Is there a proper way to number patterns?


Is there a proper way to number the pieces on your patterns?


Of course different types of designs call for different numbering schemes, but one of my favorite numbering systems I'll call the radial system. I start my numbers at the "one o'clock" position and proceed clockwise around the panel, spiraling in to the center.

For symmetrical panels I often don't use numbers at all, just letters like "TL" for top left, "TM" for top middle, etc. If there are three four or even five pieces in the same corner that are all easy to tell from one another they can all still be "TL"!

Also popular ........TML for top middle left , and on and on, as long as you can understand it yourself.

On very complicated panels it is advantageous to keep for instance all the leaves of a tree identified by a letter and a number, e.g. "L-27" for the twenty seventh leaf. Be careful that leaf twenty seven is close to leaf twenty six and so on, or you may find yourself spending a lot of time just looking for where things go.

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Here is the Dilemma;

I made an 8 ft. window for a client, and I have only ever done 3 other lead projects. I usually work in copper foil. Anyway, when the guy that came to do the installation came & tried to install it, he broke a slightly curved piece on the edge. Okay, I thought I can probably figure out how to fix it. Well, then as he was getting ready to move it back into his truck, he stepped on a piece, almost to the top of the window, and a piece that goes from one edge to the other. It is framed out in 1/2" zinc, U came, and done in 1/4" reinforced lead came. I have no idea how to fix these pieces! PLEASE HELP!!!

Thanks., Lynn



Of course I could probably give you better advice if I could see what you've got there, perhaps this will be all the help you'll need.

First, if the cames are a fairly wide profile flat came, sometimes you can carefully lift (pry up) the leaf of the lead cames, only cutting it in the corners, and slide a new slightly smaller piece into the zinc came that frames the piece and down into the lead cames that you had pried up. Then bend the leafs of the cames flat again. Re-solder the corners where you had cut them, then cement it so the glass will stay put.

If the cames are not wide leafed or very high round profiles, you will probably need to disassemble the window down to the broken pieces and reassemble it. The big secret here is to avoid trying to use your iron to undo the joints. If you don't have a razor saw, you should go to most any hardware store and pick one up. (They fit into the large plastic X-acto type handles and cost about $7 to $10.00)

Use the saw to saw the joints apart. Carefully cut flush into each soldered joint you wish to get apart, right where the cames meet. Saw them apart both front and back. If they are not totally free you may need to flex the came a bit to break it loose, or use an exacto knife to finish the job. Cut new glass (if you can remove the old glass without breaking it up too much, you can hold the pieces together with tape and use them as a pattern), and reassemble the window. 

Note, that sometimes is helps to just score the old glass up in a criss cross pattern with a glass cutter and tap it with the ball end of your cutter to smash it out, rather than trying to remove it in large pieces. This will make it easier to saw the joints apart.

Hope this helps.

Gary Dodge

Help Desk Extension


There are a lot of questions that need to be answered before I can give you a satisfactory answer to your problem. Right now my first thought is that your problem may be more one of personal expectations.

Often beginners have a misguided notion that the pieces of glass should be cut to an unrealistic degree of precision. If you are hoping to cut your glass and leave only the exact amount of room that will allow you to foil the glass leaving all your pieces tightly packed together with no spaces whatsoever in between, your expectations are misguided. If you were to take the time to carefully grind all your pieces to get that kind of fit, your results might look nice but the work would be fatally flawed.

It is essential that there be spaces between the glass so that solder can flow in between your pieces of glass. This allows the solder bead on the front of your piece to connect with the solder bead on the back. Without this connection, your piece is only as strong as the copper foil that it is wrapped in. You have glass with a filigree of solder on the front and back sides but no structural strength!

Hope this helps...... (Remember, you are not building a watch or a spacecraft. It just has to look good and be strong.)

Follow-up question:

I have a feeling you are right and my expectations are a bit incorrect. I did have the expectation that prior to foiling, after all the pieces are cut and have been ground, that you are supposed to basically put the piece together, looking for any one piece that does not fit exactly or match the pattern that you lay it out on. Also ensuring that all the pieces fit inside the pattern. Then push it together to ensure that there is pretty much a glass to glass fit. (looking for unwanted bumps) Then upon foiling, layout the piece again, pushing the pieces as close together as possible so you cannot see through the pieces. (And without buckling.) Is this correct? This was to eventually achieve a perfect solder line. My expectation was that if all the pieces were as such, then you would have no "filling" to do. "Filling" was bad or not necessarily good even a little bit. Is that correct? If doing a little filling is ok, then I feel MUCH better.


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Hi ! -

When tinning the edges of a sun catcher, what causes those horrible solder sharpies that usually appear on the corners? These hurt worse than any glass cut and I really would like to avoid them.

Thanks for your help.


Without seeing exactly what your sharpies look like I can't be sure, but if I understand correctly they are fairly needle like and made entirely of solder and they form in a manner similar to making peaks in meringue pie topping. As you draw the iron away from the work you draw up a peak in the solder, (not an outcropping of the foil). 

