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Any Advice for Starting out in Stained Glass?

2698 Views 36 Replies 6 Participants Last post by  Amyshojai
I'm on a pretty tight budget but I'm looking to take up stained glass.  I've done a bit of research and it seems like the biggest investment, besides the glass, is going to be a grinder.  I've seen that a lot of people recommend the Inland Wiz CG Grinder for starting out, but I'm also seeing people saying that it's better for people not really serious about doing a lot of work with them.  Now, I know just starting out that I'm not exactly serious about the craft yet, but I'd rather invest in something I can grow into than outgrow something and need to buy another later down the road.  The other, more professional suggestions are the Wizard IV and the Glastar All Star G8 which are both twice the price of the Inland.  Does anyone know enough about these to tell me whether the cheaper Inland will be enough for me starting out without worrying I'll outgrow it immediately?

I've already started the ball rolling by buying a Toyo glass cutter and some oil for it, but I'm a bit at a loss where to go from there.  I know I'll need some solder and some foil, but don't know a whole lot on the specifics there.  It sounds like I will also need some lead came for the framing of the pieces at the very least and the only places I've seen it for sale is in bulk.  I've also not really found a really good place to buy the actual glass, though I'll admit I haven't looked into that a whole lot yet and have been more focused on the equipment.  Does anyone know any good places to get this stuff online or have any tips for buying it?  Thanks!
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No advice from me but good luck to you. Strained glass is beautiful and I once thought I wanted to experiment with it. Then I found out it was going to take a lot of work and tools, so I decided I wasn't ready to tackle anything that complex. Scrap-booking is more my speed. :p I'm not sure where you could get supplies online but my local Hobby Lobby store used to carry soldering irons and sheets of glass about one foot square for small projects.
Thanks!  It doesn't look too horribly complex, though I imagine once I get started it'll be surprisingly so.  As for tools, as far as I understand it if you're using came (which is an older technique) you really only need a glass cutter, the came, and a soldering iron with solder.... and the glass of course.  With the foil technique you need the foil and a glass grinder on top of everything else because the glass needs to be more precisely fit together and the edges of it need smoothing to accept the foil correctly.  It requires a lot more soldering, too, but for some reason it seems to be the recommended technique for beginners.  I guess it's to help you develop good habits early on instead of relying on the extra room for mistakes that came allows.
Sorry.  No advice.  But I am requesting pictures. 
I'll be sure to post some, though not sure there'll be anything to show for a while.  Unless people want pictures of my glass cutter!
I recommend that you take a class before you invest much.
There should be some through local adult education or even from a professional glass studio.
My wife and I took one a number of years ago and then created several projects.
You don't need lead came to start - outside framing can be stiffened with a string of wire soldered against the copper foil - most glass artists use either lead came or copper foil but not mixed.
You do not need a glass grinder - old school is to use a special pair of "pliers" that have soft heads that "nibble" off the excess glass.
Make sure that the solder is not resin core - that is used for electrical soldering and will leave a messy residue on the foil that will be hard to remove.
You would learn all this in a good class - and be introduced to sources for glass.
The real artwork is designing the use of selected glass to produce a nice product.
Good luck.
Thanks!  I actually already took the plunge and did finally find a local place that sells glass and even do classes, but it was cost plus supplies for the class and I just didn't have the money for both.  Of course I say this after buying a grinder, but I hadn't found the place before I got it ordered.  All I really need now is a better soldering iron since the only one we have is for electronics and too low a wattage.  I'm hoping I can pick up what I'd have learned in a class through youtube videos and online how-tos.  I did meet someone through a friend on Facebook who does stained glass and is there for my more specific questions, too, so I'm hoping that'll be enough to start.  I'll probably take some classes later if I find myself out of my depth.

Since it always irks me when I do a Google search for something and see people asking a question I have on a forum then just posting "I figured it out!" without giving the solution they found, my start-up gear is as follows.  I'd list prices next to the items but I don't relish seeing it all tallied up.

Glastar All Star G8 Grinder
Glastar 7/32" Hand Foiler
Studio Pro 1" Running Pliers
Studio Pro 3/8" Breaker/Grozer Pliers
Studio Pro Foil Pattern Shears
Studio Pro 7/32 1.25 Black Back Copper Foil (I would have preferred Venture, but shipping was as much as the foil itself.)
CRL Toyo Thomas Grip Pattern Glass Cutter (Most prefer pistol grip, but this seemed like it'd have better maneuverability.)
CRL Glass Cutter Oil
Old Master's Flux
60/40 Solder
Weller 100PG 100 Watt Soldering Iron with 700° 3/8" Chisel Tip (I still need to get this bit, budget is getting tight though!)

The list kind of took a life of its own and grew over the past week, but I had already made the initial jump into it so I just kept adding items on to what I needed until I ended up with enough kit to probably set up a professional studio ><  Now all I need is glass... I do have a few pieces to work with, but it was mostly bought for practicing the cuts.  I may see if I can find a nice pattern to use with the colors I picked out so I don't waste money on scrap.

