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Copper Foil Technique


There are two basic techniques in making a piece of stained glass. The Lead Came and the Copper Foil techniques. I have worked in both and personally I prefer working with copper foil rather than lead came. I find it easier to work with, it lends itself to more detailing, and I find it stronger and requires less maintenance.


When working in either technique the first aspect is the design and pattern. The design is usually done on a small scale until a desired idea is realized. Exact measurements are taken and a large scale design is then made to these measurements. At this point a pattern can be made in a heavier more durable paper or card stock. Each piece of the pattern, on both the design and the card stock, are given a number so that the pieces can be put back together, like a puzzle. I usually also put arrows on my pattern pieces so my glass will flow in the direction of my design. The card stock is then cut out using either copper foil shears or lead came shears. These shears are specially designed with a gap to facilitate the thickness of copper foil or lead came between the pieces of glass. Some artists don't bother with the pattern step - rather placing their glass directly over the design on a light table and either using a glass marker to define the shapes or cutting directly onto the glass.


Choosing the glass for a project, is what I think, the most important aspect of the stained glass process - it can "make or break" a piece of stained glass. When I'm choosing a piece of glass for one of my designs I can almost feel the glass speaking to me. My minds eye can see the swirl or texture of a piece of glass and say - yes, this will look great for the sky, or this will look great for the movement in a flower.

Once the glass is chosen, the pattern pieces are laid out on top, making sure the arrows on the pattern pieces follow the design flow on the glass. Using a glass marker the pattern pieces are traced onto the glass and then cut using a lubricated glass cutter. The individual pieces of glass can now be trimmed for a more precise fit or to smooth out the edges before foiling, either using a glass grinder, the edge of the glass pliers or a glass sanding stone.


Each piece of glass is now incased in a piece of copper foil. The edges are turned under and then burnished on both sides of the glass and any mismatch of copper foil is neatly trimmed away. The copper foil comes in varying widths and thickness depending on the end use or artistic results desired.


Once all the glass pieces are copper foiled, they are placed back on the design. For windows and flat pieces, a frame can be built to make it easier to ensure the work stays square and to keep the work within the desired dimensions. A flux is brushed over the copper foiled areas of the glass pieces to allow the solder to adhere to the copper foil. Using a soldering iron designed for stained glass use, a smooth bead of solder is run along the copper foil. Decorative soldering can also be done to enhance the work.


It is extremely important to clean the finished project thoroughly removing any and all flux residue. The soldering lines can then be given a look of copper, brass or black oxide using various chemicals, or simply remain the silver color of the solder. If a chemical is used, then the project is thoroughly cleaned again prior to a wax finish. The wax finish is buffed until it shines. The project is then signed using an engraving machine and is ready for display.


If you have any comments, ideas or questions, please send me an e-mail

Last modified January 9, 2006

This site created and maintained by Yogi Grunwald.


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