|Stained Glass Window Construction
There are two Types of Stained Glass Construction
The stained glass panel is built on a board on top of a cartoon or pattern which is bordered by
edging so the panel will not “grow” during construction. The U channel lead or zinc came placed
within the edging will become the frame of the piece. Next the first piece of glass is cut to fit into
the U channel and over its corresponding area on the pattern. A piece of lead “H” came (mentally
rotate the H so it is lying on it side) is wrapped around the exposed edge of the glass. Next, an
adjoining piece of glass is cut and installed and then that piece has it exposed edge wrapped in
lead “H” came. This alternating glass/lead process is repeated until all the pieces are in place.
Before starting, we have to plan the order in which the glass pieces are inserted, usually working
from an upper corner to the opposite lower corner of the window. Once all the pieces are
assembled, all of the intersecting lead joints are soldered both front and back. Next the panel is
puttied on both sides. Then it is cleaned with calcium carbonate which is spread over the panel and
worked into the came with a putty brush. The putty strengthens and water proofs the window. The
calcium carbonate helps harden the putty and also cleans and polishes the lead and glass.
On larger windows, brass or steel re-bar, is soldered externally on to the lead panel to re-enforce it.
In the early design phase it is important to know where these re-bars will be placed so they impact
the design as little as possible. Zinc, copper, or brass came can be substituted for lead came. Their
respective strengths make a panel more rigid and much stronger. The came needs to be cut with a
miter box or came saw which adds considerable more time to construction. These colored metals
can be chosen for design purposes. At the same time, because of their stiffness, they do not adapt
well to exaggerated curves and limit the design lines.
Panels constructed using the leaded method can be more difficult to repair than copperfoil panels.
Leaded panels are built of interlocking pieces which build on one another. So if you have a broken
piece in the middle, you need to remove all of the adjacent pieces to reach it.
Again, the panel is built on a board on top of a pattern
which is bordered by edging so the panel cannot grow
during construction. In this method the frame is added
after the panel has been assembled. The glass pieces are
cut and ground to fit their respective places on the
pattern. The copper foil method allows for much smaller
pieces and greater detail. The edge of each piece of glass
is wrapped in copper foil which has an adhesive backing.
The foil is overlapped on the front and back of each piece,
smoothed down and trimmed. As each piece is foiled it is
held in place with pins or tack soldered into place so it will
not shift out of position. After all of the pieces are foiled,
the foil lines are soldered on the front and on the back.
There is much more soldering in the copperfoil method. If
you think about it, we are actually creating our own
customized “came” in a copper foil panel. Unlike the
leaded method of construction, the copperfoil method
allows us to cut any piece of glass in any order. We usually
start with the largest pieces. After all the glass pieces are
soldered, the U channel frame is added. The solder lines
can be left its natural color, silver, or the solder lines can
be changed to black or copper color by applying a patina.
As with a leaded glass panel, if the copperfoil panel
exceeds certain dimensions it, too, will need to be re-
enforced. This can be done in two ways. A strong, flexible
copper band (re-strip) can be threaded between some of
the foiled panel pieces. Using re-strip allows for hidden re-
enforcement. The other method is the same as in the
leaded panel; external brass or steel re-bars are soldered
onto the panel. Again, in the early design phase, it is
important to know where these re-bars are to be placed so
they impact the design as little as possible.
Copperfoil is the preferred method for cabinet door
windows because they are much lighter in weight than
|Example of copper foil
construction method before
|Example of leaded