If so, then your problem is that you are not using enough flux or not adding more flux when needed. Let me know if this sounds right.


Solder meringue is it! I'll flux (but not to much) and see how this works. Just for the record, I was reading your tips on flux, and depending on what I'm doing, I usually have better flux luck with the paste kind vs. the liquid kind. The liquid kind for me tends to spit more. However, when tinning a piece of copper wire (for a fishing pole or something), the paste tends to spit and give me those black things on the wire ( It almost looks like ash). Does flux go bad? Any more tips for fluxing luck would be appreciated. 


Follow-up response:

There are liquid fluxes and there are liquid fluxes. The absolute worst is made by the same company that makes my favorite! There are a ton of other brands that fall between the two extremes.

I find that the brand I use stays on the longest without re- fluxing, runs the most even and shiny bead and has less of a tendency to spit. The ones that spit worst are as thin as water, not that my favorite is very thick.

Be careful not to create pools of flux, and when soldering the second side of a piece use less flux and brush it more to spread it well. ( When soldering the second side, steam can no longer vent out the back so boiling is more of a problem.)

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Hello - 

My biggest problem when doing my stained glass projects is when I have to cut out a small piece such as an angels face or hair and getting that piece to fit properly. I have tried using the pattern shears (which are hard to manipulate) and even regular scissors (or manicure scissors work well for lots of curves). On a good day the pattern is cut out perfect. I thought I cut the glass piece out perfect, using either my band saw or grinder. But alas, when I have to fit that piece, there are parts that are too big and too small. I don't have that "perfect" glass to glass fit. My only choice is to re-cut (perhaps several times) or to re-cut the adjoining pieces. My final icky choice is to just grind the parts that are too big and fill the rest with solder. Any tips at all???? 

Desperate for the perfect fit.....


Here's another question for you since you have been great for me!! 

How does one go about making the small rings to attach to the stained glass? 

Also what is the easiest way to attach these rings on a small piece? I find that I don't seem to have enough hands. 

Also when laying a bead should the solder be held on the top side of the iron?

Thanks for your help, Bill


Hi Bill,

I usually just buy small jump rings to use, but if you want to make your own rings, it is pretty simple. All you need is a wire cutter, a dowel or metal rod, and maybe a pair of locking pliers will help. For the size rings I like I use a 1/8" brass rod. Just wrap some wire of the gauge you prefer, probably something in the 19 gauge range, around the rod in tight coils like a spring. (That's where you might need the pliers to hold the end securely.) Then just slide the wire off the rod and just snip rings off the coil!

As for attaching the rings, use a hemostat , (surgical clamp) They are available at radio shack, (or at Dodge Studio, if you can get here.) The hemostat has finger holes at the handle like a scissors, but locks shut and allows you to clamp things into the pointy jaw. Then you can handle tiny things easily. I lay the suncatcher on the table and set a roll of solder on top so it won't slide away as I solder the ring on. (Pre-tin the ring for a sure attachment).

Finish by carrying a dab of solder on your iron tip and apply it to the point where the ring touches your piece.  Make sure that your attachment point has either a good strong edge bead or is located at a solder junction so the foil won't pull off under the weight.

Gary Dodge

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Hi Gary,

I just found your web page and I think it's great. 

I have a question about stained glass. When I have completed a piece of glass and have polished it, within a very short time, on the solder appears a white residue. I have tried washing the piece with water and vinegar, but this still happens. (This happened on all the glass that I have made). 

I'm wondering if it has anything to do with the water where I live. Can you think of anything to correct this problem. It's driving me crazy.

Answer :

Your problem is not uncommon. The vinegar is probably just the WRONG thing to be using though. The problem is usually caused by not getting rid of all the acidity in the flux and vinegar is another acid, only making things worse. You need to try washing the finished piece with baking soda, which neutralizes acids. (And yes, if the water in your area is very acidic, this can add to the problem.)

After you wash and dry the piece you can help further by waxing the piece with either Kem-o-Pro stained glass finishing compound, or a car wax with carnuba wax.

You might also try a different brand of flux and / or a different brand of solder.

Hope this helps.

Gary Dodge

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Dear Dodge Studio;

I have had an interest in stained glass but have never done anything with stained glass.

Can you help with some information on how to get started. I know I would enjoy doing a few small projects.

Please help if you can. I need to know what tools and what kind of glass and where can I purchase these at. Any information will be great.

Thanks, Tammy 


If at all possible the best way to get started is with a stained glass class in a professional studio. Check the yellow pages under "Glass stained and leaded". 

If there are no studios in your area you can consider a course in one of the adult education programs offered by schools, colleges and community centers. There are several possible drawbacks to this type of class. Often the organizers fail to properly qualify instructors who may be little more than hobbyists and can teach some really bogus stuff. Also the instructor has to carry the supplies back and forth to the class so your glass and supply selection may be very limited. Also you miss out on the whole studio experience. Seeing the work of a professional instructor, both in the showroom and perhaps even more interesting and inspiring, works in progress. You may also miss out on access to some of the specialized tools and machines in this setting.

