Making Stained Glass Equipment

As with all things, there is essential equipment and then there is would be nice to have equipment.

Essential Equipment

Glass Cutter

Cutting glass is not difficult, but you do need a good glass cutter. There are various glass cutters to choose from. My personal favorite glass cutter is the pistol cutter. It is important to choose a cutter that works well for you, as this is a stained glass tool you will use constantly.

There are basically two types of cutters, one with steel wheels and those with tungsten carbide wheels.

Cutters with steel wheels tend to be less expensive but, usually don’t last very long. The steel wheel becomes dull after repetitive use and must be replaced. Steel wheels are good for general purpose or softer glass. The size of the wheel and angle of the bevel on the wheel will determine how hard of a glass it can score.

Tungsten carbide wheels are more expensive than steel wheels. There durability tends to out weigh the cost difference. Many are self-lubricating which can save time.

Glass Grinders

Grinders are used to smooth out cuts and insure exact fitting, as well as to lessen the chance of cutting yourself. The alternative to a grinder is a diamond file. This is less expensive, but the time and effort needed far out weights buying a grinder.

When choosing a grinder consider the size of the work surface, the power of the grinder and the accessories included such as bits, face shield and foot switch.. Additional considerations should be the warranty and price

Soldering Iron

There are a wide variety of different manufactures, types and sizes of soldering irons. Most soldering irons range from 60 to 150 watts with tip sizes ranging from 1/8 inch to 3/8 inch. When choosing your iron check out how long it takes to heat up, how long it holds the correct temperature, does it have a temperature controller and are the tips removable.

Probably, the most important thing to consider when doing stained glass soldering, is to choose an iron that feels comfortable in your hand. If the iron is not comfortable, then this will more than likely show up in your solder lines.

Yes, price it a factor, but remember, a good quality soldering iron will last for years and give professional results.

Soldering Iron Stand

After choosing your soldering iron, you will need to purchase a soldering stand. The stand can be simple or elaborate. The simple ones hold your iron and sponge, whereas, the more expensive ones will have a built-in temperature controller, iron stand, sponge, power cord, a solder roll holder, flux bottle well, brush and a catch-all tray. Needless to say, the more elaborate ones will cost more.

Temperature Controller

If your iron does not include a built-in temperature controller, then you will definitely need a separate controller. Using a temperature controller will maintain a constant temperature for your soldering iron.

Breaking Pliers and Grozer Pliers

These two hand tools are used for breaking glass. Breaking pliers are used after you score a line and want to break the glass. Grozer pliers are used for breaking away small areas of glass.

Semi-Optional Equipment

Foiler Burnisher

A foiler burnisher is used with Tiffany construction (copper foil). This tool will allow you to securely press and adhere the copper foil to the glass. A burnisher is an inexpensive tool though you could use a tongue depressor.

Table Foiler

A table foiler automatically peels off the paper backing, centers it to the edges of the glass and partially crimps it. Using a table foiler will also eliminate copper foil from unwinding and becoming tangled.

Came Saw

Came saws are used to cut metal came in either zinc, brass or copper. Came saws range from a manual model to a power mitre chop saw.

A manual came saw consist of a precision saw and a mitre vise. This is the least expensive of all came saws, but will require more time and effort. Electric power came saws range from 90 to 250 watt units. Blade sizes vary from 2 inches to 5 ¾ inches.

All came saws adjust from 0 to 45 degrees allowing for proper mitres.

The more powerful the came saw, the easier it will cut, not to mention durability.

Cork-Backed Stainless Steel Ruler

This is a steel ruler that is backed in cork. This is nice when drawing or cutting lines on glass. The cork backing eliminates the ruler from slipping.

Soft Bristle Scrub Brush

The soft bristle scrub brush is great for polishing your stained glass. With its soft bristles, it is able to get into the tiniest crevices.

A Fid

This inexpensive tool is used to widen came. This becomes very important when using heavily textured glass.

Optional Stained Glass Tools

Glass Saw

A glass saw is a nice addition to a stained glass workshop. With a glass saw you can make intricate cuts that otherwise would not be possible.

Glass saws can be a ring saw, band saw or wire saw. A ring saw has a circular diamond coated blade that allows you to cut in all directions. The band saw has a linear diamond coated blade and can cut glass up to ¾ of an inch thick. The wire saw has the thinnest blade giving you more flexibility for cutting intricate shapes and narrow cut lines.

All three types of saws come with various built-in features. It is up to you as to which one to choose. It needs to meet your own personal needs.

Came Bender

The came bender will perform precision curves on zinc, brass and copper came. This means greater design freedom when rigid came is used. With the came bender you can make circular and oval panels.

Copper Foil Sheers

These are specially designed sheers that will cut paper pattern pieces leaving the correct spacing needed for copper foil or lead.

Layout Blocks

These are used to hold cut pieces of glass together until you are ready to solder.

Glass Cutting Systems

There is a variety of glass cutting systems available. These systems will allow you to make repetitive and geometric shapes. Some of the more popular systems include Morton Portable Glass Shop, Circle and Strip Cutters, and Jitter Bug.

Light Box

The light box is nice for drawing patterns and viewing glass combinations.

Glass Drills

Glass drills are use to drill holes in glass.

