Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Rug Design in Stained Glass - Foiled and Tack Soldering Started

The most recent post showed the copper foil process, which I've now completed for all 470 piece of glass.  I used about 61 yards of 13/64" copper foil.  Here are some photos to show the progress on the window as of this afternoon.  (Click on any photo to enlarge).

As shown earlier, I build the windows on a slab of Homosote, which is a building material used in sound-proofing.  Its an ideal surface because it absorbs spills quickly, it's fire retardant, and it accepts push pins readily.
In order for all the glass to be positioned correctly, each piece of glass must be flat on the Homasote before soldering.  Note below that a small bead of solder found its way under the pattern.  I cut away the area with an Exacto knife and removed it. Now the piece of glass will lay flat.

Here is the window with all of the glass cut and all of the copper foil applied.  I left the pen there for scale.

 Now that the glass is cut, I'm etching my name, the month and the year into a piece of glass near the upper right of the window. Since the etching is color-less, it will be barely visible after installation.

Now its time to add some reinforcement to the window.  Below are the two of the types that I'll be using. The top one is called Re-Strip.  Its copper, the same width as the glass, and fits between the pieces as shown below.  The bottom is braided wire reinforcement.  It has similar strength but is more flexible.  I place lengths of each of these throughout the piece.  After each side has been soldered, I will be adding rebar for further reinforcement.  (More on that later).

Below, I placed a length of Re-Strip in between the foiled glass.  After its been soldered, the Re-Strip will not be visible.

 The next step in the stained glass process is called tack soldering.  To prepare for this step, I'm cleaning my soldering iron on a block of Sal Ammoniac a/k/a ammonium chloride.  I place a bead of solder on the block and wipe the tip of the heated iron until the debris from the prior use is cleaned and the tip is silver again.

 To protect myself from these fumes, and from the fumes of soldering, I always wear a 3M mask as shown below.  They are usually available in Home Depot or Loew's.  Be sure they say they are effective against lead fumes.

 To prepare the window for tack soldering, I'm applying Canfield Blu-Glass Flux to the copper foil, one section at a time, using a metal craft brush.  Notice that I take the flux from the cap, not from the bottle.  This prevents contamination from occurring.  I am not sensitive to flux, but the use of gloves is recommended for those who are.  The Blu-Glass product is less caustic than most other types of flux.

Tack soldering means to apply a dab of 60/40 solder to all of the intersections of the glass, as shown below.  I've done just the bottom center section at this point but I'll be tack soldering the entire window.  Once that's done, the fence will be temporarily removed and the pattern underneath will be slid off.  Then the window will be fully soldered, front and back, and rebar will be installed.
Stay tuned .. Its coming into the home stretch now.  I can't wait to see this one off the table and in the light!

Please visit my website to see my custom windows and repairs (click here).  And if you are on FaceBook, become a fan and I'll keep you up to date on all my stained glass projects.  Call me any time at 201-600-1616 or email with your questions. Thanks!

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Rug Design in Stained Glass - Glass cut, copper foiling begun

Work on the 19" x 42" rug design stained glass window is moving along well.  Today I completed cutting all of the glass.  Here's the process and a few more photos and notes about the work involved.  Click on any photo to enlarge.

 Whenever I'm handing glass that I'm cutting or grinding, I always wear these on my fingers.  They are Swingline brand Rubber Fingers, found at Staples in two or three different sizes.

Below, I've hand cut the borders of six pieces of the Mystic Green/Amber glass.  The curves marked in silver Sharpie will be cut by the Gryphon Omni Saw.  I've been cutting the glass in small batches, around 8-12 pieces at a time, by color.  Some get started on the saw, some get started by hand.

 Below is a small batch of pieces that I first cut with the saw, and am getting ready to trim by hand.  When I use the saw, as mentioned previously, I coat each line with lip balm so that the water from the machine does not wash off my markings.  Here I'm cleaning off a piece of glass.  I'll re-mark the pieces of glass before hand trimming each one.  It's fine to hand cut first them trim with the saw, or vice versa.  I make the decision on each piece of glass, primarily depending on the complexity of the cut.

Here are some background Amber Artique pieces after they've been cut with the saw.  The rubber fingers come in handy to keep a firm grip on them, since they are slippery with lip balm and water (and sharp).
 And here they are, cleaned and trimmed and grinded, and ready to be placed onto the pattern.
 The beginnings of the completion of the final pane, showing some background Artique, some dark Cathedral brown (stems) and some Red/Amber Waterglass.  At this point there are about 60 more pieces left to cut. 

