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 is:

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 any glass.
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.
Soldering Iron:
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.
60/40 Solder:
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.
Lead Came:
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.
Household Scissors:
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 minimum.
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."
Running Pliers:
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 will make.
After completing a came project, a cement or other material is used to seal the glass where it meets the came.
Hobby Knife:
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.
Glass Polish:
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 nicely.
Came Stretcher:
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.
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.

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last updated 12 Jan'00
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