How To Copper Foil Stained Glass

The Secrets Of Neat Copper Foiling

This instruction on how to make stained glass shows you how to wrap and burnish your stained glass pieces neatly with copper foil. This is so that you can solder around each piece and join them all together.

There’s also information on all the different colours, widths and weights of foil available, to help you choose the right one for your project.

If you’re new to stained glass or coming back to it after some time out there are many things you can learn to make it a more rewarding experience.

If you don’t have a local class my Stained Glass Made Perfect course has helped numerous beginners and refreshers master the essential techniques and progress to making more complex work. The course is self-paced and online so you can learn these techniques even if you don’t have a physical class close by. You can find out more about it here Stained Glass Made Perfect.

Foiling Complex Shapes – Video

Starting the foil in the correct place can help prevent it from pulling away at the edges. Learn how to foil tricky shapes evenly and for maximum strength.

What You Need For Copper Foiling

materials for stained glass copper foiling
Tools and materials for copper foiling

A roll of copper foil – 7/32″ wide is a good starting point, Cleaner, Scissors, Fid or spare wine cork, Craft knife, Cut and ground art glass pieces, Your pattern.

Instruction To Make Stained Glass – Foiling

Copper foil tape comes on a roll and has a backing that you peel away to expose a sticky side.

It’s worth spending some time making the foil as neat as possible at this stage, as any gaps or uneven areas will show up during soldering. I like to use Venture Tape, like this one below (Amazon Affiliate Link) or Edco.

1 Wrapping The Glass

  • Clean each piece with rubbing alcohol to get rid of any grease that will stop the foil sticking
  • Roughly roll out and cut enough tape for your piece of stained glass with a small overlap
  • Peel a bit of the tape away from the backing and place the edge of the glass in the centre
peeling stained glass copper foil
Peeling off and centering the foil
  • Start anywhere except for on an outer edge of your panel or on a corner of the piece. This will make the panel stronger
  • Press down and continue around the whole piece, checking that the tape is staying centred and pressing down the outside edge as you go
  • When you get back to the beginning, make sure that the overlapping bit of tape lines up exactly
wrapping green glass with foil
Wrapping foil neatly around each piece
trimming foil around stained glass
Trimming the foil join for perfect solder lines

Top Tip

If you have trouble centring the foil you might want to use a piece of lined paper as a guide like this photo below:

foiling stained glass tip
Using lined paper can help centre the foil

2 Folding The Foil Over By Hand

  • Squeeze the foil on to the back and front edges with your finger and thumb. This is called ‘crimping’.
  • Make sure that the corners are neat by folding each side over first. Think of darts and dress-making!

3 Burnishing The Stained Glass Copper Foil

Now you need to burnish the edges to make them stick firmly.

burnishing copper foil
Burnishing the foil with a fid
  • Using a fid (you can use a wine cork or pencil for this) go over the outside edge, to make sure it is stuck properly
  • Then do the same for both the back and front edges
  • Trim any uneven bits carefully with a craft knife
  • The neater your foil, the better your solder will look
green glass cactus copper foiled
Neatly copper foiled panel ready for soldering
  • Copper foil for stained glass is available in widths from 1/8” (3mm) to ½” (13mm).
  • Beginners like working with 7/32″ and 1/4″ widths.
  • It also comes in different weights, from the thinnest 1mil to the heaviest 1.5mil.
  • Beginners often use I.5mil as it doesn’t tear as easily and works well on unground edges.
  • You can also buy silver, brass and black-backed foil. This is especially good if you are using transparent glass as you won’t want to see copper through it.
  • It’s best to think ahead and choose foil with a backing colour to match the colour of the patina you will be using, so that they blend together perfectly.

Helpful Resources

Here’s a really helpful instruction to make stained glass video, showing you the copper foil and soldering process. It lasts 2mins 30seconds.

The only thing I would be wary of is starting the foil off right at the corner of a shape, as it makes the joining of the two ends of tape together a bit more tricky.

A short video of foiling and soldering processes

Once you’re happy that you’ve foiled, crimped and burnished as neatly as you can, you’re ready for the next step, Stained Glass Soldering.

Soldering Copper Foil

Copper Foil Not Sticking

38 thoughts on “How To Copper Foil Stained Glass”

  1. Mildly, I am finding your suggestions very helpful- thanks so much. However, I am having trouble putting the foil onto inside curves. When I press and burnish, the foil splits.

