When you are trying to create a stained glass piece, it can be a frustrating but ultimately rewarding experience. Just like any skill, soldering can take some time and practice to learn and create a beautiful and durable stained glass project.
Below are a few simple soldering tips and/or best practices that can help any stained glass artist or hobbyist to achieve the best results.
1. Prepare the glass for soldering
Before you start the soldering process, it is important to prepare the glass. The best way to start is to clean the glass to remove any fingerprints, oil or dirt or any residue. You can simply use a mild soap and water solution or any glass cleaner.
2. Position your glass pieces for soldering
The best way to start is to use a glass cutter and cut the glass pieces from whatever pattern you decide to use. The goal is for the pieces to fit together tightly. Once you have the entire pattern ready to go, the edges that you want to solder should be wrapped in copper foil.
By properly fitting the pieces together, it will reduce the amount of solder that you use and will create stronger joints. You can then trim and then adjust the pieces as needed and be careful not to force them together which could lead to breakage.
3. Apply Flux to the Joints and seams
Next you should apply flux to the joints and seams. Flux is a liquid that helps the solder flow smoothly and evenly over the glass. Flux removes the oxide layer and helps to increase the “wetting” of the solder which will help the solder to flow more efficiently.
4. Choose the right soldering tools
It is very important for you to choose right soldering tools and equipment to successfully create a stained glass piece. We would recommend that you Invest in a high-quality soldering iron with variable temperature control. Different projects may require different temperatures, so having this flexibility is invaluable. Additionally, choose a fine, pointed tip for intricate work and a broader tip for larger projects.
However, for most stained glass hobbyists, the Hakko FX601-02 Adjustable Soldering Iron is a great choice because it is durable and affordable. It is very flexible for most projects because of the temperature controller and the small size tip. It is also much lighter in comparison to other irons so that your hand won’t get tired nearly as quickly as some of the other irons.
5. Inspect the joints of your stained glass piece
Once you have finished soldering your stained glass piece, it is important to inspect the joints and your projects. If the joints are strong enough, the glass piece should hold together nicely.
6. Try to avoid some of the more common soldering defects
There are some common soldering defects that can occur when soldering stained glass.
One of the more common soldering defects is called bridging. Bridging will occur when there is an excessive amount of solder, and it flows over the edges of the glass and then creates a bridge between the two pieces of glass.
The best way to avoid bridging is to make sure not to use too much solder to the joint and/or apply too much heat to the solder.
While some bridging may create stronger joints, if you are unhappy with your piece, you can usually add a bead or just one drop of solder to fix the bridge between the two solder lines. Touch both edges of the soldering iron tip to each of the solder lines you are bridging.
Solder isn’t hot enough
If your solder isn’t hot enough and it doesn’t melt completely, it will not form a strong bond with the glass. The best way to fix this is to make sure that your soldering iron is hot enough and that you are applying enough heat to the joint.
If you use too much solder it will lead to solder leakage and then the joints will be too weak. Try to apply just enough solder to cover the seams without an excessive buildup.
Overheating the glass will invariably lead to cracks or even shattered pieces. Use the lowest effective temperature on your soldering iron, and work in short, controlled bursts to avoid overheating.
Below are a few additional tips for soldering stained glass:
- Make sure to use a well-ventilated workspace as solder soldering fumes can be harmful.
- Wear safety glasses to protect your eyes.
- Use lead-Free Solder: While traditional lead-based solder is common, consider using lead-free solder for health and environmental reasons. Lead-free solder is just as effective and ensures your work is safe for both you and your customers.
- Clean the flux after soldering with soap and water or flux cleaner which will prevent white scale from forming on the solder.