Copper Foil vs. Hobby Came

Copper Foil vs Hobby Came Explained

Lead came (right) lovely textural quality

I am a copper foil guy and have not used lead came before. What are the advantages and disadvantages over copper foil?

Milly’s Reply:

Great question, thanks Joe. It’s really a question of personal choice, but some things lend themselves more to copper foil than lead came.

The difference in how it looks

You can see by the photo above that the same panel looks quite different with the two different techniques.

Copper foil is much more delicate, and is more uneven. This is great for organic patterns – flowers etc.

Lead came has heavier, more regular lines. The lead gives a great textural feel to the piece. Good for more graphic designs.

So it’s good to think about what you want you piece to look like before you choose the technique.

Which is best for what?

Although copper foil is structurally stronger, lead came is used for external windows as it’s made waterproof by the cementing process.

I would make larger windows with lead as they’re quicker to make. It’s estimated that it takes about one third less time than foil.

Copper foil is a more contemporary technique that is very good for 3-D work – boxes, kaleidoscopes etc. Particularly lamps. I wouldn’t do a lamp with lead, too heavy and sags!

Copper foil is also good for fiddly work, and freeform sun catchers. It’s harder to make freeform shapes with lead came, although it can be done.

Learn both!

So, it’s really a question of personal preference. People tend to stick to the technique they’ve learnt first. I’m a great believer in learning both, so that you have choices. That way you can choose the best for each project and not be limited.

You can also mix the two if you wish, you do the fiddly bits in copper foil and the larger pieces in lead came.

I admire you wanting to learn something new, so often it’s easier to stick with what we know. Here’s my Making Stained Glass tutorial hub covering all the leading techniques in order. I’ve just completely revamped them, with videos and photos, so hopefully they’ll be of use to you.

If you’re new to using lead came as a technique I would highly recommend you give it a try. It will add a great deal to your skill set and give you the best of both stained glass worlds – foil and lead.

If you don’t have a local class my Leaded Stained Glass Artistry course has taught many people – even those who have never used lead before – how to make a stained glass panel using lead came. The course is self-paced and online so you can learn this lovely technique even if you are unable to get to a class. You can find out more about it here Leaded Stained Glass Artistry.

Questions for Copper Foil vs. Hobby Came

Hobby Came Advantages

I’m a stained glass artist who prefers copper foil over lead. However, when constructing a stained glass angel with a base I love working with the hobby came as it gives a smooth line and you can use a bevel cut on the edges of the hobby for the sleeves and the wings. As well there is a lot less solder to use in the construction.

Milly says: Thanks M Fox for your thoughts – very good point made about the hobby came. It does make a lovely edge – easier than a beaded edge and neater too.

Stretching Hobby Came

A friend game me some hobby came to use on sun catchers. Do I have to stretch this like larger lead came?

Milly replies: Yes you do have to stretch it but be careful as it really doesn’t need much otherwise it snaps!

Is Hobby Came Different to Ordinary Lead?

Is Hobby Came different than just lead came? I have finished a round piece that needs to be framed in came and have u shape came in a roll that I thought I’d use, BUT… then heard about hobby came and am wondering if it is less thick??

Milly’s reply: Yes, hobby came has a very narrow profile and is designed to finish off the edges of sun catchers neatly.

If your piece is a panel, rather than a small sun catcher, it’s best to frame it with the standard lead came.

18 thoughts on “Copper Foil vs. Hobby Came”

  1. I’m making a gate with stained glass poppies inserted. Main problem – I live in Arizona with high heat temperatures. My mind works better than my talent!
    1. Foil is sturdier than lead came?
    2. Should I use lead free solder for added strength and the copper wire insert between pieces?
    3. I am fusing 2 pieces of glass together to get studier glass to install.
    4. Around the edges of the poppy – should I use zinc – which will limit my curves – I do have a curve bender..or use the zinc edging
    5. Any advice on attaching the piece to the steel rods?

    • If the gate opens and closes and isn’t just decorative, it will need reinforcement, so yes to the ReStrip or Strongline. I would use lead came, cemented, myself for the curves (lead has been outside for hundreds of years) but foil should work too. I don’t use it for outside work but I know others do and it’s fine.
      Steel takes solder so there shouldn’t be any problem soldering directly to it. Just make sure it’s clean and oil free beforehand.
      I hope that helps.

    • Only add hooks to the came at a join, otherwise it’ll pull away from the glass.
      Metal paper clips work well. Cut the rounded end and leave enough length to bed the tails into a seam. The wire bends easily when heated a bit. Turn it over and do the same on the back. It’s secure and it won’t melt or stretch the hobby came.
      I hope that helps.

  2. Just starting with hobby came. I live in Canada and wondering where to buy hobby came? it looks like it is only available in 6ft lengths is that correct? I would like to get a larger spool as my last project had a lot of waste because the last its were just a bit too short. is there such thing as bulk? and what is a good price as I have seen everything from $1.95 for 6ft to $40 for 6ft?


    • Yes, there are suppliers in Canada; Stained Glass Stuff, Kona Stained Glass and more if you Google.
      Hobby came is narrow and shallow and comes on big spools. It’s for edging sun catchers or small panels.
      Lead came is for making more robust stained glass windows and can be bought rolled up or straight but in 6ft lengths.
      I hope that helps.

  3. Hi Milly, first, THANK YOU for all your stained glass tips and instruction! I get your emails and love reading them! Regarding hobby came, for use on “framing” sun catchers, I believe a flat or rounded edge is a matter of personal preference, but what size do you recommend ?
    Thanks for your time,

    • 5/64″ is pretty standard Lisa. If you have irregular edged sun catchers you can use 20-22 gauge wire pressed tight to the shape and soldered over and/or slightly wider foil to give more strength to the beaded edge. The copper wire doesn’t add a great deal of strength but it doesn’t harm. The edges are always going to be vulnerable so all you can do is help them along.
      I hope this helps. Thanks for your enthusiasm about my tips, I appreciate the feedback – especially as it’s nice 🙂

  4. Hello, I’m going to be using hobby came for the first time, and I’m wondering, do you tin the edges before you attach it to your piece? Or do you leave the foil exposed and then attach the came? Thank you.

    • I wouldn’t use foil at all under hobby came Angela. It can poke out the sides and get solder accidentally on to the came. If you have long stretches without a seam to secure the hobby came, use a dab of E6000 glue or similar to hold it in place.

      • Hi Milly, if you’re using hobby came to frame a sun catcher would you foil everything or leave the edges that will go into the came unfoiled?
        Thanks 🙂

        • I’d leave the edges unfoiled Cristina. Otherwise the foil sticks out beyond the came and looks unsightly. You can use dabs of glue under the hobby came if you have stretches without any joins – just to keep it on the edge.

    • I’ve not heard of rose gold copper foil tape for stained glass. Can you send a link? Black, silver or just copper backed are all fine; you choose the colour to match the final patina you’re planning for your piece. For example, if you’re planning to patina your piece black, use black-backed foil.

      Hope that helps, Milly

  5. I have never done stained glass projects, but I would like to make a free standing cross using chandelier crystals. What is the best method for such a project?


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