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Monday, February 3, 2014

Instant Gratification Craft: Easy Stained Glass Sun Catcher

Let’s face it, we are all busy and sometimes we need to see the result of something NOW not months from now. I craft (therefore I am?) and many of the things I do, quilting, tole painting, crochet, cross-stitch, etc. take months if not years to complete. That is all nice and well but there are many times that you want a small project that you can do now and get it done in a day or a few hours.

Finished Suncatcher accomplished in only a few hours.
Instant Gratification!
Queue instant gratification crafts. These are small crafts that can be done in a few hours whose result appears greater than the time it took to create them. These often make wonderful gifts (Stashed away in a gift closet somewhere for next Christmas or birthday?) and can be made in quantity if need be. What we are making is not necessarily as important as learning the technique. Once you learn the steps necessary to create the object, you can apply it to any pattern.

Today, with the help of my son, we are making a very simple sun catcher. I cannot give you the pattern as it isn’t mine (Found in the stained glass pattern book as “Starcatchers”) but there are several free patterns online that you can print out. I’ve also used children’s coloring books for patterns as long as I used them for my personal use and not to sell. Presented here is the technique.

I always wanted to learn stained glass but shied away from it as I was always told that it was very expensive to learn. There is an expense but not as much as I thought. Like any project, it can be as expensive or cheap as you want to be. An important message here however is to always be careful. ALWAYS wear safety glasses. When you break glass in any application, there is a chance of getting it in your eyes and you only have one pair for your life. Be careful with the soldering gun as well, it is very hot and can burn you quickly. If you use common sense however, you’ll be fine.

Pictured here are some of the basic items you’ll need for stained glass:

§         2 copies of  your pattern                    
*Many stained glass suppliers offer stained glass by the pound.
These are the remains of glass from classes, that may have broken, etc.
This is an excellent way for a beginner to get a variety of glass for very
little money or to get interesting glass without spending a fortune.
§         Soldering gun (my bought from Radio Shack) and 60/40 solder

§         3:1 Household oil and container with folded paper towel to put oil on

§         Grozer Pliers      

§       (Pistol grip) Stained glass cutting tool

§       Silver and Black Sharpie marker

§         Box of stained glass pieces*

§         Foil and burnishing tool

§         Safety glasses

§         (not shown) Scissors

Take both patterns and mark all your pieces the same on both patterns. One of these you are going to cut out to make your pieces and the other is your pattern. Cut on the INSIDE of the pattern lines on the one sheet and neatly arrange you pattern.

Everybody that does stained glass has a glass box of their leftover glass from other projects. It's the glass artist's equivalent to a fabric stash. Glass is expensive. You don't waste it!

Using your stain glass pieces, fine a pleasing arrangement of colors and begin by placing your pattern pieces on the glass pieces and drawing around with the Sharpie marker. Use the marker color you can best see, black for light glass, silver for dark. Remove the pattern piece.

Put some household 3:1 oil on the folded toweling paper and run the cutter end of your piston cutter over it to lubricate it. You only need a bit. Position your cutter in a straight up and down fashion and, applying even pressure, cut around the pattern piece. Don't force it, just a simple score line is all that is needed. What you are doing is making a score line, you’ll want to score right off the piece of the glass to get an even break.


Position your piece to give it the proper support and with your grozer pliers, break along that score. Repeat this step will all pattern pieces. Use your pliers to nip any additional glass that may not have broken as cleanly as you wanted. MAKE SURE TO WEAR PROTECTIVE EYEWEAR WHEN DOING THIS. Flying glass can easily get in your eyes at this step.

If you would like, you can sand at this step with a glass file. I was lazy and didn’t want to do this.

Now it is time to foil. The purpose of foiling is to give the solder something to stick to. Glass is slippery; it’s not going to hold the solder. So in order to put the glass together, you need something for the solder to stick to. The copper foil has one end that is adhesive and you run this in the center of the glass piece you have cut like so:

Press the ends on either side flat against the face of the glass and using the burnishing tool, burnish all sides down smoothly.


Next comes flux. Flux acts as a catalyst for the solder to actually stick to the copper foil. Without flux, the solder just rolls off. You’ll notice this happening if you hit an area where the flux was missed or has dried.


After you flux, you tack solder your piece to do the initial hold of all the pieces together. Then you can go to town. Solder all pieces together by holding the solder above the copper foil and without directly touching the solder to the foil (it’ll stick) run a bead of solder. (I’m not the best at soldering but the only way to get better is keep doing it.) Here my son Dixon is doing it for the first time. He came back latter to see if I had anything else he could solder. Using a small amount of the solder, “tin” the outside of your piece so everything appears to have a thin amount of silver on it.

Now to hang it: I make my hangers out of … old metal clothing hangers. I use to pliers and after twisting a piece off, I make a loop out of it and solder that to one of the joint areas on the back of my piece. To clean your piece, use some common dish soap and water. This will remove the Sharpie marker. An additional optional step is to polish your stained glass sun catcher with polishing compound but that isn’t absolutely necessary.

After you’ve made one, try another. When you begin feeling more confident stash these away for a quick and impressive gift.


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