Q: Hi,

My husband and I are taking a beginner stained glass class, and saw a band saw in the shop. The store owner said that its great for making really intricate cuts, but was on the pricey side. Yup.

My question is, would this be a worthwhile investment? We plan on being in for the long haul, because we have some pretty ambitious projects we would like to place in our home someday. :-

I wouldn't mind having one if it saves time with smaller cuts. We don't mind doing larger pieces.

I have another question about using a grinder to smooth edges. My husband has a Black & Decker Wizard battery powered hand grinder with a wand. I use the rubber tip to groze the edges of the pieces I cut which works well, but I notice that if I use a tip that is too coarse, the edges become ever so finely chipped but I don't see any visual lines. Would this cause the glass to eventually crack?

Thanks again for your help and for terrific tips!


A: Grace,

As for the band saw, this is a tough question. Yes, it will be a lot easier to cut complicated shapes for a beginner but with some practice MOST shapes that SHOULD be cut in glass can be done quicker by hand. Also if you start out using the saw there will be little likelihood that you'll learn to do these things without it. If you do learn to really cut glass first you probably won't use the saw much.

After about 25 years doing glass we brought in a demo model saw about three or four years ago. It pretty much sits unused. On the positive side we will probably never have to replace the blade!

On the other side of the coin the band saw will allow you to easily cut shapes that SHOULD NOT be cut in glass. Some shapes are just unstable and are future broken pieces waiting to happen. E.g.: if you make pieces with deep "V" notches in them sooner or later you'll likely have a broken piece in your panel some time after installation. 

As for your other question, the little chips probably will not cause a problem but the dust that is going into your lungs when you grind glass without water definitely will! I recommend that you invest in a regular water fed glass grinder and save on the saw.

Have fun, Gary Dodge

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Box Assembly Question

Q: I am using the Morton system for propping / squaring the corners (it's that yellow plastic tray for different shapes). The instructions say to use a wire along the edges and in the corner to prop the glass so there is no over lapping. The corners are square but I must be doing something horribly wrong cause I did that and the outside corners look, well -- horrid. Can you give me advise on finishing these edges? Are you supposed to fill that gap and then run a bead of solder?? Or leave them open, or is it truly supposed to be overlapping??? The inside looks fine.

A:No, you do not want the corners to overlap. If they did the box would be weakened. Also if the sides overlap and you use a clear type glass you can see the foil of one piece through the side of the piece that overlaps it, and that's kinda nasty. (The lid and bottom have to be a different shape if you overlap the ends. Some patterns are actually designed for this type of assembly but they should tell you so. Either way this is an inferior assembly both aesthetically and structurally.)

You need to get some bricks or something like a box of the right size so that you can prop your box right up on end. Then you will be able to fill and build a nice solder bead that rounds the corner. You can use masking tape on the inside of the seams if you have problems with the solder running through.


Q-2: The second dumb question, (actually it is a confirmation now that I see how the box / lid fit). I take it that the lid needs to be about 1/4" bigger than the actual base of the box. At this point too - I guess I have 2 choices - take my box apart or cut new pieces.

A: Correct, if the lid is flat, (no sides on it) it needs to be larger than the bottom by twice the thickness of your glass

<<<<<<<And in reference to the lid - is there any special way this should be finished around the edges?? >>>>>>>>>

You can just build a nice edge bead all around the lid or you can apply a brass channel.

Relax, take a deep breath and all will work out.

Gary Dodge

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Trouble Tinning Filigree

Q: When I attempt to put solder on brass filigree to be attached to various stained glass pieces, it doesn't come our pretty. Most of the time it is not shiny and a lot of the time it does not come out smooth. I use the same flux, solder and temperature setting as I do with all my work. I only work with foil. I have only been doing stained glass for little over two years, no real formal training and the nearest stain glass shop is 70 miles away. I do a lot of sun catchers, but have done four windows. 

Any suggestions? Thanks for your time.

A: Bob,

If I understand you the solder that doesn't look good is the solder that you are applying to the filigree itself in order to make it match the color of the rest of your piece. 

First the obvious. Are you cleaning the filigree before attempting to tin it? If the metal is looking less than bright you should clean it first with brass wool or steel wool. 

Is the filigree light gauge metal or relatively heavy? If the filigree is thick metal it may be sapping the heat from your iron too rapidly. Brass is a very good conductor of heat and heavy brass will conduct it out in all directions so quickly that the solder may freeze before it gets to even out. Try turning your temperature up and see if that helps. If you are working with an iron that is less than 80 watts or really large filigrees you may just need more oomph, (a larger iron).

Consider tinning the filigree over before applying it over the glass.

Don't try to spread the solder too thin unless there are really fine stamped in details that you need to let show through. A little extra solder will crown (bead) on the filigree and give it the same rounded highlights that your solder bead has.

If you've been using 50/50 solder, try 60/40 on the filigree parts of the project.

Don't be shy about adding flux and giving the brass a second pass after your first tinning pass. If the filigree was really dirty to start with try hitting it with plenty of flux while it is really hot so that the flux boils.

Mull these over some, try any that might help and let me know how you make out or give me more input and I'll see what else might be going on.

Gary Dodge

Reply: Re: Soldering Filigree

>I tried adding more flux and this seemed to be the key to getting it to look nice.

I always tin the pieces before I attach them to the glass.

>Thanks for your help. As usual most of my problems can be solved very simply.

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What is tinning?

Q: I have taken two stained glass classes and neither mentioned 'tinning' they did mention cleaning the tip of the iron.. is this the same thing. I don't remember how they did it or what was used. This seems to be an important step, according to everything I have read, but nowhere do I find 'how to' or explanations.. just 'do its'.

