How to Make Leaded Glass Windows

Written by tracie grimes
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How to Make Leaded Glass Windows
Leaded glass is a centuries-old medium in the world of stained glass. (stained glass window image by Tammy Mobley from

Leaded glass windows represent the most traditional method of stained glass art, and whether a leaded glass window is lit by ambient or direct light, the beautiful hues shining through the glass can fill a room with warmth, colour and texture. Creating a leaded glass window may seem overwhelming but it just takes the right tools, some know-how and a lot of patience.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Safety glasses
  • Lead pattern shears
  • Tracing paper
  • Carbon paper
  • Coloured pencils
  • Pencils
  • Sharpie markers
  • Grozing pliers
  • Running pliers
  • Cutting square
  • Cutting grid
  • Glass cutter
  • Cutting oil
  • Grinder
  • Lead cutters
  • Horseshoe nails
  • Glazing blocks
  • Rubber mallet
  • Lead came
  • Lead board with right angle
  • Fid
  • Putty or cement
  • Whiting
  • Bench brush
  • Soldering iron
  • Solder
  • Flux
  • Flux brush

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  1. 1

    Trace your original pattern using tracing and carbon paper, and number each pattern piece. Make three numbered copies of your pattern; one to cut,one to place finished pieces on and one to keep.

  2. 2

    Cut around a pattern edge with regular scissors. Cut out each piece using lead pattern shears. Glue each pattern piece onto the glass sheets you’ve chosen with rubber cement.

  3. 3

    Place glass under the straight edge on your cutting grid and score cuts on each with a glass cutter. Pull the glass away and break off the scored strip with your running pliers and groze away sharp points.

    How to Make Leaded Glass Windows
    Churches and cathedrals are synonymous with leaded glass windows. (the stained-glass window image by Dmitry Grishin from
  4. 4

    Grind the glass edges until they’re smooth. Peel off the paper pattern and wash in warm, soapy water. Dry and mark the piece number on the glass.

    How to Make Leaded Glass Windows
    Panels of leaded glass windows can tell a story. (stained glass 7 image by Cesar Andrade from
  5. 5

    Place an uncut copy of your pattern on your lead board. The angled corner of the board should be on your lower left-hand side. Place each piece of glass on the pattern, leaving a 1/16 inch gap between each cut for the lead came. Grind if necessary to make adjustments.

  6. 6

    Remove the glass from the pattern and place the lower left corner piece. Position a small piece of H-shaped came along the right side, and then put a longer piece of H came across the top of the glass. Scratch a line where the inside edge of the short came meets the long came to form a right angle.

  7. 7

    Cut the came on the scratch mark with lead nippers. Make sure the channel is facing up before you make the cut.

  8. 8

    Repeat until you have came pieces cut to fit in between all the pieces along the left and right sides of the window.

    How to Make Leaded Glass Windows
    Lead came provides strength to the leaded glass window. (leaded veins image by John Sfondilias from
  9. 9

    Cut a piece of U-came to fit the length of the left and bottom edges of your pattern. Make sure you extend your cut beyond the cut lines on the upper left and lower right corners.

  10. 10

    Align the glass pieces to form the left side of your project, positioning each piece inside the U-came on the edge. Insert the piece of H-came you’ve cut to go between each piece and tap in gently with the rubber end of your mallet.

    How to Make Leaded Glass Windows
    Positioning each piece is like putting together a stained glass puzzle. (fabrication d'un vitraille image by RomainQuéré from
  11. 11

    Insert a block on the edge of the glass that isn’t in the came channel and gently tap a horseshoe nail in the centre of the block using the yellow plastic end of your mallet. Remove the blocks and horseshoe nails as you tap the neighbouring pattern pieces into place.

  12. 12

    Repeat the process, making sure each edge of each piece of glass fits snugly into an H-came channel. Work from the lower left corner up, and then the lower right corner up.

    How to Make Leaded Glass Windows
    Leaded glass windows bring beauty to doors and entryways. (my front door image by dav820 from
  13. 13

    Place U-came along the top and right sides, securing with horseshoe nails and cutting the came so the bottom edge butts up against the top edge. Apply flux with your flux brush to all spots where two or more pieces of came meet.

    How to Make Leaded Glass Windows
    Leaded windows bring warmth to dark areas. (stained glass window image by Tammy Mobley from
  14. 14

    Apply solder to each joint by using a quick touch of the tip to allow the solder to flow evenly into the joint. Remove the blocks and horseshoe nails once you’ve soldered all joints.

  15. 15

    Turn the window over; apply flux and solder to all the joints on the back side.

  16. 16

    Mix your cement by following the instructions that came with your product. Mixed properly, it should have the consistency of peanut butter.

    How to Make Leaded Glass Windows
    Modern leaded glass windows have their own style of beauty. (stained glassed movement image by Hector Fernandez from
  17. 17

    Pour about ¼ cup onto one side of the panel. Using a stiff brush, sweep the cement under the edges of the came. Work from all directions to pack it tightly into the gaps of the lead. Repeat until your entire project is cemented.

  18. 18

    Sprinkle whiting powder liberally across the window and spread it across each piece of lead. Work it in with your brush, sweeping away the clumps as the powder picks up the excess cement. Add more whiting when needed.

    How to Make Leaded Glass Windows
    Early artists created leaded glass windows to depict religious figures. (Saint-Valéry sur Somme image by Becken from
  19. 19

    Run your fid or the lead of a pencil along the edges and push the cement further into the lead edge and brush the excess away. Remove excess cement from the corners and edges of the glass before the cement dries.

  20. 20

    Turn the window over and repeat the cementing/whiting process. Wash the window with soapy water.

  21. 21

    Keep the window flat and allow to dry for several days. Polish with polishing compound.

Tips and warnings

  • Rub along the edges of the pattern pieces after the rubber cement has dried. Your cutter won't work well when cutting through rubber cement.
  • Always keep your cutting wheel perpendicular to the glass and don't rescore over an area you've already scored.
  • Make your cut by scoring from the bottom up and apply even pressure as you push it across the glass. You should hear a soft hissing sound.
  • Clean and lubricate your cutting wheel after every score by wiping it across an oil-soaked rag.
  • When using running pliers, position the pliers in line with the score and start the run by squeezing gently.
  • Lead came needs to be stretched before using it in a project. You can stretch it yourself with a lead vice, but it's easier to have your supplier stretch it for you.
  • Always wear safety glasses when working with glass
  • Solder in a well-ventilated area and wear a mask

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