Since starting at the Pittsburgh Glass Center in October, I’ve been really keen on trying out stained glass. I can’t quite place my finger on why I find this particular glass technique so appealing – it may involve my penchant for organizing or love of intricate patterns. Regardless, I was pretty excited to try out a stained glass workshop.
Up in the warm shop, everyone picked out a simple, pre-drawn pattern for our stained glass and the glass of course. With much help from our teacher, Charmaine, we cut the glass to the shapes of our pattern. To properly join the shapes, we needed to grind the edges. What do you use to grind the edges? The giant, gritty wheels in the cold shop, of course! How helpful was that first coldworking class? My survey says very helpful. I set to work grinding all the edges so everything would fit snugly together. After a quick rinse and dry, the pieces were ready to join.
Lead came is the traditional method used in stained glass, but is limited to two-dimensional pieces. We used the copper foil method which allows for three-dimensional shapes. The steps go something like this:
Seems pretty simple on paper. It even looks pretty simple when Charmaine does it. I worked through the initial steps without getting discouraged (even though my solder lines were fairly lumpy). Once I began soldering the outside edges, I started to get cranky. Suddenly, the solder didn’t want to stay where I put it, and gravity forced my patience into frustration. If I tried soldering with the glass lying down, the solder dropped to the table. If I tried soldering with the glass propped up, the solder dripped off the edges. After many deep breaths and failed attempts, I managed to get solder all around the edges. Not perfect, but certainly a successful first attempt. As Charmaine reassured me, this was just my first stained glass. Perhaps after my third or fourth attempt, I’ll have enough practice to start getting picky!