Stained Glass Projects

A stained glass panel is basically a one dimensional art work that is usually hung on a wall or in front of a window. It can also be inserted into an existing opening or cabinet. When hung in front of a light source (window), the glass seems to come alive.

The design of a panel is unlimited. Any subject may be represented by using different colors of glass as well as textures. The focus of these panels can range from nature scenes, cars, geometrics, southwestern, religious, quilts, holidays, etc. Your choices are unlimited. If you can see it or dream it, you can build it.

Projects can include logos which can add an inspirational touch to your office or business.

The shape of a panel can be round, oval, oblong, square or any other shape that fits your need. Glass panels are very versatile and can easily become the center point of attention.

Panel can be displayed anywhere within your home or business.

In essence, stained glass panels are all about tangibly creating what is in your mind and allowing others to experience that part of you!

3D Projects

3D projects are multi-dimensional. They provide a unique element to the setting. Common 3D projects that are frequently made include boxes, clocks, centerpieces, Tiffany lamps and kaleidoscopes. Other designs abound. Dream!

Doors and Sidelights Projects

Stained glass doors and sidelights add depth and beauty to your home. They provide your guests with an inviting entrance to your home. When viewed from the outside at night, with light on inside, one can’t help but notice the beauty displayed.

Mirror Projects

A mixture of glass and the use of mirror can add exciting design elements to your home. Simple additions of stained glass edges or designs incorporated in or around the mirror panels will provide unique ways to reflect images. Insertion of overlays on mirror panels is another attractive way of producing mirrored projects.

Fireplace Screens

Fireplace screens serve both functionality and add a design element to your home. It can be made from a variety of glass including beveled glass or custom designed. Many varieties of screens are available and can include geometrics or other scenes similar to glass panels. Fireplace screens can be custom designed to meet your specific needs. We recently made a custom designed screen for our client’s new home encompassing their love of horses.

Cabinet Projects

A stained glass cabinet door insert can be used to update or provide a design element to your kitchen. Contrasting the wood of the cabinets with the coloring and design of the new insert makes the cabinet and its surrounding areas come alive. Built-ins are another area where glass inserts can be used.

Quilt Projects

Stained glass quilts are made by using actual quilting patterns. Instead of cutting material, you cut glass. No, you won’t be able to wrap it around yourself, but it will look beautiful hanging in the window or on your wall.


Sun catchers are a small piece usually adhered to a panel of glass by a suction cup hook. These can be made using scraps of glass. Their size is usually under 10 inches. These are fun and easy stained glass projects to do.


There are a wide variety of items to be made for the holidays. You can choose to make ornaments which may be one or three dimensional. Why not make a valentine heart or shamrock. The choices are only limited by your imagination.


Mosaics are artwork that can be applied to almost any surface or object. Mosaics are created by choosing a pattern and then cutting and applying usually smaller and tinier pieces of scrap glass to create a specific shape or design. Additionally, these pieces are adhered to the object of your choice and then grouted. Some ideas for making additional mosaics include stepping stones or decorative garden accessories.

Stained Glass Construction – Leaded Vs Foiled

There are two ways to make stained glass, leaded or copper foiled. The major difference between the two is in the construction. With leaded, the glass is fitted into channels of lead came. In contrast, copper foiled, is constructed by wrapping each piece of glass with copper foil.

Leaded stained glass historically is found in churches. It was during the Victoria Era where leaded  glass was introduced into homes and has remained a popular method of constructing stained glass ever since.

Foiled glass was mastered by Tiffany in the early 1900’s and soon after became a popular method for creating stained glass.

Common Questions:

Is one method better than the other?

The simple answer is no. A better answer is that it depends on the artist and the design.

What is the difference in leaded and foiled construction?

With leaded glass, the construction must begin at an outer corner, the individual pieces are fitted into lead came. Once all pieces are cut and placed in lead came, the joints of came are soldered. Then the piece is cemented.

With foiled glass, the construction can begin at any point in the design and worked out from there. The individual pieces are wrapped in copper foil and soldered together.

When is foiled stained glass construction better than lead?

With intricate designs, foiled construction is superior

When is lead construction better than foiled?

Leaded construction is used most often with designs that have repetitive geometric shapes. These designs can be foiled, but construction time is increased.

Which is easier?

There is no simple answer for this. It is really a personal preference. Leaded, foiled or combination of the two are used throughout the stained glass industry.

Is leaded or foiled construction better than the other?

No, each method, if done correctly, will provide the same long lasting beauty and endurance.

Why is foiled construction taught to beginners doing stained glass?

The cementing in leaded construction tends to be messy. Foiled construction can be started and stopped, making weekly classes work.

What are the steps for making leaded glass?

  1. Glass is cut, shaped and fitted into channels of lead came.
  2. Joints of lead came are soldered.
  3. The piece is cemented
  4. The piece is cleaned and polished

What are the steps for making foiled glass?

  1. Glass is cut and shaped, and then each piece is wrapped in copper foil.
  2. Copper foil seams are soldered together.
  3. The piece is cleaned and polished.

My Personal Choice:

I tend to do a lot of intricate designs, so I use the foiled construction method. It provides the flexibility and detail I need for my designs.