Monday, September 30, 2013

Stained Glass Vegetable Kitchen Panel - Copper Foiling, Soldering, Framing

As of the last posting, all of the glass had been cut for this beautiful 37" x 22" vegetable-themed panel which will soon be installed into our customers' newly renovated kitchen.  This posting will cover the copper foiling, soldering and framing process.  Here goes .. Click on any photo to enlarge.

 Copper foiling glass requires some manual dexterity and it involves turning each piece repeatedly as the foil is applied.  Since I am working with pieces now which are clear and have similar shapes, I wanted to be sure that each piece was replaced into the pattern into the right orientation.  An upside down diamond may not fit as well as one that is placed "right side up."  Therefore, as I removed each clear piece, I marked it with a symbol to let me know which side is the top and which side faces left.

There are several widths of self-adhesive copper foil and a few different "interior" colors, copper, silver and black.  For this project, I chose to use 7/32" for its thickness and strength and I chose "black back" foil because I will be applying black patina later.  Using black back foil on all the clear glass assures that the interior of the foil will "disappear" when the solder seams are also black.  You can see the black interior of the foil through the clear glass, below.
 Below, I'm using a (new style) "fid" or plastic roller to press the foil down onto the glass.  This assures that no chemicals or liquids will work their way under the foil and compromise its strength.
 Since this is a rather large panel, I've randomly but purposefully inserted lengths of "Re-Strip".  This is a strong, flat, copper wire of sorts which fits in between the foiled pieces.  You can see a piece inserted below.  (You may need to click and enlarge the photo.) I also added a different reinforcement , braided copper wire, to several horizontal areas, such as the length of the eggplant and around the tomato, etc.  Even though the panel will be securely soldered to a strong metal frame, the reinforcing wire will add to the strength.
 While applying copper foil, sometimes it will overlap at the end point.  This will create an unsightly line when the solder is applied.  Below, I'm using a razor knife to angle out the overlap and make a smooth line.
 Every one of my custom designs gets my signature.  Here I'm etching my name and date into the lower right hand piece of the panel.  It will be barely noticeable when the panel is installed.

And here is the panel, fully foiled and ready for the next step which is tack soldering.
 Below, I'm applying Canfield Blu-Glass liquid flux to the all of the places where the pieces intersect.  The flux is a wetting agent which interacts with the solder for a smooth fusing.  The solder will clump and stick without the flux.  This particular brand is less toxic than others on the market.
 Below, you'll notice that I've lightly soldered all the intersections of the front of the panel.  The panel will remain flat and face up until the entire front is fully soldered.  Notice that the "fence" or "jig" is still surrounding the panel as I work.
 At this point, I'm able to remove the jig, since all of the pieces have been joined.  Then I slide out the "cartoon" or the paper pattern to protect it from the chemicals which will follow.
 Now I'm in full solder mode, wearing my protective 3M breathing mask against the fumes.  To achieve good solder lines, the solder is laid against the iron and then it flows onto the fluxed copper foiled seams.  I'm using 60/40 (lead/tin) Avril brand solder which is consistent and flows easily.
 After the front side is soldered, it gets sprayed with Kwik-Clean Flux and Solder Remover, then toweled off.
 And here's the panel with the front completely soldered. 
 At this point my husband Eric measures and cuts zinc metal "channel" and miters the corners for a perfect fit around the perimeter of the panel.

After Eric attaches the frame around the border, he re-installs the fence to hold it in place.  At this point, I return and solder the lead lines directly to the frame.  In this way, it is securely fastened to the frame at multiple points all around which adds again to the strength of the panel.

 After the panel is securely attached to the frame, I remove the fence and begin the application of the Novacan Black Patina.  Although there are two separate patina products, one for the solder and one for the zinc frame, only one product is needed.  The patina for the solder works fine on the zinc, turning the fame and solder black instantly,  I let it set for a bit, then I apply patina to the other side of the panel. Then I spray Kwik-Clean on both sides and towel dry it.  After the panel is dry on both sides, I apply Clarity Stained Glass Finishing Compound with a rag.  This product is a light wax which protects the solder and the patina and gives the glass a beautiful shine.
 Here's a close up of the vegetables, photographed against the white wall of my studio.
 A close up ..
 Another close up ..
To recap, here is my original photo, the computer rendition, and below, the finished panel ..