Help >>>

A: Tinning is the name for coating any solderable metal with a thin coat of solder. On copper or brass tinning is very easy. Just apply flux and rub a hot soldery iron tip across the metal and it quickly turns silver in color, it is tinned.

Tinning an iron tip is often more difficult. Many iron tips are plated with steel or other metals that don't tin easily and getting it tinned takes something with more oomph than plain flux. (Tips usually come pre-tinned to a certain height up the tip but I like mine tinned up higher, also very dirty tips need to be re-tinned.)

To get the tip to take a tin the best thing is a sal-ammoniac block. You need to get the tip very hot and rub it firmly against the block with solder. The block boils and gives off a heavy ammonia smoke and parts of the tip that formerly would not take solder now tin up nicely.

Galvanized wire is also resistant to tinning and soldering and must be fluxed and fully heated, then while still hot doused with flux. Repeat this several times until solder runs smoothly on it before soldering it to your project.

Hope this helps.

Gary Dodge

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Safely Turning Over a Large Panel

Q: Hi there,

I am fairly new in this field. But just love it. Although I am good at doing intricate designs etc--- I have a major problem. Recently I made a fairly large panel for a friend of mine and it turned out really beautiful but when I had done the rough soldering on one side and turned the panel to solder the other side a piece cracked. That is not the end of the story by the time I had finished doing the entire panel I must have cracked at least 4 or 5 of them. I got tired repairing it. Please give tips on handling the panel while creating it.



A: First, are you sure that the cracks occurred during handling? While this is possible it is much more common to crack a panel through improper soldering technique. Especially if you are laying the soldering iron tip down flat rather than using a corner of the tip, working with a dirty tip or letting solder overflow the copper foil onto the glass.

One clue as to the cause of your cracks is the way the glass breaks. Stress cracks that occur from bad handling of the panel are clean and fairly straight. Heat fractures are usually curved and kind of wiggly looking.

If the fractures are indeed from stress, then some improvements in handling are in order.

Once a panel gets much larger than a square foot it is at risk from the forces of gravity any time that it is not standing straight up or laying down flat.

The panels' own weight is its' worst enemy. Imagine a strip of glass a quarter of an inch wide and six inches long. It weighs just a couple of ounces. You can easily hold it parallel to the ground from one end with two fingers. All of the weight of the strip is applying a force to the glass right where you are holding it, similar to the force we apply when we cut glass. As you imagine holding longer and longer strips the weight is heavier and heavier so the force that the weight is applying at the point just past your fingers is greater and greater. When the strip gets long enough it will be so heavy that it will snap off right where you are holding it.

There are a lot of variables that come into play when handling a complex structure like a panel. Some pieces tend to reinforce one another while others can channel force to the weakest point in a narrow piece making it all the more vulnerable.

To safely handle any panel:

P.S. I have seen instances where cracks have originated from tiny bits of score line that were left on a piece. This happened when the worker ran off the score line and just moved the cutter over, leaving the unwanted score on their piece. 

Such abandoned score lines will forever be a weak spot in the glass.

Gary Dodge --------------------------See also November 98' tip

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Framing and Mounting finished work


What items are there to mount a stained glass panel against the inside of a window frame without a wood molding around the came. This will be installed in a new house which has white metal window frame. The customer doesn't want to purchase a wood frame. the lead came will be 1/4 inch "h". the window is a half moon shape approx. 35 inches wide and 35 high. Is there anything that is made to hold panels in place.

Thank you for your attention to this matter.



Hi Fia,

There aren't too many options that I am aware of for this. They make clear plastic clips that might work for this but I do not really like them. 

The best options in my opinion are the standard things. If you have a came bender you can bend a 1/4 or 1/2" zinc came to a nice radius around the panel. Then you could solder on little angle brackets made from a bent piece of sheet copper or zinc or whatever type sheet metal you can get hold of. Drill holes in one end of the brackets then solder the other end of the little brackets securely to the zinc channel and mount the panel with screws through the holes drilled in the brackets.

If you use the 1/2" zinc came you can even drill and countersink holes right through the came for screws. (You can paint the cames and brackets white if need be.)

The other main option I would use is to make the a panel very close in fit the opening and caulk it all the way around. (This will bring up issues of condensation. If possible drill weep holes into the space between the panel and the original window. Be sure to mount the panel in dry weather, and if you wish you could sprinkle a bit of silica gel into the air space to absorb moisture.)

Gary Dodge

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Foiling Deep Angles


I'm a beginner and would like some help on foiling those pieces that have deep > angles. How do you apply foil to those difficult pieces? Any suggestions?



Deep angles are different from tight curves, (which are addressed somewhere in the tips section of the web site) so I'll assume that deep angles are what you really mean.

When you have a true angle to foil, (which usually means you've used a band saw), it isn't possible to foil in the usual way without the foil cracking at the apex or deepest point in the angle, no matter how gradually or carefully you stretch (fold) the edges of the foil.

Since you can't prevent the foil from cracking anyway, go along with it. You can use a small scissors or an exacto to cut the foil at the deepest point in the notch, right up to the glass, both on the front and the back, before folding it down flat. Press everything down good and tight, then lay a small piece of foil across the glass where the point on the foil is missing, both on the front and on the back. Press this foil down very firmly. (Be sure the glass is really clean so the adhesive can work its' best.)

Using an x-acto knife trim the foil to a point on both front and back, following the natural line of the foil.

When soldering this area, be careful not to linger so long as to loosen the adhesive.

Hope this helps.

Gary Dodge

 The Help Desk


3-D assemblies

Beginning Stained Glass

Cutting Problems


Foiling and foil related problems

Finishes and Patinas

Handling Work In Progress

Lead Came Work


Soldering Problems


Should I buy a bandsaw?