copper foil not sticking

Burnishing foil

Copper Foil Not Sticking

Copper foil not sticking is a very common problem.There are lots of ideas here to help you overcome it.

If you sometimes find that your copper foil doesn’t stick to the glass or – even more frustratingly – comes unstuck right at the end when you’re polishing your piece – you might find these suggestions helpful:

Milly’s Suggestions About Copper Foil Not Sticking

There are several main problems associated with copper foil not sticking to the glass:

1. The foil sticks better if the glass is warm.

You can heat it on a light box. Other heating suggestions: under a lamp, hair dryers, plate warmers (‘blanket’ style) or heating pads. Whatever method you choose, make sure there are no hot spots.
Work in a warm room and make sure the glass stays warm.

2. The glass must be scrupulously clean and dry.

Warm soapy water and wipe the edges with the best isopropyl alcohol, or ‘rubbing alcohol’ as it’s also called. This removes all the unseen oils that can come off hands on to the glass. It also removes any moisture.
Humidity can affect foil stickiness adversely.
Wash your hands, too! You’d be surprised how much dirt and oil we have on our lovely hands.

3. The age of the foil and how it has been kept.

If it’s ancient and has been exposed to air, then it does lose some of its adhesive quality due to oxidation. If it’s been kept in an airtight plastic bag, it should be ok.
If you suspect that your foil is old and oxidized, you could try lightly rubbing it with steel wool. This will both burnish and remove oxidation. I’d probably get another roll and keep this new one in a zip loc (air tight) bag!

4. Type of foil.

Some swear by Venture, and hate Studio Pro. I use both those and/or Edco and can’t say one shouts out as being better. But silver-backed foil is known to be problematic in terms of sticking, so watch out for that.

5. Over burnishing.

I’m not convinced this is a problem but some say it is. Try burnishing in one direction and don’t go over and over forever. A couple of times is sufficient.

6. Too much flux.

Liquid flux can get under the foil and cause sticking problems.
Be sparing with your flux. Use a Q-tip or cut your flux brush off so that it doesn’t hold too much flux.
You could try paste flux if you’re currently using liquid but this is a bit harder to clean afterward.

7. Iron too hot.

The iron tip should look like hot solder, nice and silver. If it’s black or blue the tip is way too hot. Turn it down.

A: Copper Foil not sticking
by: Kathy Fitzelle

I use Windex or vinegar and water to clean the stained glass before cutting. Dirty glass will dull the cutting wheel more quickly. Then I grind and make sure all edges are ruffed up enough so the foil has something to stick to. Then I towel dry and make sure all edges are rubbed with the towel to remove glass dust and moisture.

I wash my hands before foiling and make sure the foil is burnished enough to see a change in the appearance. It is dull in appearance rather than shiny. It’s important to make sure all edges are securely adhered to the glass so that no flux can get under the foil.I’ve never had any problems using this method.


Soldering iron too hot?

Q: I am having problems with copper foil not sticking too. I have tried two types of foil and 2 brands of flux. It is like the adhesive melts. It seems to stick fine until I add the solder. Then the foil just peels off. Could the soldering iron temperature be the problem? I have one with no temperature control and one with but have had difficulty when I use either.

Milly’s reply:
Yes, either the soldering iron is too hot or you could be soldering too slowly or going over and over the same area too many times.

Copper foil not sticking

A: I have had good luck using a heating pad to keep the glass warm.

Copper Foil Coming Loose
by: Janie

Q: I also am having problems with the copper foil not sticking and coming loose. I have read the comments and wonder if the type of flux has something to do with my problem. I inherited several bottles of gel flux that I have been using but am wondering if I am using too much. I just finished a beautiful Cardinal that keeps falling apart. I need help!

A: You can put too much flux on – particularly on the edges. Gel flux is normally better than liquid. Try using less flux and brush gently along, not across the foil.

Make sure everything is scrupulously clean like Cate says above. Good luck and don’t’ get disheartened!

A: Clean And Clean Again
by: Cate

Thank you for all of your good tips. I have melted the glue, had grease under foil and once you do a redo…you will try to never make that mistake again.

The very first thing I do is make sure I did not miss any edge when I ground the glass.

Wearing rubber gloves I wash my cut pieces in a strong Fells Naphtha soap and hot water bath, Rinse with warm water. Let completely dry

Wearing rubber gloves. I then wipe every edge with a very fine grade of alcohol.

Each piece is then placed in a container in layers on saran wrap
As soon as I am done I begin the foil process or if its not a good time foil, put the lid on the box and set aside.

