How to Repair Tiffany Glass Lamp Shades

Written by diane wilkoff
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How to Repair Tiffany Glass Lamp Shades
The dragonfly pattern was a favourite of Tiffany's (dragonfly decoration on a lamp image by Fadeeva from Fotolia.com)

Tiffany glass refers to many types of glass developed by Louis Comfort Tiffany in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Tiffany copper foil stained glass lamp shades range in style from simple geometric designs to complex floral designs with thousands of small pieces. When working with lamps, Tiffany glass is often used to describe opalescent glass, not the actual creator of the lamp itself. Opalescent glass, which is usually a swirl of multiple colours, is attractive because it tends to reflect more light than it transmits. Sometimes the Tiffany glass shade can get damaged. With the right tools and some patience, a novice can repair a Tiffany glass lamp shade.

Skill level:
Moderately Challenging

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Things you need

  • Replacement glass
  • Paper
  • Pencil
  • Safety glasses
  • Glass cutter
  • Needlenose pliers
  • Cardboard box
  • Old newspaper
  • Flux
  • Solder
  • Soldering iron
  • Permanent marker
  • Glass grinder or metal file
  • Copper foil (for copper foil repairs)
  • Electrical tape
  • Dish soap
  • Glass wax

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Instructions

  1. 1

    Select replacement glass. Look at the overall composition of the lamp, not just the colour of the damaged piece. Often, glass is placed so that its "grain" follows a certain pattern. If you do not know the original source of the glass, take a piece of glass (or the entire lamp) to a stained glass showroom. Knowledgeable sales people will be able to help you find the best match. If shopping in person is not an option, there are online sources available to help with your selection.

  2. 2

    Remove the stained glass lamp shade from the lamp base and place it on a flat surface.

  3. 3

    Make a rubbing of the soldered seams surrounding the broken glass with paper and pencil. Put on your safety glasses when you begin to work with the glass.

  4. 4

    Use a glass cutter to score a cross-hatch pattern on the remaining damaged glass if it is still in the seam. Use pliers to break and remove shards. When doing this, pull out and away from the lamp so as not to place additional strain on the surrounding pieces of glass.

  5. 5

    Take a cardboard box larger than the lamp shade and fill the box with crumpled newspaper. Rest the shade in this box, using the newspaper to prop the lamp so that the surface of the lamp where the soldering is needed is parallel with your work surface.

  6. 6

    Brush liquid or paste flux on the solder bead surrounding the broken glass. Heat the solder with your soldering iron. At the same time, use the tip of the iron to remove excess solder from the seams on both sides of the broken pane. Be careful to leave the foil on the surrounding pieces of glass intact. At the same time, use needlenose pliers to pull away damaged foil.

  7. 7

    Cut out the rubbing of the broken glass section and trace it onto the new glass with permanent marker. Cut out the glass and grind to fit the area. Although an electronic glass grinder makes quick work of this step, a metal file also does the job. If the piece that needs to be replaced is small, it is easier to cut it slightly larger than the area and grind more. Check to make sure it fits before foiling.

  8. 8

    Use copper foil to wrap the edges of the new piece of glass. The copper foil will take up some of the space between the glass pieces.

  9. 9

    Flux the foil on the new piece of glass as well as the foil on the pieces of glass surrounding the missing piece. Tin the new piece of glass by soldering a thin coat of solder over the foil. Reapply flux to the solder on the new piece and place it into the new spot. Use electrical tape on the inside of the lamp to hold the glass in place.

  10. 10

    Tack solder the glass into place by soldering small amounts of solder at several spots where the new piece touches the surrounding pieces. Using your soldering iron, melt and apply solder to the front seams of the entire piece of new glass and the surrounding pieces. Once the front is complete, remove the electrical tape and flux and solder the inside.

  11. 11

    Once the soldering is complete, use dish soap or a soap specifically for removing flux to clean the shade. If a patina was used on the rest of the stained glass shade, use the same kind on the new section so that it will match. Follow up with an application of glass wax to the entire piece.

Tips and warnings

  • The mixture of glass that goes into making a Tiffany lamp opalescent makes it difficult to cut. Therefore, make sure to cut the glass on the "right" side, or flat side of glass. Also buy a little more than you think you need just in case you have difficulty cutting it.
  • Working with glass can be dangerous. Wear safety glasses at all times. Many solders produce lead fumes. It is necessary to work in a well-ventilated area to limit your exposure.

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