick.
A. Either you don't have enough flux, or the joint is still dirty. Try more flux, and if it still doesn't stick, then clean it again with a wire brush.
- Q. My iron isn’t melting the stained glass solder.
A. Your tip may be dirty or have excess solder on it. Clean it by wiping it on a damp cloth.
Or the thermostat is set too low. Turn it up a little and wait before testing it on a scrap piece of lead.

soldered green cactus panel

Soldered panel ready for cementing and polishing

Helpful Resources


- If you're not sure which soldering iron is best for you, there's a page here that might answer your questions
- I've found a video that will give you an idea of the process, although I'm not too sure how good the joints are in the background!




Video showing how to solder stained glass

Once you're happy with your soldering and your panel is all clear of flux, you're ready to go to the next step:

Go to Cementing A Lead Came Panel if your piece needs to be waterproof

Go to Cleaning and Polishing if you are going to hang it in a window

 


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