Creating a beautiful stained glass project requires many of the same tools used long ago. There have been improvements and additions to the process, however, including equipment such as stained glass grinders, modern soldering irons, and tungsten-carbide cutting wheels. Safety tools are still important, because working with lead can be harmful and cutting glass results in tiny shards of glass that are a danger to the eyes.
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Stained glass art requires basic design tools: pencil, paper, ruler and scissors. A computer and stained glass design program allow users to print out designs for implementation. Carbon paper and poster board may be useful to transfer designs onto glass. Special glass pattern shears with three blades let artists cut out the design while leaving a 1/8-inch strip between pieces, which is the space required for copper foil when fitting the glass together.
Hand-held glass cutters come with either a tungsten-carbide or steel cutting wheel. Diamond- bladed band saws or ring saws can make cuts in glass that are not possible with a hand-held glass cutter. The saws ranged in price from about £162 to £1,300 in 2010, while the basic glass cutters cost between £13 and £39. There are also special kits to cut strips and circles quickly and easily, and these range from £22 to £325.
Glass pliers and glass grinders are used to break and shape glass once it is scored. The three types of pliers are running pliers, breaking pliers and grozing pliers. Each type uses somewhat different methods to break the glass, and the grozing pliers have serrated teeth to scrape unwanted flares and small chips off the edge. Glass grinders use a spinning bit with a diamond grit finish to fit the shape of each piece of glass to the pattern. Grinders smooth the sharp edges so they are safer to handle when applying copper foil.
Copper foil and lead came are two essential materials used to construct stained glass, and soldering iron is a necessary tool. Lead came is a strip of lead in an H or U shape. Copper foil is smoothed onto the glass with a burnishing tool called a lathekin or fid. Flux is a liquid or paste brushed on the metal everywhere solder is applied to help the solder adhere to the metal rather than the glass. Soldering irons are available in either 80 or 100 watts, and many have a built-in rheostat or temperature control. Lead came construction also requires lead nippers to cut the lead came, and a glazing (rubber) hammer and horseshoe nails to help fit the glass into the channels and hold it there. Glazing putty and whiting powder are used on lead came projects to provide weatherproofing, support and cushioning. Glass cleaner and clean rags or paper towels are used to clean glass both during and after construction.
Safety glasses protect the eyes from flying shards or chips of glass during cutting, breaking or grinding. A dust mask keeps the artist from breathing in particles when working with whiting powder, and a fan or fume extractor reduces exposure to toxic fumes from soldering. Latex or nitrile gloves can reduce lead exposure when working with lead solder or lead came. They also keep your hands clean when using the glazing putty.
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