Stained glass is a form of matter with gas, liquid and solid state properties. Glass is most like a super-cooled liquid. It captures light and glows from within. It is a jewel like substance made from the most ordinary materials: sand transformed by fire. Stained glass is an art form in which colored glass is cut into shapes to form pictures. The glass is held in place by metal strips soldered together to gives the stained glass strength and stability.
Stained glass has become very popular in the design of churches. The famous Rose Window of Notre Dame is made up of pictures that together form a geometric pattern, which creates the overall impression. The Rose Window’s name refers not to the scenes themselves but to the wooden or stone structure that supports the glass, which is radial and composed of many small, petal-like openings into which the glass is set. Often, fine details of the scene are painted on the colored glass, which is then heated to bond the paint to the glass, and thereby ‘stained’.
The glass used in stained glass is colored in the manufacturing process by the addition of salts that cause it to take on particular colors. Then the glass is made into sheets, from which individual pieces can be cut with glass cutting tools. The glass sheets can be made in a variety of textures, and the uneven or pebbly surface of some stained glass sheets gives the resultant picture a jeweled look when light passes through it.
Today, stained glass art is a popular hobby, and many people enjoy cutting and fitting together pieces of colored glass to form attractive pictures both large and small. When a piece of stained glass art is small and meant to be displayed in the window where it catches the sun, it is often called a suncatcher.
Creating beautiful stained-glass projects is a time-honored craft that combines the proper tools and materials with simple instructions for custom-designed windows, objects and suncatchers. Stained glass adds elegance and interest to any room with translucent colors in bold, vibrant and subtle shades. Making stained-glass suncatchers requires a pattern, specialized glass and soldering tools, along with an eye for color and attention to detail.
Make your own suncatcher
You can freehand a design or select a pattern online or from a coloring book. If you draw your own suncatcher, create lines on the picture to stipulate the size and cut of your glass pieces. The lines on your pattern indicate where the solder will be placed on your finished project. Beginners should select a pattern with larger pieces, since working with small sections of glass requires more skill. Number each section of your pattern consecutively. Make a copy of your suncatcher pattern.
Cut out each individual section of your suncatcher pattern. Place the cutouts on the stained glass and trace them with a grease pencil. Number the stained-glass pieces with the same numbers that are on the pattern piece. This will help you piece your project together.
Cut your stained-glass pieces with a glass cutter. Grind the edges with a glass grinder to smooth away any glass shards or rough edges. Wear gloves and safety glasses as you grind the glass. Stained-glass grinders use water to help keep the stained glass from shattering, but you should still observe safety procedures during this process.
Wrap the edges of each stained-glass section in copper tape. Assemble your pieces to create your stained-glass suncatcher according to the pattern. A metal tray or other fire-resistant work surface should be used when soldering.
Apply flux to one section of the stained glass where the copper tape meets. Solder the stained-glass pieces together. Alternately flux and solder your stained-glass suncatcher in small sections until you finish the side of the project that is facing you. Once it is cooled, flip your suncatcher over and solder the back in the same way.
Wrap the perimeter of your suncatcher in copper tape, add flux and run a line of solder around the edge. Place the metal hook where you’d like it and solder it in place.