And here it is!  I look forward to seeing Bob and Georgeann's reaction when they see their panel "in person" tonight.  Thank you so much for this wonderful collaboration .. I enjoyed every minute!
Here's an update .. Photos of the panel installed in the newly renovated kitchen.  Our customer did a beautiful job of installing it with a wood frame above the stove.

 Here is the view from the other side ..
 The window below, on the right, was the reference window which features fruit.  Paintings created by my customers and their fathers will be soon be added to the walls.  This is a wonderful example of what collaboration between artists can "produce".  I'm so pleased with the final result!

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, September 25, 2013

Stained Glass Vegetable Kitchen Panel - Glass Cutting

The vegetable panel is well underway.  As I've been working on it for  the past few days, I've been studying my palette of colors, deciding which shade of what color glass to use for each vegetable.  Cutting the clear Artique glass for the background went quickly since there were no decisions to be made.  All clear, all good.

But when it comes to making a "painterly" panel out of glass, its another matter.  It takes time and a large inventory of glass from which to choose.  This panel features about 25 different colors.  My great grandfather was the Impressionist painter William Robson .. I hope he would approve of my choices.  My customers are very creative and their fathers are also artists, so I have a great deal of inspiration from which to draw!  Here goes .. (Click on any photo to enlarge).

Some of the glass I chose for this design is in limited supply in my inventory.  Or the pattern pieces would create too much waste if I cut them by hand.  Therefore, I made use of my very loud, and somewhat intimidating, Gryphon Omni II Diamond Wire Saw.  It makes intricate cuts which are not possible by hand.  Here is "the Beast".

In order to keep the wire saw cool during use, a steady trickle of water is drawn up from the reservoir beneath the cutting surface and onto the glass.  To prevent my pattern markings from washing off, I coat them with inexpensive lip balm as shown below.

This is a powerful machine which will snap glass which is too close to the edge.  Therefore, I always stop it about this far from the edge.  I turn off the machine, back the blade out through the cut, and then snap that small area with running pliers.

Below is a good illustration of how the machine pours water onto the glass as its cutting.  One advantage is that if I cut on the exact border, it also grinds the glass which saves me that step later.

Glass which is wet and covered in lip balm is messy and slippery.  I always use caution when removing the pieces from the machine.  Glass can break at any time.  I don't consider it "safe" until its cut, grinded, and on top of its proper spot on the pattern.

As mentioned before, deciding colors for a realistic scene such as the vegetable arrangement requires thoughtful consideration of glass choices.  At several points in the process, I brought possible choices outdoors in natural light to be sure the colors are in the same family and work well together in terms of shading and texture.  Here are a few potential purples which I used for the eggplant.

And here I'm considering various greens for the eggplant leaves, the pepper, and the leaves on the right and left side.  I've heard that the human eye can detect more shades of green than any other color.  If you mix in different textures and levels of luminosity, and you can see why this is a tough process.  But once I made each choice and cut the glass, I was happy with the results.  I only replaced and re-cut two shades of one color.

No matter how exact a pattern is drawn, its generally necessary to trim glass in order to make it fit properly.  Glass is very black and white that way.  It either fits, or it doesn't.  Below, this piece of amber at the top of the tomato is too large on the left side.  I've overlaid it onto the orange-red piece to the left and traced the edge onto it.

Notice the black line on the outer edge of the orange, next to the #5 piece.

Using grozier pliers, I clip off the end of the glass at the line.  Then I re-grind it, rinse it off and replace it onto the pattern.

Now it fits perfectly.  This process needs to be repeated often throughout the glass-cutting process.  The pieces should fit snugly, but not tightly.  They need some "breathing room" to accommodate the copper foil but they can't fir so tightly that the soldering process causes them to crack.

Almost done .. Below, I'm cutting leaf pieces for the right and left sides of the design, using a beautiful shade of green Baroque glass.  I chose this glass because it has depth and movement and several shades of green. I also added a few pieces of a compatible green, for variety and realism.

Below, once again is my photograph, for reference.

