Soldering Copper Foil

How To Solder Stained Glass

Stained glass soldering joins all your foil-wrapped pieces of glass together by running a bead of solder along each seam. It isn't the easiest technique to learn, but it's one of the most exciting, as it allows you pick up and see your project for the very first time.

What You Need

tools for soldering stain glass

Tools and materials for soldering

60/40 solder, flux, soldering iron and stand, wet sponge, Q-tips or cheap brush to apply the flux, your pattern, cork board or ceiling tile to pin your work on, material for a jig - here I'm using wooden batons, push pins (if your project isn't square) and masking tape.

Use a fume extractor or solder in a well-ventilated space.

If you need an iron my recommended soldering Iron is this this Hakko - see it at Delphi

Stained Glass Soldering

It's best to hold all your pieces together with small blobs of solder to hold them in position. This is called 'tack soldering'.

1. Positioning the glass

- Stick your tracing paper pattern on to the board and place all your foiled pieces carefully in position
- Tape them together in a few key places so that they can't move
- If you have a homasote board and pins, you can pin them securely in place

holding stained glass in place for soldering

Tack soldering stained glass

2. Tack soldering

- Using an iron (at least 80 watts) tack your panel together with soldering to hold it in place
- Brush a little liquid flux on the crucial joins and melt one blob of solder on each of these joins
- Remove the masking tape

tack soldering stained glass

Making a soldering joint

3. Soldering the seams

This is not as easy as it looks in some videos! Don't worry if you're not making a perfect line straight away, it takes lots of practice to know how much solder to put on and how fast to move along the seam.
The two most important things to remember are:

a. to keep the tip of the iron silver and clean by wiping it on a wet sponge every now and again
b. to make sure you have enough flux to melt the solder. Keep adding more when necessary.

What shall I do at the edges?

If you want to put a zinc frame around the project, stop soldering 1/4" short of the edge
If you're making a free-hanging suncatcher, keep soldering right up to the edge

stained glass soldering

Making stained glass soldering seams

- Brush flux along one or two seams to start with
- With the hot soldering iron in one hand and the solder in the other, move them both slowly along the seam together
- The tip should follow the solder, melting it as it goes
- There should be enough solder to cover the foil and fill any gaps between the pieces
- The solder should be beaded (slightly rounded) rather than flat
- Wipe or wash the flux off this side before you turn over. Dry thoroughly

4. Making stained glass soldering neat

Sometimes the solder just looks a mess, especially where it joins with other seams. Luckily, there's a technique that works like magic.
Instead of moving the iron along with the solder, you keep it in the same place and allow the heat to work.

soldering stained glass

Making stained glass soldering neat using the hold and lift method

- flux the area and clean your tip to make sure of the best results
- hold the tip flatly over the problem area for 2-3 seconds, and then remove it upwards
- magic! a neat join is achieved

soldering stain glass

Soldering stained glass, reverse side

5. Soldering the reverse side

- Make sure you wash all the flux off the soldered side before turning over, otherwise you might end up melting your first side again!
- Carefully turn the panel over
- You will see that some of the soldering has leaked through to the back
- Repeat the process as above, putting less solder on when you get to these points

Stained Glass Soldering - Troubleshooting

Q My solder disappears between the gaps!

A If your cutting isn't 100% accurate (like the rest of us!) and there's a bit of a gap between the pieces, solder will drain through to the other side. This isn't a problem, as you'll deal with it when you turn the project over.
Just keep adding small amounts of solder until it eventually beads up.

too much stained glass solder

Removing excess solder on the reverse side with the iron

Q I've soldered the second side neatly, only to find that it has leaked through to mess up my first side. There's too much solder, how do I get it off?

A This can happen if you haven't washed the flux off before turning over. Luckily, just as you can add solder to the seam, you can take it off too.
Move the tip of the iron quickly across the seam where there's too much solder, and flick it off onto a heat-resistant surface. You can always pick it up again and reuse it where needed.
Use the hold and lift method described in 4. above to neaten the area afterwards.

smooth stained glass soldering

Making stained glass soldering smooth

Q My flux doesn't work and the solder doesn't melt.

A This could be one of three things:

a. the flux has dried up or drained away and you need to reapply it
b. your soldering iron is not maintaining temperature and you are experiencing a 'cold spot'. Be patient and it will get back up to top temperature. If you have a dial controller with your iron, turn it up a fraction and test it out.
c. the tip of the iron is dirty from the flux and solder, and needs wiping clean to allow it to work properly

remove stained glass solder

How to remove stained glass solder from glass

Q The solder has stuck to the glass and I'm frightened it will crack it.

A Dont' panic! Brush flux over the solder and seam, and 'gather' it up with the hot iron by holding the iron on the seam. You're right, you will have to be quick so that the glass doesn't break, but it's unusual for that to happen.

Helpful Resources

I've found this really great 3.45 minute video from Delphi Glass that shows stained glass soldering. Wow, this woman is good! Don't worry if you can't do it this quickly, that will take a lot of practice.

Stained glass soldering for copper foil

Once you've soldered both sides and you're happy with it, you're ready for either Zinc Framing or, if you're not framing your piece, Soldering Edges.




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