Working with glass is a beautiful and expressive art form that can be quite versatile. You can make cabinet panels, frames, boxes, lanterns, hanging art, clocks, and more! While it might seem a distant idea to some, those who have taken a class in glass working know that this can be a very fulfilling and rewarding craft. In fact, it is recommended to take a course in glass work before starting on your own. It will give you a firm foundation of how to cut glass, glaze, solder, and create some basic pieces so that you can become more comfortable getting creative with colors, patterns, and advanced projects.
This guide is meant to give you some help choosing supplies to start making glass art at home.
Picking a Work Place
Before you get started, it's a good idea to map out where you are going to work. Any flat, sturdy surface is fine as long as you can easily move around it and sit comfortably. It is preferable that the space be in a quiet area where you won't be disturbed and where children aren't going to be (broken glass is a big safety hazard when there is no supervising adult around). It is also preferable that the space not be carpeted so you can easily vacuum up shards of chipped glass after working. If you are unable to section off a portion of your home to dedicate to glass work, you may be interested in getting a special glass working surface that is built to catch glass slivers and shards while cutting. Then you can cut on your kitchen table without turning it into a potential safety hazard.
This is first and foremost the most important part of the glass art shopping process. It's mostly a creative thing, but it also has some technical elements to it as well. The general idea is that before even looking into which colors or type of glass you want to buy, you have to have a vision. You should know exactly how you want the final project to look keeping in mind where you plan to put it so you can plan a color scheme and sizing.
Remember that stained glass tends to be enticing when perusing the possibilities (everything always looks so pretty), but it is crucial that you remember your goals. Straying from colors that you have in mind and opting for flashy hues will just leave you stuck in a rut. Besides color you also need to weigh factors such as the glass grain and texture, and any patterns in it. Sometimes, variations in the color can be useful and used to your advantage, however, they can work against you if you don't think ahead.
When shopping, make sure that you are looking for tiles or sheets. Tiles are used for making mosaics and can be a good starting place for new glass art workers who have yet to master the art of cutting glass. Sheet glass is what you need to get for all other glass work (although sheet glass can also be used for tiles if you wanted).
Once you've got an idea of what you want to make and you have bought glass, then you can start cutting it. In order to cut glass, there is one crucial item: a glass cutter. It is the piece of equipment that you use to "score" the glass before breaking it. The five dollar Fletcher ball end glass cutter is your tried-and-true cutter. For beginners, this is all you need. However, there are some more high-tech cutters available these days that are designed to reduce wrist fatigue. They'll run from $20 to $40. Here are a few of the most popular.
Along with a cutter, you'll need to get some glass cutter fluid to keep things rolling smoothly. Many prefer cutters that are oil fillable so that you don't have to mess with oil otherwise. Another thing that's useful is a pair of glass pliers. These are used when "breaking out the score" on the glass, especially when you have a small area to break.
An alternative to using glass cutters is to use an electric glass grinder, a machine that quickly and effortlessly grinds away glass. To learn more about glass grinders, please read this informative Ebay article.
A crucial step in putting together the glass is soldering, but before you can solder you'll need to "glaze" the glass. Glazing is a matter of either foiling the glass with copper foil or using the lead came method. For most hobbyists making normal sized pieces, the only thing you have to worry about is the copper foil. This foil will be cut to the appropriate size to wrap completely around the edges of each piece of glass. Then you remove the backing and press the foil firmly against the edges of the glass, or you can use a foil crimper to aid in the process. It's that simple.
Choosing foil is mainly a matter of size. You'll be faced with varying widths of foil. Typical width is 7/32" but there are many other widths available. Choosing the right one has to do primarily with the width of your glass and how much foil you want to be seen. 3/16" or 5/32" width foil should be avoided on most projects since it leaves too little area to be soldered and thus makes the bond weak. A 1/4" width is acceptable on very thick glass.
After you know the width of the foil you need, you'll also want to consider the thickness of it. The thicker it is, the less likely you will be to tear it. Usually 1.25ml thick foil is standard. However, 1.5ml foil is very strong and somewhat stiff. It will create a good surface for soldering, but it may cause trouble when glazing since it is harder to manipulate and it may cut your fingers.
Finally, you will be faced with the decision of what color backing to choose. This is a matter of how you want the final project to look. If you have lots of warm colors, copper colored backing would suit the piece very well. However, if the colors are more stark, black backing would be better. Pastels might even be suited with silver back foil. Keep in mind as well, that once you apply the foil, you can always manipulate the edges. Scroll, scallops, and zig zags can be cut into the foil using a razor blade or Exacto knife.
Soldering is the final step of the process. You'll need to buy solder wire and a soldering iron. For beginners, a basic 100w soldering iron is more than adequate. It costs less than $20 and it does what it's supposed to do without putting a dent in your pocket. For someone who knows that they are committed to the art, it is better to get a quality iron that will last longer. Plus, a more expensive iron (around $50) will have better features, such as temperature regulation and more. Hakko and Weller are two brands to try.
As for solder, Canfield brand uses all virgin metals, which makes the finish smoother and less hazy.
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!FR: Art du verre