Decorative Soldering Technique
Pretty Dripped Solder Edge
Decorative soldering for stained glass is the difference between a Victoria sponge and a Wedding Cake. It really is special and adds that ‘WOW’ factor to your projects. You can go from ‘Victoria sponge to Wedding Cake’ by downloading this video tutorial right now.
Decorative soldering for stained glass is the next logical step if you’ve got to the point where you’re confident with soldering but you want to lift your artistry to another MUCH higher level. It’s surprising how much difference a few drips make, you’ll be amazed!
Decorative Soldering Method
Before You Start Decorative Soldering
- I use 60/40 solder and a Weller 100 with a 700F 1/4″ tip. This suits my way of working but you might find that a different combination is better for you. Some people swear by 63/37 solder for decorative soldering for stained glass. I find that for this technique I need the extra fraction of a second that 60/40 allows me to let the drip run. Feel free to try 63/37 and see which one works best for you.
- Make sure you have a protective glove for your non-soldering hand and some pegs to hold the sun catcher.
- As always, adequate ventilation and safety glasses are essential. If you’re not sure about how to keep safe when stained glassing then read my health and safety suggestions here.
Balance and Gravity
The technique is all about balance and gravity. You need to balance the solder drip on top of a horizontal foiled edge while making sure that the butterfly is kept on a vertical plane. Then you use gravity to make the drip run but if you tip the butterfly forwards out of balance the drip will fall forward. Find out how to control this balancing act in the video.
It’s also a balance between how much solder and flux to use. Too much of either and the solder will roll off in an uncontrolled fashion. Too little and the drips won’t be big enough and will just look like a wavy line.
Getting Started with Decorative Soldering
- It doesn’t seem logical but start the decorative soldering drips at the BOTTOM of the wing and work upwards towards the middle of the butterfly.
If you do it this way you won’t be melting the drip you’ve just done and you’ll have space for your next drip
- Flux your foiled edge and hold it horizontally
- Pick up a drip of solder on your iron tip and place it carefully on the foiled edge.
If you can’t get a drip of solder on to the iron tip then your iron is at the incorrect temperature. Turn it down if it’s falling off and up if it’s not picking up).
- Now heat the drip up until it goes shiny and wants to run
- Carefully start tipping down – still keeping the butterfly on a vertical plane – while heating and nudging with the tip of the iron. This is quite tricky to explain in words and best described by watching the video
- The drip should run along the top of the edge and stop when it starts to set
Your Second Drip
- After a couple of seconds the solder colour dulls and you’re ready to start your next decorative soldering drip
- Start it about 1/2 inch from the last drip. If start another one too close the drips will merge into a wavy line. This can end up looking like bad soldering rather than a gorgeous edge! This is your artistic decision though. The gap between the drips is a decision you make that affects how the end result turns out. You might WANT wavy lines or large gaps in between the drips. This is perfectly fine!
- Repeat the above steps for each drip until you reach the middle seam
- Then go back to the bottom and work you way up the inside of the wing to the ‘body’ of the butterfly. (What ARE they called?)
- Once you’ve done the decorative soldering along each edge, touch up any solder areas that have been disturbed by the drips
- Wash and polish the butterfly as you would normally. You can use Kwik Clean or read my page on Patina and Polish if you’re not sure how to get a sparkle to your finished projects.
- Patina is optional as always. I left this butterfly silver as I liked the more subtle effect.
This particular decorative soldering technique for stained glass it’s not the easiest thing to get right. It takes a lot of patience at the beginning and a lot of drips that have gone astray! But it is truly worth the effort as I hope you can see for yourself.
Good luck and let me know how you get on. If you are finding it a bit too tricky, how about perfecting your Beaded Edges first and then coming back later to give it another try?
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