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.