Nov 8, 2009


When working on stained glass, the right tool for the job facilitates developing your skills. Tools not only make learning easier and more enjoyable, but they will save the waste of glass and time.

Glass Cutters. There are many different types of glass cutters on the market today. Choosing the proper cutter is the most important decision you must make as you embark on your new hobby.

Steel Wheel Cutters are inexpensive but usually not long-lasting. They must be replaced frequently as they become dull. There are steel wheel cutters which are good for general purpose cutting, production cutting, or pattern cutting. Some are good for cutting soft glass, others for hard glass. The size of the wheel and the angle of the bevel on the wheel determines this and differs from model to model. Pistol grip cutters produce more pressure than others.

Tungsten Carbide Cutters are more expensive than steel wheel cutters, but far outlast them in durability. Self-lubricating cutters, a rather recent innovation, eliminate the need to constantly lubricate your cutter between scores.

Circle or Lens Cutter. Several varieties of circle cutters are available which will cut circles 1/2" to 24" in diameter. Some types also have detachable strip cutting guides to cut straight strips of glass.

Lubricant. Glass cutting lubricant or oil is generally a half and half mixture of kerosene and a light oil. This cutting lubricant serves to clean off little slivers of glass that cling to the wheel of your glass cutter and interfere with the wheel spinning freely. It also helps prevent the score line from sealing itself which can prevent you from breaking the glass even though the score line is still visible. Commercially prepared lubricants are available.

Breaking Pliers (Nippers)Glass breaking pliers are used to break off pieces of glass at the score line. The widths of the jaws of breakers range from 1/4" to 1". Breakers with smaller jaws can more easily handle narrow angles and sharp curves. The wider-jawed models will break off long strips of glass best. A breaker with 1/2" jaws is very versatile. Breakers with serrated jaws also double for grozers.

Running Pliers. The concave and convex jaws of running pliers will "run" a score line from one end of the glass to another. The score line in the glass is lined up directly with the notch in the upper jaw, and the handles are squeezed gently, resulting in a clean break along the score line. Some models of runners are adjustable for thickness of glass.

Grozing Pliers. The jaws of grozers are serrated and used to gently remove small pieces of glass which remain after the glass has been scored and broken.

Carborundum File. Smooths the sharp, rough, jagged edges of your glass.

Grinder. Water-fed grinders, mounted with diamond bits, quickly and efficiently remove and smooth rough edges of glass without chipping. Grinders are available in many different models and price ranges.

Lead Came. A material used to hold glass pieces in place. Generally sold in 6 ft. strips.

Copper Foil. Used as one method of wrap and bind glass pieces. Generally sold in 36-yard rolls. Available in 5/32", 3/16", 7/32", 1/4", 5/16", 3/8", and 1/2" widths.

Lead Vise. This inexpensive tool can be attached to your workbench for quick and easy straightening and stiffening of lead came.

Lead Knife. A good lead knife is a valuable tool to cut and miter lead came. Lead knives can perform many functions. A knife with a weighted handle doubles as a hammer to tap a piece of glass in place.

Lead Cutting Pliers. Cuts lead came straight or at mitered angles.

Sharpening Stone. Use a carbide stone to keep your lead knife sharp.

Solder. Used to join lead or copper foiled edges together. Solder is 1/8" in diameter and is sold in one to 25 pound spools. The best solder is made from pure, virgin metals and should be 60% tin and 40% lead (60/40). 50/50 is also acceptable. DO NOT USE solder which has a resin, rosin, flux or acid core.

Soldering Irons. An 80-150 watt iron will suffice for lead or foil methods. The Weller W-100 and GT7A Tempmatic are suitable.

Fids or Lathkins. Fids or lathkins are available in hardwood or plastic in a variety of shapes. They are used to open the channel of lead came, press the leaves of the lead tight against the glass, and burnish the copper foil against the glass.

Flux. Available in paste or liquid, this substance cleans and prepares the surface to be soldered. Apply it with an acid brush wherever you will be soldering.

Sal-Ammoniac Block. Used to clean and re-tin the tip of a soldering iron.

Horseshoe Nails. Used to hold pieces of glass in place while leading. The flat sides of these nails will not mar your lead channeling. Two dozen horseshoe nails are sufficient for most projects.

Putty. Used to weatherproof and strengthen lead projects. Use DAP-33 Metal Sash Putty or any putty preparation made specifically for use with stained glass.

Small Wire Brush. Deoxidizes lead came.

3/8" Sharpened Wooden Dowel. For removing excess putty from leaded pieces: dowel may be sharpened in common pencil sharpener.

Whiting, Plaster of Paris, or very fine sawdust. Any of these can be used in the final clean-up process of leading.

Patina. Patinas are chemical mixtures that will produce a bright copper, weathered copper, dull gray, or black finish when applied to lead came or soldered copper foil pieces.

Copper Wire. 18-20 gauge can be used to make loops for hanging lightweight projects.

Ruler or Straight Edge. To help you draw and cut straight lines.

Safety Glasses. It is always a good idea to wear safety glasses to protect your eyes from any flying glass particles.

Light Table Box. Light tables are great additions to any stained glass workshop. They facilitate cutting dark and opalescent glasses which you can't normally see through to cut. They are also used in layout. With light coming through the glass you can juxtapose pieces of your glass to check for color and texture compatibility.

A light table or box is usually made of wood fitted with fluorescent or other light fixtures and covered with frosted glass. The inside is usually painted white or lined with tine foil to reflect the light upwards. If a light box is used to cut on, make sure the glass is thick enough to withstand the pressure exerted in cutting. One-fourth inch plate or acrylic glass is commonly used for this purpose.

Pattern Shears. Pattern shears are specially designed three-bladed scissors which are used to cut out patterns. The middle blade cuts out the allowance for the heart of the lead came or copper foil. Different shears are available for lead or foil work. The allowance for lead came is usually 1/16"; foil allowance is 1/32".

Pattern Knife. Knives with double razor blades properly spaced for the lead came or foil allowance are also available for pattern cutting.

Stiff Bristle Brush. Used in puttying and cleaning up process of leading.

Bench Brush. Keep one handy to clean chips from your work surface!

Glass Marking Pen. A fine-line felt tip pen with permanent ink can be used to mark your pattern directly on the glass or to mark areas that need grinding or grozing. Use black for light-colored glass; white, gold or silver for darker glass.

Workboard with lath strips. Plywood or soft particle board, larger than the size of your project, is a good work surface.

Use the links to your left to search through the Warner-Crivellaro inventory for many popular brands of tools. Also, many glass shops, studios, and community colleges offer instruction and workshops to help you get started.

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