And here is the glass, all cut and ready for copper foiling.  (Camera not cooperating today .. Posting two images to compensate).  It looks far better "in person" .. And the true colors won't be seen until after the panel is soldered and lifted off the work surface and into the light .. 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!

Friday, September 20, 2013

Stained Glass Vegetable Kitchen Panel - Design, Pattern-making, Glass cutting

This commission posed a fun challenge, to come up with a 5-vegetable design to coordinate with an existing fruit-themed window in the adjoining room.  I collaborated with our customers, a husband and wife team, to create an original design.

She told me they'd like to have a green pepper, an eggplant, a tomato, an onion and a bulb of garlic in the design.  I went to the supermarket, bought a nice representation of each of those vegetables, and photographed them in about 25 different arrangements.  She chose one and after some tweaking by her artistically-trained husband, we finalized the design!  The panel is  37" wide and 21-1/2" high. Here's what the project looks like as of yesterday.

Here is the existing fruit themed window which was the starting point.  Its located in an adjoining room.  (Click on any photo to enlarge).

Here's one of my photos, the choice for the design.

And below is the computer rendition of the design.  Note that the background, which appears gray, will actually be clear glass with some texture in it. 

Using a combination of glass I had in inventory, plus more that I special ordered for this project, below is the palette of colors for the vegetables, ranging from orangey-reds to greens to ambers and purples.

After sizing and numbering the vegetable grouping in my computer, my husband Eric measured and drew in the diamonds for the background.  Then I placed the pattern or "cartoon" on top of the taped side-by-side manila folders and carbon paper.  I've added several push pins to the work surface to be sure that the papers and carbon paper don't shift as I'm tracing the design.

Using a color rendition of the design as a guide, here I'm numbering and writing the colors onto each piece of the pattern. 

A view of the manila folder pattern. 

The outer border of the pattern is cut with standard scissors.  All of the pieces themselves though, must be cut with specialized stained glass pattern shears.  These shears are double-bladed.  They cut out a small amount of manila folder, as shown. That space will be taken up later by copper foil.

Its always a goal to cut as many pieces of glass as possible from each sheet of glass.  Here, I've laid down three pieces of glass which share a cut.  This saves some time, as well.

Another grouping of pieces which I cut together.  This is a good technique for a project such as this where there is a repeated pattern of identically-sized glass.

After scoring each piece with the pistol grip cutter, I use the brass end of it to tap on the glass repeatedly until the glass "loosens" enough to be snapped apart.  In many cases, the glass will separate itself as it lays on the work surface.

The blue tool below is a pair of "running pliers".  By lining up the score line with the line on the pliers and applying gentle pressure, a straight line will snap evenly .. most of the time.  The glass is always the boss.

Below, scoring glass at a 90 degree angle.  The cutter makes a crunching sound as it moves along the glass.  Its not shown here, but I always rest the cutter against a ruler to be sure the straight lines are cut straight.

Wearing Staples rubber fingers and grinding a piece of the glass. 

Using cool water, I'm rinsing the glass.  I then towel dry each piece and place it onto the appropriate spot on the pattern.  I always try not to wash off the number on the glass.  For a project such as this, with so many similar pieces, placing the correct piece of glass in the correct place is essential.

I do my cutting production style, color by color.  I cut a batch, then grind a batch. Since I started with all the clear Artique glass, I have a stack of cut pieces on the upper right, separated by their patterns.  To prevent re-cutting, I always add a check mark to each pattern piece I've cut.  Then I place it into a separate envelope.

And here's another example of fitting pieces of glass together to maximize the glass usage.  There will always be pieces left over, most of which I keep.  Sometimes a small piece of glass is exactly what's needed.

Now all the clear Artique glass has been cut!  Notice that I've added a metal "fence" or "jig" around the perimeter of the pattern.  This will assure that the piece will be "square" and that the glass won't shift.  This photo represents about 1/3 of the glass already cut.  Most of the pieces were a perfect fit.  There is still some tweaking to be done, but I generally wait until adjoining pieces are in place before doing so.  (Click on the photo for a better view).
Next, I'll be cutting the glass to create some very realistic vegetables.  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!