I had been enjoying making mosaics for a few years, and stained glass looked to be much more complicated and to require many more tools and more space. Turns out it isn't as complicated as I thought- and I have another post planned to talk about required tools and supplies. My husband and I had moved into our Baltimore City rowhouse complete with a mosaic entry floor I made , and had a plain glass transom above both the front and backdoor.
Many rowhouses in the city have a colorful stained glass transom with the house number in the glass above the door, and we wanted our house to have one too. My husband suggested that I should take a class to learn how to make a transom with our house number for us - so a few months after moving in, I did. I found an introductory copper foil class at The Glass Key , which met one evening a week for 6 weeks. We completed a basic project in that time and gained the skills needed to do more projects.
As part of the class, I bought a basic toolkit and bought my grinder the night we learned to grind. I loved the class! We had "homework" each week to complete the step we had just learned so we could move on as a group together the next week. Now I'm the type of student who always does her homework, plus I was motivated to learn so I could work on my transom project.
I'm not sure why all the other students were there, but let's just say they weren't as conscientious This was our practice piece, and at each step, we'd make a mess out of this sad little square before continuing on to our 'real' project. Here are the two 'real' projects I completed during the class. These patterns were both pretty easy for a beginner:.
I don't really know what to DO with these projects now; they're not pretty enough to hang up tons of flaws when you see them up close, the Koi one even has a broken piece where I let the hot soldering iron sit too long, and the heat caused a crack , but I don't want to get rid of them, so they sit in the basement wrapped up under my work table.
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I learned a ton making them though and had the confidence to continue on to my I couldn't decide what our transom design should be. I looked online at pictures of others that I liked, and ultimately drew a simple geometric design that I hoped wouldn't be too hard for my third real project. I kept breaking the glass in bad spots and having to start over again. I ended up ruining enough of the clear pieces that I had to go back to the store for more glass.
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However, the clear glass I was using was textured, and the texture had a orientation. But since I had to repeat so many of these pieces, somewhere along the way I screwed up and turned one 90 degrees. But I didn't notice until I was almost done, so it is still in there!
You can't tell unless you get up close though. The very last step was to install my framed piece in the transom. But I must have gotten a measurement wrong, and it was just barely too big! After I completed this project, I went on to make another transom window for our backdoor, and a variety of other panels for gifts or just for fun. It's been 6 years since that first class, and I've acquired a bunch of new tools, have tons of ideas for future projects, and most excitingly, I am going to get into fusing and slumping soon! Just last week, I found a used kiln on Craigslist and brought her home!
I named her EsmereldaI need some supplies and we need to rearrange some things in the basement for her, but she'll soon be helping me out with a bunch of new and exciting projects. First, lets start out with the tools you need. It's not much! I have found that I can do everything I need with the three tools in the picture. One of these days, I will get one of those fancy schmancy glass saws and don't worry, I will blog ALL about it! I didn't have one at first, and find it to be useful for two reasons.
First, the shards fall into the grid, so you're not as likely to end up with them under your skin, on the floor, or underneath the glass you're scoring and then scratching the bottom or worse, causing your glass to break. Second, a lot of times, you need to make a long straight score in a piece of glass.
If I can see through the glass, I line up where I need to make the cut over one of the lines in the waffle grid - giving me a line to follow. Go slow and don't try to do too much in one cut, unless it is a straight line. This doesn't come naturally if you're impatient like me, so I've had to learn this lesson a few times. If you're cutting any kind of curve, make sure that any one score isn't too complex.
This also goes back to your design-- don't make the same mistake I did and draw a first design that involves cutting half-circles into your glass! It's definitely possible to be able to do that with the tools I have, but it's tough and requires a LOT of patience to slowly score more gradual curves and chip away the glass, a piece at a time - and wasn't easy for a beginner.
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That glass saw will open up lots of new possibilities, but I have found that with a combination of careful design and patient cutting, I have been able to accomplish almost everything I want. Too many sharp inner curves in one piece of glass has been a recipe for disaster for me. I always do a final pass over the drawing to look at each individual piece, after all the lines are in place to double check for anything that would be un-cuttable. Even after doing this, I'll sometimes still find a hidden scary curve when cutting out the pattern.
This happened with my alien panel , I'd originally had the sides of the face drawn as one piece instead of two. This one worked just as well with cutting each of them in half, so I did. To the right is a photo of the lemon rind from the lemonade panel - I wasn't sure if I'd be able to make this cut or not, and had a backup plan of splitting the rind into two pieces if needed. But by slowly scoring and chipping away at the glass, it worked out! BTW, pay no attention to the red smudge in that pic; every project needs a little of my DNA in it to personalize it Lastly, if you're cutting an inner curve that will end in a point, I find that it usually works better for me if I cut the curve first, while there's still some extra glass hanging out on the other side of the point.
This is hard to explain, so see the pic at the right. I first started working on the inner curve, then removed the glass to the right of the point. Scroll thru the pix below to see the order of my steps. That's it for today - if I think of more essential cutting tips, I'll add another post. If you've got anything to add, please share in the comments! This post contains affiliate links, and if you make a purchase by clicking on affiliate links, I will receive a small commission. All links will be for products that I have personally used and recommend, and profits will go towards maintaining and improving this site.
The last post covered some design tips; today, I want to post about turning a photograph into a stained glass panel. This same technique would work for a mosaic or another craft too - it's all about turning a photo into a simple line drawing that you can work from. For this project, I'm going to work with this photo that I took this on vacation in Greece, on the island of Kos.
We were on a guided tour, and stopped in Zia to see the town and have lemonade. The photo is of my glass of lemonade, with the Aegean Sea and Turkey in the background. I love the colors in this picture, and it always reminds me of such a great day; I have been wanting to turn this photo into a glass project for a while! Here's my black-and-white, borrrrrring picture! In your photo editor of choice I used Picasa , turn the photo into a line drawing - it is the "Pencil Sketch" option in Picasa.
Here's my transformed photo:. I used my light box , shown in the photo to make the tracing easier. If you don't have a light box, just outline the significant features of your photo with a Sharpie and then you should be able to trace it without the backlighting. Here's where you get to take some creative license! Want to move a background element to a different position?
Add a lemon slice on the rim of that glass of lemonade?
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I see a mint leaf on the bottom of that glass, but I wasn't about to attempt turning that into glass - it might end up looking unappetizing! But I still thought it needed a little something-something, so I added a lemon slice! Go crazy here! Pencils have erasers for a reason, you can always 'undo' your changes. So here is the design I turned my photo into, after some trial and error this is the final copy, and doesn't show all the eraser marks! I moved the glass to the left, deleted Turkey sorry, Turkey Now it is an piece stained glass panel. For this image, it was really easy for me to choose colors - given the photo, I knew I wanted bright yellow lemonade, a sunny sky, and a red tabletop.
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