The Art of Stained Glass: Part 2

Today I’m continuing on with part two of my stained glass window building project. In part one I showed you the first steps of creating a window — designing, transferring and cutting out your pattern (check it out here if you missed it!).

Once your pattern is ready, it’s time to bring out the glass.

When it comes to selecting glass, there’s a variety of choices in color, transparency, texture and pattern. Cathedral glasses are transparent in appearance meaning they will let a lot of light through. Some are machine rolled and some are mouth blown antiques (my favorites). Opalescent glass comes in various densities and color mixtures and as you can guess by it’s name, is opaque in appearance allowing less light to show through. You also have to consider how the window will be displayed as all glasses, some more than others, look different depending on the light shining through, or lack thereof.
Above are a few of the glasses I selected for my window, they are all opalescents. The blue is for the water and is smooth in texture and uniform in color. The brighter green is for the lilypads and it has some faint swirling throughout. The darker green is a textured glass and is for the underwater stems.

Here is the glass I chose for the sky. There are many glasses available that are made up of multiple colors, like this sheet, which can create beautiful effects without having to use paints.
I don’t feel comfortable handling the big sheets, so I let Tyler do the dirty work 🙂
Once you select your glass, you layout your pattern pieces on each sheet to decide which area of the glass you will use, what direction you want the grain to go and how much glass you will need. When using a multicolored sheet, this is an especially important step as you want to make sure the colors and patterning flow properly across the finished piece and that you use the area of the glass with the colors you like best. When there is no texture, patterning or direction to a sheet, you simply lay out the pattern pieces to minimize waste.

Now you’re ready to cut! The tools are simple, a cutter, pliers and a small jar of kerosene which you can see in the opening photo.

The glass cutter, shown left, has a small carbide steel wheel on one end which is used to score the glass.
The breaking pliers, shown right, are dipped in a liquid rubber product which coats the ends to keep the metal off the glass. These are used to grip small pieces of glass and aid in splitting after a score is made with the cutter.
To cut a piece of glass, what you’re actually doing is scoring the glass to create a weak spot for the break to follow. You first dip your cutter in the kerosene to lubricate the wheel. With your pattern piece held firmly in place, you begin your score at one end and trace along the paper pattern going towards your body, finishing by running your score off the edge of the glass. You then use your hands or pliers to break off the piece you scored.
You then continue these steps around each side of the pattern until the piece is cut to shape. For simpler shapes, you can score multiple sides of a pattern piece at once before breaking it out.
And now, for the first time ever on the lillyella blog – live action footage! Hold onto your seat, this one’s exciting, but be warned, if you don’t like the sound of fingernails on a chalkboard, you might not like this, though Tyler thinks it sounds like frying bacon…
Though this may look like a fairly simple thing to do, it’s actually quite the opposite. Aside from trying to follow right to the edge of your pattern piece, depending on the hardness of the glass, you often have to push quite hard to achieve a good score which takes some strength. Tyler can practically do it with his eyes closed, while my shaky hands prove I am a hobbyist at best.

When cutting your pieces, anything less than perfection is unacceptable. And I mean perfection. Your glass needs to match your pattern exactly. Yeah, you can get by with a 1/32 overhang here or there, but that’s what separates the men from the boys and a really good window from a bad one. Every little imperfection will affect the final production of the window, how well your pieces line up when building it and how it fits in its frame. The goal is to get it right the first time, but for those of us who aren’t quite perfect, meet my friend, the grinder.

For smaller pieces and tiny imperfections, you can use a router type grinder. A diamond coated bit spins and is cooled by water, removing any burs and flared edges.

For large pieces and straight edges, a belt grinder/sander is used. This machine is also cooled by water and has interchangeable belts of different grits. This machine is also used to smooth edges of tabletops, shelves etc.
As pieces are cut, you lay them back in place on top of your original cartoon to double check your colors and glass selections and get ready to start building!
The bottom two photos above are a good example of what I mentioned previously about glass looking different when lit. Notice on the left how the bottom of the waterlily is much lighter than the pad when no light is showing through but how once lit, the pads become much lighter and the waterlily bottom much darker. You’ll also see though, that the sky doesn’t really look all that much different, it just depends on the specific sheet of glass.
Now all my pieces are cut and I’m ready to start building, which I’ll cover in my next and final installment!

24 thoughts on “The Art of Stained Glass: Part 2

  1. vadjutka says:

    Beautiful window you will have – and you are doing an amazing job!

    Yeah, cutting glass seems easy, but it is not – I cannot count how many times I cut my hands with glass while I was fusing glass.


  2. ArtMind says:

    Nicole, it is already looking gorgeous! Thanks SO much for sharing this project – I love it! It will be such a cool piece to have in your new home! Happy weekend, sweet! 🙂


  3. mandywillard says:

    AMAZING! I don't know how I missed the first part of this! How exciting to build your own stained glass masterpiece!! It is beautiful! This is so interesting! Thanks for sharing!


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