 Below, all 470 pieces of glass have been cut for the six panes and the Dark Brown/Amber glass mullions are in place.  Notice that the aluminum fence or "jig" is still around the entire border.  This will remain there to keep the pieces in place until after the window is completely copper foiled and tack soldered.  Note that I still have my full-color guide on the wall next to the window as I work, as another reference for the placement of the colors.
 Now that all of the glass has been cut and trimmed, the next step is to apply the self-adhesive copper foil to each of the 470 pieces.  Because this is a large piece with many small pieces, I've decided to use 13/64" wide foil for this window.  Its a little bit thinner than the more commonly used 7/32" foil, but it will let the smaller pieces allow more light through them.  It will also make the window weigh slightly less because less solder will be used.  Since the window will be reinforced (more on that later), thinner foil will not compromise its strength.
Below, I'm carefully encircling the outer edge of a piece of the Artique glass, pressing it onto the edge of the glass as I go.  Notice that the interior of this foil is black.  I've chosen black back foil because I'll be applying black patina when all the soldering is done.  This will make the foil basically invisible when the window is completed.
 Another view showing the black foil through the glass.
 Below, I'm using a "fid" or flexible plastic wand to press the foil onto the glass, on all sides.  This prevents any liquid or chemicals from working their way underneath.

 Throughout the process of copper foiling, I will continue to evaluate the fit of each piece of glass. I will trim or re-cut any pieces that I feel are not a good fit. Since I have 469 pieces to foil, this will take some time .. But I'll be back soon with the window foiled and ready for soldering.  Stay tuned ...

Please visit my website to see my custom windows and repairs (click here).  And if you are on FaceBook, become a fan and I'll keep you up to date on all my stained glass projects.  Call me any time at 201-600-1616 or email with your questions. Thanks!

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Rug Design in Stained Glass - 3rd and 4th panes of glass cut

In the previous posting, I had just completed cutting the glass for the first two of six panes.  This posting will continue with the cutting of the glass for the next two .. the middle section of the window.  (Click on any photo to enlarge).

Shown below are the five junk mail envelopes where I keep each group of pattern pieces, marked on the outside by the panel (which I've labeled A, B, C, D, E, and F) and the color .. Wispy, Artique background, Red, Green, Dark Brown, and Dark/Light Amber for the mullion patterns.
 Below are the stained glass pattern shears, a few of the patterns, and bits of thin manila folder paper which the scissors cut out.  As mentioned earlier, that small space will be taken up by the copper foil.

Here's an example of a complicated cut which was made by my Omni Gryphon Wire Saw.  It gives an idea of the thickness of the wire blade and the accuracy.  I'm able to cut directly on top of the line made by the silver Sharpie.  Note that I've stopped the saw about an inch from the border of the glass.  I've scored that space with my pistol grip cutter and will snap it off using the blue running pliers.  The machine is very powerful.  Sometimes if its allowed to cut to the edge of the glass, it will buck and snap the piece.
 And here's a batch of Wispy Amber glass laid on the pattern, ready to be outlined with a Sharpie pen.  Note that I've jigsawed them together, leaving a bit of space in between.  Most of these pieces will be started with machine cutting, then trimmed by hand.
 Rather than push the large piece of glass through the electric saw, I cut them off in a group by scoring a straight line across the border of the outermost pieces.  Here I'm using an oil-filled pistol grip cutter which is leaned against an old ruler.  This way a straight line is assured and the running pliers will do a more reliable job of giving me a straight cut.
 Below, the green, red, and wispy glass has been cut.  Each piece is placed onto its proper spot on the pattern.
 Now I'm starting the background pieces which are made with medium amber Artique glass.  I'm starting with two pieces that have straight sides.  I scored them on their straight side and am now tapping that line with the brass end of the cutter.  If you look closely, you'll see that the glass has begun to separate.  In most cases, cathedral glass such as this will separate on its own without even having to use the running pliers.
 At this point, all the glass has been cut and trimmed for the third pane, which I've labeled "C" on the outside of the pattern.  I've also labeled each envelope of colored pieces with a "C' to distinguish it from the others.  I'm using the stained glass pattern shears to cut the pieces for the fourth pane.
 I followed a similar process for the first three panes and have now completed cutting all the glass for the fourth pane, shown below.  So, at this point I've cut around 280 pieces of glass and have around 190 more to cut.

Here's another view  of the window which shows all the glass cut for four of the six panes.  The next posting will cover the completion of glass cutting for the fifth and final panes. These panes were designed from the same rug but are a different pattern.  Stay tuned .. I'll be back soon.

