Finishing A Stained Glass Piece With Solder And Copper Foil

Once you have finished cutting out the glass and laying it out, you are ready to put your piece of art together with solder and copper foil.  The first step in creating the final product is applying the copper foil.

While foil comes in a variety of metals, copper is among the most popular.  Before you start to foil, make sure to wash your hands.  Oils from your hand will make it difficult for the foil to bond with the glass.  After your hands are clean, give your glass pieces a thorough inspection.  Make sure all pen marks are removed by using a piece of steel wool.  After the pen is removed, wash and dry the glass pieces.  The best place to start foiling is in a corner.  Because it is common for beginners to miscalculate the amount of foil they will need to cover the edge of the glass, the corner is the easiest area to hide overlaps in foil.  However, if you find you have a large overlap, use a sharp blade to cut the excess. 

After your pieces are completely foiled, it is time to start applying solder. Solder is the “glue” that holds the entire piece together.  The most commonly used solder is wire made of a 60/40 mixture of metal and tin.  Soldering requires a steady hand and a bit of practice.  Applied with a soldering iron, the wire is melted over two seams of foiled glass, which have been covered in a compound called flux.  Flux cleans the copper foil surface so that it is ready to accept the solder and create a tight bond.  After the solder is applied to one side, it is necessary to repeat the process on the reverse side.

As one of the final steps in the stain glass process, using solder and copper foil correctly requires patience and practice.  Done well, it creates a solid bond as well as a treasured work of art.