Stained Glass Tools
by Paul Wilson
This section is concerned primarily with stained glass tools.
When we get volunteer authors for the hot glass and warm glass
sections, their tools will be mentioned there, or additional
sections will be added to the FAQ for this newsgroup if needed.
The tools listed below would cost between $40.00 and $60.00 and
be sufficient to see if you like doing stained glass. With
these tools you could build a few "light catchers" the smaller
ornament-like stained glass articles commonly seen at craft
stores and at flea markets, you might even do a few smaller
panels. The absolute barest minimum in tools for Stained Glass
After this there are many other hand and power tools available.
Some make it easier to apply foil, make more accurate cuts, or
organize your workbench. Some tools are single purpose and
suitable for making only one type of project. Some tools look
like smaller versions of wood working tools, only with water
cooling added because glass is tough on tools. These tools
probably go beyond the scope of an FAQ in scope, therefore they
won't be mentioned here.
- Glass Cutter:
- These start out a few dollars and go over $30.00.
The cheapest has a steel cutting wheel and is fine for
learning. Of the more expensive carbide tip types are the
pencil type, the hand grip or pistol grip type and the thumb
grip type. I prefer the pistol grip because I have very large
hands. The other variations don't give me enough control. I
have noticed that women seem to prefer the pencil style, it's
probably because their hands are usually smaller. I usually
use both hands to cut, one to guide, the other to vary the
pressure applied. I have not seen anyone use the thumb type of
cutter, its much too small for me but does look interesting.
The other consideration is whether to get a standard cutter, or
a self oiling one. Mine is self oiling, but I wipe it on an
oiled towel on every cut anyway. This makes sure it's clean of
Glass Cutter Oil:
You must use a cutting oil or your cutter
will last only a fraction of the time that it could. I use a
small margarine dish with top to keep an oiled towel in so that
I can pass my cutting tip across it before each cut.
get one that is 80-100 watts. Don't try to use
a 25 - 35 watt electronic soldering iron, they won't work. They
are built to solder delicate electronic components and therefore
cannot generate the 700 degree plus heat range for enough time
to be useful. I use a 1/4" iron plated chisel shaped tip.
Has a 60/40 tin to lead ratio. This is the best
to start learning with. 50/50 solder and Quik set require
higher iron settings.
Copper Foil (1/4")
In SECTION III it was mentioned that this is
the best width for beginners, and that silver-backed foil is
most suitable finish.
Came comes in 6 foot sections and on a roll. Came
comes in lead, zinc, brass, and bronze versions.
Glass file or other file:
Only recommended if you don't have a
grinder. Used to knock down high spots on the edge. It works
better if the glass file is kept wet with water.
For cutting pattern pieces out and snipping foil.
Black Marking Pen:
Used to transfer the shape of individual
pattern pieces to the glass. White and gold are two other
popular colors for different shades of glass.
A starter "How-To" book:
This is required for someone that is
going to be self-taught. Most stained glass instructors would
require more tools than that listed above. If you plan on
taking a class on stained glass, you may not need a basic book.
The next step up would be to add the tools listed below. This
could cost from $120.00 to 350.00 depending on quality and
source. This takes you up to the next step, the serious
hobbyist stage. This person enjoys making things for friends
and family and is having fun doing it. You will invariably add
a few tools to this as time goes on. Any larger projects would
require these in addition to the ones listed above at the
Breaker/Grozier combination pliers:
Grozier pliers have rough
teeth for chipping away larger shards of glass after cutting
when the edge is extra rough. Breaker pliers allow you told
hold smaller pieces of glass while breaking. Using a combined
pliers saves money. As the man said "money is ALWAYS an object."
These are made of steel or plastic in various
styles. After scoring a line, these are used to assist in
starting the glass breaking.
Absolutely essential! None of us stays within the
cutting line 100% of the times. The grinder also allows you to
create a flat mating surface on the glass edge. Very necessary
if you want your foil to stick.
Lead Came Cutter:
Some people use a specialized side cutting
dyke pliers, others use a small hobby sized back saw, yet others
use an overgrown utility knife. There are many ways to cut came.
Soldering Iron Heat Controller:
This makes soldering easier to
do. If you don't have one of these, you will need to use a
moister sponge before you solder a joint, and you will have to
move very fast. Because of the higher heat levels, it makes it
harder to go back over your joint and make repairs.
Pattern Cutting Shears:
there are two basic sizes, a smaller
one for copper foil and larger for lead came. They are used to
cut the inside lines in patterns when cutting out the individual
pattern pieces. They create a wider cut that scissors and
basically make up the difference in fit that the foil or came
After completing a came project, a cement or other
material is used to seal the glass where it meets the came.
Used for trimming excess foil of the glass,
removing foil and as need uses.
Good Straight edge:
Makes tedious repetitive straight cuts much
easier. Must be high enough to keep the glass cutter on the
glass, a thin ruler will drive you crazy. Put cork or
electrical tape on one side to improve the grip on glass.
Very important to maintain the beauty of the work
you have done. Without a good polish, you work will look dull.
If your using a water soluble flux, in theory it should clean up
with dish soap, otherwise get a good anti-flux cleaner too.
This is essentially chalk dust. It is used to remove
most of the flux, and allows the soldered areas to polish up
Came usually gets a little bent or twisted in
transit. A came stretcher will fix that and make the glass
opening a little smaller for a snug fit.
last updated 12 Jan'00
W3C HTML 4.0 validated 6 Aug '99