Please visit my website to see my custom windows and repairs (click here).  And if you are on FaceBook, become a fan and I'll keep you up to date on all my stained glass projects.  Call me any time at 201-600-1616 or email with your questions. Thanks!

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Rug Design in Stained Glass - Second pane of glass cut

As of today, the second of six panes have been cut for the rug design window.  As seen at the end of this post, the symmetry of the design is more evident now.  Here are a few more aspects to the process.  (Click on any photo to enlarge).

Below is a photo of some examples of pieces which are better cut by machine than by hand.  Each of these has deep curves and one has a very thin piece.  Chances of breakage if cut by hand are high for these kinds of cuts.

Here's a better look at my Gryphon Omni II Diamond Wire Saw which cuts in any direction.  If you look carefully at the piece just cut, you'll see that a cut like that cannot be made by hand.  The machine produces very precise cuts and is invaluable on a project such as this.

Here's an example of a very thin, single piece of glass which I actually did cut by hand. This is one of the stems in the design. Its a rare example of a successful, very narrow, hand-cut piece.  The glass is a 40-year-old dark cathedral brown that is thinner than most other glass.  It is very "agreeable" in that it cuts very precisely and rarely breaks badly.  Most other glass would not be so forgiving on such a narrow piece.

Notice below that I've traced the three pieces of glass with a silver Sharpie pen instead of black.  Its a little harder to wash off but the only way to mark dark glass.  These pieces need to be scored inside the silver line, however.  The blue tool shown is a pair of "running pliers".  I've scored a lightly curved line around the outer edge of the pieces.  I line up the "bump" on the top of the running pliers and apply light pressure.  The glass snaps instantly.  Then I go back and use the electric saw to separated two of the three pieces of glass. I separated the piece on the right by hand cutting.  Each piece of glass has to be evaluated on what type of cutting will be most effective and give the least chance of breakage.
 Here is a grouping of glass with deep curves and points and other characteristics which make machine cutting the best option.  Before I cut these pieces, I cover the Sharpie markings with the inexpensive lip balm shown.  After I use the machine to cut the pieces, I often use the running pliers to snap the glass when I get near the edge.

Here's a handful of cut, grinded, washed and dried pieces of glass ready to be placed into the pattern.

With every stained glass project, some glass always needs to be trimmed.  The need for trimming is even greater when there are more individual pieces, such as in this design.  Even though the pattern is drawn with hairlines and the glass is cut very accurately, the glass is often too large for its "assigned" space.  This is normal. Below, I've overlapped two pieces of glass and I'm drawing a black line on the bottom piece which is a bit too large.  Then I'll go back and re-cut the excess glass on the bottom piece to make a perfect fit.  This trimming process often has to be done repeatedly to assure that the glass fits well.
Pieces of glass will either fit or not fit.  Below are two pieces which did not fit because of a very small area which needed to be removed.  After these two were clipped and grinded, they fit perfectly.

Here are the bottom two panes with all of the glass cut.  More trimming may take place when I get to the copper foil process which I'll start after all six panes are ready  The symmetry of the design is more evident now.   I'm using the mullions (the dark brown strips) to contain the glass within the perimeter, the same as the metal fence is doing.  The mullions will be more accurately cut as the project moves along.
I'll be cutting glass for the next week or two .. I'll be back when the next two panes in the middle section are all cut.  Those panes are similar to the two just cut, but are their mirror images. Stay tuned ...

Please visit my website to see my custom windows and repairs (click here).  And if you are on FaceBook, become a fan and I'll keep you up to date on all my stained glass projects.  Call me any time at 201-600-1616 or email with your questions. Thanks!

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Rug Design Window in Stained Glass - Pattern and Glass Cutting

My husband Eric and I delivered the stained glass vegetable panel on Monday night and on Tuesday morning, I began the pattern making process for my next commission.  This is a 19" x 42" window with over 470 pieces of glass.  Below are photos and explanations of each step of the process:  (Click on any photo to enlarge).

Here's the window .. It has six rectangular panes separated by mullions.  I designed the pattern to work with the mullions.  

Inspiration for custom stained glass designs can come from any source.  In this case, my customer suggested using a rug in the room as a pattern.  Great idea!  I took several photos of different areas of the rug and prepared this preliminary computer rendition for her review.  The proposed pattern is on the left .. The rug is on the right. 
The top and bottom sections of the design got a thumbs up, but not the center.  My customer liked the "viney" lines, so I flipped the bottom left side upside down and created a mirror image on the right.  Then I flipped those two sides to create another mirror image above them.  For the top two segments, I created a mirror image of the left side on the right.  Here's the revised computer rendition using colors that are similar to the glass we chose.  After further consultation, we changed a couple of colors. 

