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Stained Glass Zinc Frame

A stained glass zinc came frame is a good option for the edges of your panel. This is for a couple of reasons. If you have a heavier panel that needs a bit of strength, or want a definite border for artistic reasons, then a stained glass zinc frame is your answer.

This stained glass tutorial shows you how to measure, cut and solder a mitred zinc came frame together for a professional look. Your glasswork is worth it!

What You Need

tools and materials for stain glass making
Tools and materials needed for stained glass zinc framing

Essential: 60/40 solder, flux, soldering iron and stand, wet sponge, Q-tips or cheap brush to apply the flux, your panel, cork or soft wood board, fine felt tip pen, push pins to hold the zinc came in place, zinc came, set square, metal file and a came saw or fine-toothed hack saw. There are special saws for this, including electric ones. You don’t need to buy anything expensive at this stage. Just move the blade of your hack saw down a bit and it will work fine.

Optional: mitre box.

A Word About Stained Glass Zinc

Zinc came comes in several different widths. The wider it is, the stronger it is. You can buy it with H or U profiles. The U shape looks nicer for framing but you can use H zinc for framing.
If your panel is being placed in a wooden frame there is no advantage to using zinc over lead. The wooden frame gives the strength. I use lead for the edges when I’m framing in wood as it’s cheaper and easier to use.

How To Make A Stained Glass Zinc Frame

First of all you need to cut the zinc came to fit the panel. Mitered edges (those cut on a 45 degree angle) are best, otherwise you have an ugly view down the inside of the zinc came at each corner.

1. Measuring the zinc came

  • Saw off a 2″ piece of zinc to use as a marker
  • Place this marker over the vertical edge of your panel so that the edge glass butts up to the heart of the zinc
measuring for zinc frame
Stain glass – how to measure the length for zinc came
  • Giving yourself a bit of extra length on the left hand side, draw two lines down from the marker on to the horizonal came
  • Draw another line diagonally across. This gives you the 45 degree angle
  • Mark the other corner in the same fashion

2. Cutting the zinc came

Try to do this as accurately as you can. Some people use a mitre box to cut the angles. By all means purchase one of these if you think it will help.

how to saw zinc came
How to cut zinc came for a mitered frame
  • Place the blade over the cut line and saw straight down. It takes a bit of time and effort!
  • Don’t push too hard, as you might squash the zinc
  • File the ends to tidy them up
  • Repeat 1. and 2. above for three sides
stained glass zinc
Zinc came mitered corners cut to the correct length

3. Measuring the final edge

  • Pin your three edges in with the push pins, checking that they’re at right angles
  • Balance your final length of zinc over the top and mark the 45 degree angle as in 1. above. The marks in the photo looks ‘off’ because of camera distortion, so look at the pink lines below
  • Cut the remaining two angles
  • Pin the final came in place, checking that the stain glass panel is square
cutting final zinc came to size
Cutting final zinc came to the correct length

4. How To Solder The Zinc Came Frame

  • Zinc came needs a bit more solder than lead came so make sure you’re a bit more generous with it.
  • Stained glass zinc also prefers fresh flux. Apply flux one joint at a time rather than all at once.
  • Now each edge join needs to be soldered neatly to the zinc.
  • Work your way around the edges, soldering each join to the zinc came. This ensures that everything stays in place.
  • With the chisel tip of your iron at right angles to the stain glass, melt off a small bit of solder on to the seam
  • Keeping your tip at the same angle, slowly melt the solder until it merges with the seam and sticks to the zinc frame
  • Be aware that zinc needs a bit more heat applied than copper foil or lead
  • Work your way around the panel until each join is soldered to the frame
stain glass how to solder zinc
Soldering seams to zinc came
  • Next solder each corner.
  • To do this melt a blob of solder over the join and melt the stain glass solder with the flat face of your iron tip on the solder. See the video below if you’re unsure about this.
  • TOP TIP: To create a neat solder join you can stick masking tape on each side of the join before fluxing and soldering. Make sure it’s stuck down firmly first. This contains the solder for a professional finish and prevents a blobby mess!
  • Turn over and repeat the soldering on the other side.
stained glass panel soldered to zinc frame
Stain glass panel with mitred stained glass zinc frame

Helpful Resources For Stained Glass Zinc

This is a useful 3 minute video showing exactly what I’ve been describing, including soldering a corner join. Start watching at 1min 20 seconds if you’re in a rush, as it repeats the same steps for each corner.

She’s using a luxury electric saw, lucky thing!


Stain glass – how to make a zinc frame and solder a corner join

Perfect, all done! Now you’re ready to attach some hooks for hanging.

If you don’t want to hang it, go straight to the final step to patina and polish your stain glass.

Here’s an alternative method for soldering corners from Inland. They advise butting up the lead at right angles rather than a mitred joint. Have a peek and make up your own mind!

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