When you start a stained glass project, you need to choose the solder that is appropriate for your piece or project. If you are new to stained glass soldering, solder is a metal alloy that is used to join metal parts together. Solder comes in different variations, but for stained glass, the best choice is a solid-core wire solder.
Solder is usually made of tin and one or two other metals such as lead, copper, or silver. Solder comes in both lead and lead-free variations. Stained glass uses solid solder with an external flux.
There are three different alloys or families of solder that are most often used for stained glass.
The 3 most popular solder choices for stained glass:
1. 50/50 solder: 50% tin/50% lead
50/50 solder tends to produce a flatter seam around the joint. This solder stays liquid the longest and has a melting range of 361° - 413° F. Because it can make a flat seam more readily, this solder works well for copper foiled pieces as well as lead came pieces.
2. 60/40 solder: 60% tin/40% lead
60/40 solder is most often used in copper foil assembly, specifically copper foiled pieces. The melting range is 361° - 372°F which gives you a little more time to spread the solder evenly before it solidifies.
In general, the higher the ratio of tin to lead, the easier that the solder will flow at lower temperatures.
3. Lead free solder variations
Lead-free solder has become increasingly popular as there aren’t any health risks associated with lead-free that might occur with regular leaded solder.
Many like to use lead-free solder when the stained-glass piece being made is in an area where children or adults could touch the item, such as jewelry, a jewelry box or a suncatcher. Therefore, any stained glass project that is handled or worn, such as kaleidoscopes, jewelry, or any giftware should be made with lead- free solder.
The finish on lead-free solder can be a little grainier than either 50/50 or 60/40 and you will need more heat to flow it. If you use a soldering iron that requires different tips for different temperatures, you will need to use a hotter tip.
Lead-free solders have higher melting points than some lead-bearing solder alloys, about 40 to 70° F higher than 60/40 solder.
|Solder Alloy||Solid Liquid|
|AQ Lead Free Alloy||403° F - 453° F|
|99.3% Tin / 0.7% Copper||441° F - 441° F|
|Tin/Copper/Silver:||418° F - 440° F|
|60% Tin / 40% Lead||361° F - 372° F|
|50 % Tin / 50 % Lead||361° F - 413 ° F|
Whichever solder alloy you choose, make sure to choose a flux designed for either copper or came lead.
There are many different solder alloys that you can use for your stained glass project. You can practice with a few different types until you find the one that is best for you and your project.