There are still two more items I'll probably need eventually.  I would also love to pick up some Pebeo Glass Marker Pens that let you oven bake to set the paint because I refuse to buy a kiln on top of all of this just to put lettering on glass.  I will also need a bottle of Black Patina for the solder eventually since I chose the black backed copper foil... plus I feel black solder looks better in a lot more applications than the natural color.  And last but by no means least, gotten a demo of a program called Glass Eye 2000 which I am loving... I'm trying to get all my ideas down within the 30-day trial because it'll be a while before I can justify the $150 they want for it ($295 - $1295 for the professional versions!).
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Make sure that you set aside at least 2-hour periods for the work.
This is not something that you do 10 minutes here and 10 minutes there.
Never rush yourself - you will make big time mistakes - just be calm and attentive.
It is actually a lot of fun.
I will take some pics and post some completed projects soon.
Ooo, I'd like that.  And yeah, it seems to be all about attention to detail and patience.  What I lack in the latter I tend to make up for in the former, so hopefully it'll balance out.
Wow!! That is quite a start.  You have pretty much more than what u will need. Here are some tips:
1.  Remember:  Glass tends to want to break in a straight line. Working curved cuts takes time. Turn over and tap along the cut; work your rubber runner slowly n evenly along the cut before snapping the line.
2. Make sure you cut the pattern pieces precisely; removing all black outlines. If you don't you will have a piece too large to fit the planned space (ex: cabinet insert) and allow 1/8" around for expansion.
3.  Large pieces need metal support every foot or so. Your piece will break from the weight.
4.  Over fluxing will cause a lot of spitting/sputter. Also, iron too hot will cause lead to blacken or "cook" SLOW STEADY pace when soldering.
5. Always grind in the proper direction. Going against the spin will cut the life of your diamond heads in half ($$).
6. Keep sponge wet, keep reservoir full and use coolant.
7. Eye wear a must. Keep the guard on your grinder. NEVER run your hand over your grid; shards will get you.
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Thanks for the tips!  I definitely don't know too much about the grinder yet, I'm hoping it comes with a manual of sorts.  I'm sure my first instinct would have been to run my finger along the edge to feel how smooth it got, thanks for saving me that pain!  When you say supports are you talking about came?  I know when I see larger pieces they tend to be done in what looks like several smaller windows pieced together in a whole, but is that using came or is it enough to just have the straight solder line with copper foil?  I've read that 700 degrees is about right for the soldering.  I still need to find a way to scrounge up one of those or I'll just be making glass puzzles.
Remember that lead came is soft.
The old masters used to put plaster in the came channels to stiffen the project.
Old came will droop from gravity if left to itself. So a new project using came will still have steel rods in the project to provide stability.  And notice that we went from wire with the foil to rods with the came.  Because the came itself adds enough weight to need more support.
Hm... okay, looks like I'll need to look up more on the type of support needed for larger pieces.  Not that I plan to go much over a foot in length any time soon.  I guess it makes sense that the came is soft, I never even considered that it might begin to droop.  Seems like it'd be better to frame them with something else.
Well the came is for containing the glass - what they used before copper foil.
But for structural integrity, a picture frame would do nicely.
GeoffThomas: Have we forgotten anything?

Only thing I can think of is keeping the solder iron clean. The little brick is inexpensive.

Oh yeah....When your project is complete wash it and dry it good. Remove all oils and flux residue. ESPECIALLY if you are going to use a Patina to change the foil color.

***IF you decide to make anything using mirror: That is another whole lesson; just let us know.
I hadn't planned on anything with mirror yet, but that sounds interesting.  I'm currently Kindling through stained glass for dummies and getting some more tips from that, so hopefully I'll be decently set when it comes to my first project.  I keep procrastinating for some reason, but I figure once I'm through the book I'll dive in regardless of how ready I feel.  Money is the biggest issue right now, though... I've invested in all the bits and bobs and not left any for the actual glass!  I do have four sheets I got from a local place, though, so hoping I can kind of find something fun to do with that.  I'd like to find some cheap clear glass for practicing the cutting, too.

By the time I'm ready for it I'll likely be able to fit the iron into my budget.  I'm so bad at wanting to invest in the best, but it seems silly to not only handicap yourself but to set up the potential of needing to upgrade later when you could have just spent an extra 30% or so in the first place.  That starts to add up, though!
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Sounds like you are all set. I surely hope you like it after investing your money. EBAY cheap glass!!
Ooo, I didn't think of trying eBay for glass.  I'm still not sure what good prices even are on it, it's such a different thing to be shopping for that I literally have no sort of reference point for it.  I found a local place that I bought my first pieces from, figuring it'd be cheaper without the shipping.  And yeah, I do hope I enjoy it.  I hit my first pitfall and need to buy some plastic to cut my patterns out of.  Paper doesn't hold up well on that grinder.
The price of glass is extremely variable - especially depending on quality and rarity.
A piece of German streaky will be much more expensive than a piece of bottle-bottom.
and wheat-grain bubbly is usually more expensive than some others.
And that would be just the diffs from the same source.
You need to be careful when shopping that you are comparing apples to apples.
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