Sunday, June 7, 2009

The Art Of Stained Glass 101 - Cutting Glass


Now that you have your work area set up, your pattern picked out and your glass chosen the next step is cutting out your pattern to attach it to your glass. You will be doing the first piece in the Tiffany style known as the “copper foil method” created by Louis Comfort Tiffany. Since you will be doing the copper foil method only, cut each piece out by cutting down the center of the patterns black line. If you were doing a leaded panel you would need to accommodate for the width of the lead, so the amount removed when cutting would be more. But that is something you don’t need to worry about until you start on a panel, and when you do, they have special scissors you can purchase for that. **Note: prior to cutting out any of your pieces number every piece in your pattern.

Now that you have all your pattern pieces cut, separate the pieces according to the color of glass. You should have the same number stacks of pattern pieces as you do colors of glass. Now pick a color of glass to begin with, take a few of your pattern pieces for that color and place them on the glass, with your black fine tip sharpie outline the entire piece and write the number of that piece on the inside of it. (Tip: Try using poster tack putty to hold down pattern pieces. A small amount in each corner will hold the pattern down even through mild grinding.) Do as many pieces as you can to fit your sheet of glass. For my beginning students I tell them to give themselves no less than 1 ½ inches of glass between pattern pieces. This allows for plenty of room for both sides of the pattern. As you become more experienced you can shorten that distance a little.

When placing the pieces onto the glass line them up so they form a straight line on the glass. Latter as you get more comfortable with stained glass you will start to place your pattern pieces in more specific ways to make certain pieces of glass stand out, but for now keeping them in a straight line will help make your life a lot easier! If all your pieces do not fit, DON’T FORCED THEM. Give yourself plenty of room around each piece. If you run out of glass and still have pieces left, get another piece of glass. If it is a small amount of glass that you need, maybe you could switch some of the pieces around with one of the other colors that didn’t require as much glass. Before running out to buy anymore glass see if there are any changes in the way you have your pattern colors set that you may be able to redo. This can save you valuable time and money, and the only time you can do it is NOW! Once you start cutting your glass you’ve pretty much made your commitment.

O.k. you’ve made it to the hand sweating, nerve racking, glass cutting part. Just remember on all stained glass the smoothest side is the side you cut on (sometimes it’s hard to tell), hold you cutter up so your cutting wheel is straight, make sure you keep your cutting wheel oiled (put oil in the reservoir if you have one that requires it), start cutting as close to the edge as possible without going over, stop cutting as close to the edge as possible without going over, keep even pressure on your cutter throughout the entire cutting process, do not go back over your score line once you have scored it, do not press too hard when cutting, you should hear a low hissing sound. Watch these to help you out! How to cut glass, straight lines, curves and circles.

First start cutting your pieces out in strips or rows. Once this is done, cut them out individually. Take your time. If you do break a piece, then pull that pattern piece to the side, and once you have all the pieces cut you can go back and recut that one. Take your individual pieces and cut each one of them along the black line you drew with your sharpie.

Now you should have all your pattern pieces cut out! How was it? Below is the complete process in a list format to help you remember more easily. It is always easier to practice on clear window glass before you use your expensive stained glass. (Tip: Usually frame shops, galleries, or any type home d├ęcor shop will have a framing department that has salvage glass to get rid of. Plus there is a lot of salvage glass in dumpsters behind window and door shops. Be creative, look for it, it’s out there!)

Number pattern
Cut pattern
Outline pattern on glass
Practice cutting on clear glass first
Cut glass out in strips first
Cut glass out in individual pieces
Cut glass out along black lines

With each piece cut they are going to be very sharp on the outer edges so handle them with care. You should grind each piece now then you’ll be ready for the next entry when I’ll tell you how to apply the copper foil. Have fun and keep thinking of all the new gifts you can make after you get this one made!