If you have no other choice you can get an instructional book and go it alone, but this can prove frustrating. (I still remember what that was like almost 30 years ago).

As for the tools you'll need: the bare minimums are:

Glass cutter, 

Waterproof marker

combination breaking/grozing pliers (there is no common tool box substitute), 

sickle stone to smooth edges, 

soldering iron (not a gun) typically 80 watt or higher, although Ungar makes a 45 watt that is adequate

Temperature control, (if you use the 45 watt you can probably get away without this in the beginning)

Iron stand, (you can use a large tin can to start out)

Later on you'll want some of the amenities like a glass grinder etc.

Exacto knife, scissors or pattern shear (a three bladed scissors for cutting patterns)

Board, ceiling tile or homosote for soldering on.


Glass, copper foil or lead came, flux, solder, patina (optional to color metal on the finished piece), poster board for making patterns, carbon paper for transferring patterns, oil for the glass cutter.

I don't think I've left any of the essentials out. All this should run under $150.00 not including the grinder, unless you go with all the top drawer tools and even then you should come in under $200.00

If you can't find a shop in your area I'd be happy to find a couple of names of mail order places for you, but you should really experience a good shop if at all possible.

Good luck and have fun, Gary Dodge Dodge Studio Designs

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Hello there,

I don't know the first thing about doing stained glass, but I would really like to get started. I was wondering if you had any beginner tips, books you can recommend or anything to help me get started on some simple 2-D designs. Any help would be greatly appreciated!

Thank You!




There are a number of good books out there, I would probably recommend one that focuses on copper foil technique as most people enjoy it more than lead came. 

The best beginner advice I can give is to make the simplest thing you can think of as a first project. No panels, just a tulip suncatcher or something. It can come out completely messed up and it will still be a tulip! If a panel doesn't fit right you won't be able to complete it at all. 

Also be aware that all the tools can feel very foreign and awkward in the beginning. This is natural, it will pass.

Good luck and enjoy,

Gary Dodge


I've been working with glass for several years but seldom am satisfied with my soldering. It never seems to be as smooth and even as I'd like it. I start out with a good foil job making it even and smoothing it out very flat with my lathkin. I have an adjustable thermostat to help regulate the heat of my iron. I have several irons one being a Weller that will get quite hot. It's like an 80 watt. I also have a 100 watt.

Just how do you apply your solder. I use 60/40 solid core solder,of course. I find it especially difficult to make a thick edge around the edge and often end up tinning in frustration. Thanks for any suggestions.

Sincerely, Chicki



Here are the basics.

Finally, as far as building a good edge bead, we have detailed instructions in both our Holiday Portfolio and Creatures 

Great and Small books.

If you would like a free reprint of these instructions, US residents send a self addressed envelope with “forever” postage to:

Dodge Studio Designs

1021 Route 82

Hopewell Jct., NY 12533-6139

Write the words "Edge Bead" in the lower left corner of the envelope.


Hi ! -

When tinning the edges of a sun catcher, what causes those horrible solder sharpies that usually appear on the corners? These hurt worse than any glass cut and I really would like to avoid them.

Thanks for your help.

Gary Dodge

If you did get all of your glass to fit exactly before the foil goes on, it wouldn't fit anymore after you foil it! 

Foil, while kind of thin, can't be ignored. It does have enough thickness to it to change the fit of your glass and you MUST leave room between your glass pieces for it.

Second, if you can't see through the foiled pieces anywhere, your solder can't get between your pieces of glass, and if solder can't flow through from front to back your piece will be too weak and may fail in time.


I saw stained glass suncatchers at the store and the metal was very shiny. Is there some kind of patina I can use to get this look?


The short answer to your question is no.

In all likelihood what you have seen is work that has been nickel plated in a commercial electroplating tank. There have been several attempts at making electroplating accessible to the hobbyist but in general electroplating equipment is both expensive and bulky, requiring use (and safe disposal) of toxic chemicals.

If you have never tried the cleaner/wax products available (we use a product called Kem-O-Pro Stained Glass Finishing Compound), check them out. While no match for a real electroplating job, with a bit of elbow grease you can give your shine a big boost and even add a silky feel to the glass. The carnuba wax in these products will also help to prevent oxidation of your metals.

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Why is it when I tin the edges of a project, sometimes the edges don't stay tight? They lift up and are rough.


There are several factors that may be contributing to your problem. 

1) You may be getting poor adhesion of your foil due to foiling dirty glass or not pressing the edges down firmly enough. 

2) You may be using a light gauge foil. I have found thin foils such as .001 will pucker more readily than a full strength foil like .0015.

3) Your iron may be too hot. A very hot iron will cause extreme and rapid expansion of your foil and the heat also softens the adhesive allowing it to lift.

SIDE NOTES: Usually after the work has cooled a bit it is possible to press foil that has puckered flat again with no ill effects. I can't tell from your question if you intend to leave your project with a tinned edge, but I would not recommend it. A tinned edge is not structurally sound. It adds no strength to the project and will quickly lift and pull away if the project is washed well in a sink full of hot soapy water. We always build up a high round solder bead on the edges of all our work.

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