How to Solder Stained Glass Beaded Edges
Learning how to do stained glass means getting to grips with learning how to solder stained glass beaded edges. You don’t want to let untidy finishing spoil your beautiful glasswork.
This stained glass video and tutorial shows you how to solder a lovely rounded edge for your sun catcher.
Soldering stained glass beaded edges is a little bit more difficult than the interior seams as there are three surfaces to deal with instead of just the one, and one of them is vertical!
Stained Glass Soldering Secret
The secret is simple and it concerns speed and heat.
It’s a question of using the heat of the soldering iron in conjunction with the speed that you move the iron tip.
Too hot with the iron or too slow with the tip and the solder will drip. Too low with the iron and too fast with the tip and you won’t melt anything!
Practise using the iron tip in different ways to master the speed/heat equation. Try using just the corner of the tip for the least amount of heat, try using it flat for the hottest option and using it vertically for the middle ground. You’ll soon get the hang of it.
What You Need To Solder Stained Glass
- 60/40 Solder
- Soldering Iron and Soldering Iron Stand
- Wet sponge for cleaning tip, Q-tips or cheap brush to apply the flux and heat resistant gloves.
- Bricks or similar to hold your glass vertical (Optional)
Solder Stained Glass Beaded Edges
1. Tinning the Front and Back Edges
“Tinning” means merely covering the copper foil with a thin coating of solder. Can you see from the diagram at the top of the page that a tinned edge is flatter, less pleasing and weaker than a beaded edge?
- Paint the liquid flux over the edge with the Q-tip. Be fairly generous with it; too little flux will stop the solder sticking
- Tin the top face of your edge
- To do this simply add a few blobs of solder to the foil and melt it along the top edge with the soldering iron
- Turn your piece over and do the same to the back face.
- Don’t worry about the solder spilling over the sides, you’ll use that in a minute.
Why Tin the Edges First?
Are you wondering why you are tinning the edge first if you are going to do a beaded edge? It’s a good question.
It’s a bit like preparing the soil with nutrients before planting a shrub. The tinned top and back face of your piece provide the perfect ‘ground’ for a beaded edge. The stained glass solder finds its way over the tinned foil and rounds off a treat.
If you don’t tin the edge first you get a lumpy and irregular edge. And we don’t want that!
2. What is a Beaded Edge and Why is it Better?
Beading means creating a lovely smooth, rounded edge with the solder. If it’s internal solder seams you’re looking for you can read how to create smooth solder seams here.
A solder stained glass beaded edge is much stronger than a tinned edge because the solder ‘clings’ to the sides of the glass rather than just being held by the copper foil glue.
Sticky Glue Problems
This glue is only there to hold the foil in place before and during soldering. The heat of the soldering iron melts this glue during the soldering process and the solder replaces it as the ‘glue’ that keeps your stained glass piece together.
There’s a short video on using the heat of the iron to get good results here.
Have you noticed that sticky residue when you’re soldering? It doesn’t happen all the time but when it does it’s a result of the glue melting and coming away from the foil during soldering. It normally happens if you have been reworking the same area repeatedly. Try to avoid this if you can. It helps to let an area cool before reworking.
3. Solder Stained Glass – Beading the Edge
The secret with edges is to keep moving your stained glass so that the area you’re working on stays as flat as possible. This stops the solder running off or flattening out.
- Put your heat resistant glove on, or prop your stained glass up between two bricks
- Join the blobs that are already on the edge by heating them with the iron
- Move slowly along, holding and lifting, making sure that the solder is rounded as you go
- Adjust the sun catcher as you go so that the piece you’re working on stays horizontal
- If you need to add more solder, put it on the tip of the iron and add it to the edge
- You can get rid of excess solder by ‘flicking’ it off sharply. Be careful though, it will burn where it lands!
You can always practice on small scrap pieces of foiled stained glass before you start ‘for real’. By the end you will have a neat rounded edge and sides.
Wipe the flux off with a damp towel. Don’t worry too much about making it perfectly clean if you’re going to add jump rings. If you’re leaving your solder for more than a few days clean it thoroughly and put it in an airtight bag as it helps prevent oxidation.
Solder Stained Glass – Helpful Resources
This guy Karal is a genius. The whole how to do stained glass video is 13 minutes and I’d highly recommend watching it all. If you haven’t got time, go straight to 7mins 25 secs and the soldering edges sequence lasts one minute.
Great idea to bend the solder up like that and take a little bit from the top. Inspirational all round!
How to solder stained glass beaded edges, very skilfully!
Now you know how to solder stained glass beaded edges you’re ready for the next step, Attaching A Jump Ring.
Return to the Everything Stained Glass Home Page.