Here is the pattern making process.  I've taped together side-by-side manila folders and covered them with a layer of carbon paper.  The top layer is the "cartoon" or pattern.  I will build the window on top of this pattern.  I traced the whole design onto the manila folders as shown below.

The outer border of the pattern gets cut with standard scissors.  The pattern itself must be cut with double-bladed stained glass shears.  As shown below, they cut a thin strip of paper between each piece of glass.  This is to allow for the space taken by the copper foil which follows after all the glass has been cut.

Each piece of glass on the pattern has been numbered.  Most pieces are labeled with codes to signify what type and color of glass will be cut with it.  This design has background glass of medium amber Artique glass.  The stems will be cut in dark brown cathedral.  The mullions will be made from dark amber and light amber streaky glass.  The flower shapes will be made from medium amber and white wispy glass.  And each panel will be accented with red and amber waterglass, as well as green and amber mystic glass.  All of the glass chosen has similar opacity and are in similar color families. 
Since this project is divided into six smaller windows, I'm cutting out patterns and glass for one smaller window at a time.  Below, I've cut the pattern pieces and organized them into individual junk mail envelopes.  As I cut each piece of glass, I draw an "X" to the pattern to be sure that none are re-cut.  I've placed the pattern pieces face-down because the front of the glass is slightly textured which may interfere with a good score line.

Now I've cut several pieces of the background glass - medium amber Artique - and I've laid them onto the pattern.  Notice that I've added an aluminum "fence" or "jig" around the pattern.  This is thumb-tacked into my work surface and will serve to keep all the glass within the boundaries of the pattern, without shifting.
Below is a photo of the entire pattern with the jig in place.  Taped to wall above is a full-color rendition of the pattern.  Even though each piece of glass has already been labeled by color, the pattern is an extra visual aid to assure that each piece is cut properly.  Stained glass work requires a great deal of organization, especially with a window of this size with a repetitive pattern.

Below, I'm cutting the glass.  I'm using an oil-filled pistol grip cutter at a 90 degree angle to the glass.  Applying even pressure, I press it against the edge of the ruler to get a straight line.  (I would be pressing down on the ruler with my other hand which is holding the camera for this photo).  Then I tap on the score line repeatedly with the brass end of the cutter.  In many cases, the tapping is enough to separate the glass.  In other cases, I use a pair of "running pliers" to snap the line apart.
After the glass is cut in a straight line near the outer border of the group of pieces, more cutting is done to get the shape needed.  "Grozier pliers" and "running pliers" are the two main tools for this task, after intial cuts are done with the pistol grip cutter.

This window is an abstract design with many curves.  Below is an illustration of one of the many curved pieces.  In order to cut a smooth curve, the glass is scored in rows, as shown below, and removed bit by bit.  If the curve is removed in one piece, the left and/or right points will probably snap.  Depending on its shape, each piece of glass requires different consideration.
Here I'm removing small chunks of glass with "grozier pliers".  Easy does it ..
The curve will be a bit chunky but the grinder will smooth that out.  Notice the small bits of glass on the work surface.  This is why I always wear an apron when I'm working .. The glass tends to fly in every direction.
Each piece of glass gets a trip to the grinder after its cut.  The purple sponge wicks water up from the reservoir beneath the cutting surface to keep the grinding bit wet.  I add "E-Z Grind Water Conditioner" to the water, to extend the life of the grinding bit.
After each piece is ground, it gets a quick rinse in the sink.  I try not to wash off the number that I've put on each piece of glass. I generally bring the pattern pieces back to the "cartoon" along with the piece of glass, to make it easier to find its place. 

I cut the majority of glass by hand.  Since many of the cuts in this pattern are rather complex, though, I'm also using my Gryphon Omni II Wire Saw.  Its a large, loud machine but it does a wonderful job with precise cuts.  In operates with a steady stream of water which covers the blade and the glass.  To prevent the markings from washing off, I cover them with a layer of lip balm.  Works like a charm.

And here is the first of six segments with all of the glass cut and put in place.  As I work, I'll be trimming the glass for a better fit .. Not too loose and not too snug.
Below, I've begun cutting the pattern for the second segment, adjacent to the one just completed.  This project will take a few weeks to complete, but I'll be back again soon as the work progresses.  Its going to be beautiful!

Please visit my website to see my custom windows and repairs (click here).  And if you are on FaceBook, become a fan and I'll keep you up to date on all my stained glass projects.  Call me any time at 201-600-1616 or email with your questions. Thanks!