Stained Glass Panel for Cabinet Finished

I got some time in the shop yesterday and was able to finish the stained glass panel for the Byrdcliffe-inspired-but-Mission-styled cabinet I’m making.

I spent probably an hour fine tuning the fit of the pieces on the grinder, and ended up re-making one or two more pieces.  I think it was time well spent because the finished panel cam out pretty nice I think.  The process of assembling the panel goes like this:  First the pieces need to be cleaned to remove any “Sharpie” layout lines or numbers and any residue from grinding.  Then I put them on a hot plate (set on “low”)  that is covered with a few layers of paper to warm up.  This makes sure the parts are dry, but more importantly it makes the copper foil easier to apply.  I used 7/32 foil for this, which seems to be a decent size for me.  You can go a little narrower, but if you’re off a tiny bit in applying it then you end up with places where you don’t have foil on both sides of the glass.

Starting to apply the copper foil

Starting to apply the copper foil

Panel completely foiled and ready for soldering

Panel completely foiled and ready for soldering

Once the parts are all foiled I’m ready to solder the seams.  I keep it in the frame I made at least until I’ve tacked all the parts together to hold the alignment.  I use a special solid 60/40 solder that is made for stained glass work, and apply flus with a brush.  It’s pretty simple work, although the technique is different than soldering electrical connections.  In this case you apply the solder to the iron as you move the iron along the seam, and the goal is to apply enough so that you have a decorative bead.  If the joint is fluxed and the copper foil is properly adhered the solder will flow easily.

I usually end up soldering the front, focusing on getting a good connection and an adequate amount of solder in place but not being overly concerned about the evenness of the beads.  Then I flip it over and solder the back side trying to get really nice beads.  The solder from the front will have pulled through already, but it won’t be complete, full beads.  Finally I go back to the face side and re-run all of the seams, flowing in more solder as necessary to get even rounded beads.  There are other techniques for the solder beads, and in fact there are books on “decorative soldering” where you can create textures or patterns in the solder.  On the “Inglenook Sconce” I used a sponge on the molten solder to make an organic texture.

For this panel, before I did the final smoothing of the seams I added the zinc boarder.  I wanted to get the border on first so the thickness of the seams at the edges didn’t interfere with the fit of the channel.

Soldered panel and zinc frame

Soldered panel and zinc frame

Once the panel was soldered I washed it with “flux remover” and soap and water to make sure all the flux was off.  then I applied a chemical patina to darken the solder and washed it again.  Finally it gets a coat of “glass polish” which appears to be about the same as thinned liquid car wax.

Finished Panel!

Finished Panel!

There are a few minor mistakes with the panel, but overall I’m happy with it.  I checked the fit, and it is perfect for the door in the cabinet.  If I can get some shop time in tonight I can probably finish the cabinet and hang it.

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7 thoughts on “Stained Glass Panel for Cabinet Finished

  1. Looks great!

  2. Can’t wait to see it all finished up! The panel is really awesome!

  3. Jeff, Marilyn – thanks. I’m eager to see this all finished and installed.

  4. Brent

    That looks great, thanks for the tutorial on stained glass work. Are there options to using a glass
    grinder for final shaping and smoothing? (other than really accurate cuts). For me that would be a large investment.

    • Glass grinders aren’t terribly expensive the one I have was about $110, there is one on Amazon (I just looked) for $85. I think I spent like $300 on tools and supplies (including the glass for my first project) to get set up to do glass.

      I probably rely on the grinder too much, but I’m not that good with the cutter. More practice required. If a guy had good skills with the cutter you might be able to do many designs without grinding, especially if you were using lead came instead of copper foil. If you don’t lightly grind the scored and snapped edges it can cut through the foil as you’re rubbing it down tight.

  5. Wow, very nice job. I know nothing about stained glass, but it sounds like fun. Probably another slippery slope!

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