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How to properly solder your stained glass

How to Properly Solder Your Stained Glass

Since stained glass making is such a fine art much attention is paid to the type, colors and quality of glass used and/or the quality of the paint used on the glass. The soldering iron, while absolutely crucial to the outcome of the project is often given little or no consideration and attempts to use one borrowed from a friend or found in the tool bin in the garage are often made. The right soldering iron and type of solder can make the difference in the overall quality of the finished stained glass window or other project, however, and should be given more attention.

Using a low wattage soldering iron as one might find handy from household projects is a bad idea. Irons of less than 75 watts do not retain enough heat to handle the large amounts of solder that are needed to complete your stained glass project. When the iron loses heat from constant use, the solder suddenly becomes sticky and slow and the joints become messy and unstable. Not only will your stained glass project look unprofessional, it may well fall apart!

Using a soldering iron with too high a wattage can also present a problem. Soldering irons over 200 watts will heat the solder too quickly, causing drips and possibly burning or melting the metal cames and irrevocably damaging the stained glass project. Turning the iron off periodically may help this problem, but all too often one forgets to turn it back on and is left with a cold iron or the same problems as using the too low wattage iron with slow, sticky solder.

The ideal soldering iron would have a temperature control keeping it at a constant level between 100 and 200 watts. It would also have an iron coated or plated tip to make it long lasting and easy to use. The tip should measure about 1/4 inch and be comparable to a flat tip screw-driver in shape. You should replace the tip often to keep your projects flowing smoothly and to help keep your joints neat and clean.

The first step in soldering your stained glass project is to heat up the soldering iron. Once it is heated it is important to clean the tip to remove impurities either by wiping it on a damp rag or sal ammoniac (a naturally occurring mineral that reacts with the heat of the soldering iron to clean residue when the tip of the iron is rubbed across it). Next, brush the tip of the soldering iron with a little flux and then melt a little dab of solder onto it. When the solder melts into a shiny liquid bead, you will know your soldering iron is ready to use on your stained glass project. Start by soldering all of the joints in your stained glass piece, that is any area where two pieces of came intersect. Then you should carefully run a bead of solder along all of the sections of came on your stained glass project.

If the solder is too sticky you should wait for the iron to heat up a little more, if it is too runny your iron is too hot. You want to be careful to ensure a smooth finished look, but do not worry about the heat of the iron cracking the glass since stained glass is kiln fired at temperatures about 1000? F, there is little chance of that! Soldering your stained glass project well will give it a more professional look and ensure that it will last for many generations to come.