KEEP all your foil in air tight double baggies
KEEP all of your solder in air tight double baggies.

REDOS are a hazard to your creativity
HAVE FUN…..LEARN FROM MISTAKES but smile as you go ….

A: Copper Foil Not Sticking
by: Paula from Pen Argyl

I too inherited old foil packets that would not stick. I found the inside of those rolls were ok. Unfortunately I had to waste the outer part. Also, if there is too much pressure applied during burnishing the foil will lift off the glass. I have to remind myself to lighten up when I am watching my football team lose on TV or am involved in a tense movie.


A: Copper foil not sticking

Read somewhere that if you wear CLEAN rubber gloves when handling the glass you don’t transfer the oil form your fingers. Might also work with thin latex gloves which would allow a closer feeling of contact with the glass while working. Just a thought – and not yet tried!


A: roll on adhesive

I “inherited” many rolls of copper foil that had completed lost their stickiness. I had some roll on adhesive from another craft project and it was exactly the right width. i rolled it on and the foil worked perfectly.


A: Foil not sticking
by: Delma

I agree with the comment about buying cheap foil to save a little. It cost me more at the end due to copper foil not sticking; foil ripping and wasted time doing it over.

Make sure you not only remove the oil that comes from cutting but also the glass dust from sanding. It acts like a powder and foil will not stick. Good luck.

A: Copper seems to be the worst
by: Karen

Copper does not age well. I suggest never buying more than you can use in three months. Silver and black seems to age better.

Remember teenagers are virtual oil spots. Sometimes a visual lesson to show the oil they transfer helps them remember to clean, clean, clean the glass.

A: Foil not sticking
by: Michael

I feel for all the people having difficulty with copper foil not sticking. I have learned through bitter experience, If you don’t get the basics right it causes so much extra work. I’ve just done quite a large foil project and as a beginner didn’t pay enough attention to the cleanliness of the glass. As a consequence I had numerous pieces of glass to strip out of the project. (soul destroying) When reassembling after washing all the glass the difference was remarkable. I too used a hair dryer to warm the glass. My lesson learned was to wash and dry the glass thoroughly and take care when handling, the slightest smear of grease (difficult to see) causes problems. I too fell into the trap of using too much flux, this stuff will find its way under the edges of the foil if possible, giving the same foil issues. I have used both black and silver backed foil and had sticking problems with both but I shall persevere.

problems with copper foil sticking to glass
by: Shirley

before foiling, be sure to wash each piece with warm soapy water and dry completely. If you do this faithfully, your foil will stick completely, unless there is a problem with the foil. Don’t buy cheap foil from craft stores.

Q: Copper foil problems

I’m also wondering if you can use too much flux? When I was just starting to learn the basics I was told to use lots of flux so that is what I’ve been doing. When trying to find some answers to my problem I read to use a very little bit of flux. I think I will try this as well.

Thank you for replying to my question. I will give your suggestions a try.

A: Hi, yes, I always advise a little bit of flux, and not going over the same area too many times when soldering. That can melt the glue (are you seeing a sticky residue coming out from under the foil? If so, that is the adhesive melting) If you want to go over the soldering more than 2-3 times, wait until it cools before you return to the area. Good luck and don’t give up!!!

Q: Copper Foil comes loose while soldering

I’m having issues with the copper foil not sticking when I’m soldering. I’ve tried wiping the edges with alchol, I bought a new roll of foil, I’ve tried rubbing the foil down more. Nothing seems to help. I just finished a little boy that is fishing to stand in my garden. When I was polishing him to put it outside it fell apart. I was told by the local stained glass store that maybe I was burnishing the edges too much and ruining the adhesive on the foil so I tried not rubbing as much on the fishing guy and he is now in pieces in my shop.

Can you suggest anything I might try. I’ m almost ready to give up on doing stained glass.

A: Hi. I’m really sorry you’re having problems with the foil and are thinking of giving up. Please don’t !!!

Try cleaning in warm soapy water rather than alcohol. Unless the alcohol is the best quality it sometimes makes things worse.

I’m assuming it’s the edges you’re having trouble with? They are always delicate, especially if you have tinned (just covered the foil in solder) rather than creating a beaded edge (a rounded bead of solder that is stronger and holds itself to the edge of the glass).

Also, try polishing them lengthwise, rather than across.

Another thing I’ve noticed a couple of times lately is that the black-backed foil is less sticky than the copper backed. This could be completely random, though!

There are more Questions and Answers about foil not sticking here

For more tutorials about the copper foil technique go here

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