  2. Greetings,
    I have a PRO soldering iron controller. I have taken my first stained glass foil class. What setting should I use with the controller for the best temperature to solder with good results. My soldering iron is a ungar. Or do I even need to use the controller?

  3. Hi Milly, love your site. Please can you tell me how to blacken the silver solder as I’m trying to match the existing which is a green/black colour.

    • You can buy black patina for the solder seams Carol. You put it on after cleaning the solder within an inch, wash off carefully and wax to finish. I hope that answers your question.

  4. How long can you keep chemicals like flex patina etc. I have tried the find the answer on the web with no luck. Enjoy your tips very much.

    • If you decant them when you use them so that the main bulk of them remain unsullied and securely fastened, they keep for years. If however they’re murky and messy and the lids have been left off, they don’t last so long and aren’t so effective. I hope that helps Jean, I’m glad you like my tips, thanks 🙂

  5. Hi Milly, I love your information. Do you know if braided (twisted) wire comes in different widths? I want to solder it around a piece of glass I’ve used as a backing for a figure I made. Do you solder the wire just on the edge of the glass or does it cover the foil that overlaps on both sides of the glass?

    • You can either solder it at regular points around the perimeter or you can join it all the way along, depending on how you want it to look and how strong you want it. The second option is stronger. You can twist your own wire with a drill – just put 2 pieces of wire in a drill and put the other end in a vice attached to a work bench. Twist it slowly! Then you can choose the gauge yourself; 16 is good for starters.
      I hope that helps Patricia.

  6. I have copper foil which is dated 2004 it doesn’t seem very sticky Does the adhesive degrade over the years? How long should copper foil be stored? It was in original wrapping and never opened.

    • Use narrower foil for those pieces and make sure you don’t put too much solder in those areas – a flatter solder. If you still can’t see the glass then the piece is too small.

      It’s worth persisting with getting these right as the effect of tiny pieces of colour is magnificent. I hope that helps Mary.

  7. Hi Milly
    What length of time can you leave between copper foiling and soldering, time restrictions won’t allow me to complete it all in a day but could I leave it a week between the two, would I need to do anything to protect the foil?

    • The time between copper foiling and soldering should be as short as possible. As it’s often not possible to do it immediately, put your foiled pieces in an airtight plastic bag or, if it’s a large panel, put saran wrap (cling film) over it to stop the air oxidising the copper foil as much as possible.

    • If I may, I (way too) often leave my foiled glass out too long. Sometime to the point of the copper turning green (that is WAY WAY too long). I have found brushing the foil with a very fine steel wool saves the day. Keep in mind, Milly’s suggestion will save you a lot of time and mess.

      • An essential reminder not to do this Floyd, thank you! And a good tip too. Dampen down the steel wool and wear a mask to reduce airborne particles.

  8. Thank you soooo much for your tutorials and other helpful hints!! I’m still having problems with my soldering though. I solder in my shed and it’s over 80 degrees inside. I have a fan blowing towards me (and the table). Would that have any affect on my success, or lack of in running a good bead. The last project I soldered was so bad I have to do the whole thing over. One problem is my solder bubbles up and I get holes down to the foil. The other is my solder smears on both sides onto the glass and it’s like glue trying to get it back to a bead. Help!

    • Yes, a fan will impact on the stained glass solder seam as it cools the solder before it has a chance to find its level naturally, making the bead uneven. Try with the fan over your soldering arm shoulder and see if that helps.
      The solder bubbling up is a different issue; that can be caused by too much flux. Try not putting so much on. You can also try wiping the flux off as you go.
      You should be able to heat the solder on the edge where it’s on the glass and pull it back to the bead. Flux first and don’t put the hot iron right on the glass but on the edge – less likely to crack.
      I hope that helps and good luck.

  9. Hi. I am starting with stained glass when I foiled my piece of glass I find it difficult to keep the glass in the centre of the foil.
    Thanks for your help and for your website

    • You can either clean it with soapy water or use Kwik Clean to remove the flux. The Kwik Clean is great if your stained glass panel is too large to wash. Then cover it with a plastic sheet and tuck it in as best you can to prevent oxidation as much as possible.
      I hope that helps and thanks for your question.

  10. I have a problem with my project coming apart once soldered. I go thru all of the steps – after burnishing it seems to be stuck, but then comes loose! I’ve tried different foil, cleaning longer, burnishing longer and harder and still every so often this happens. This is so frustrating, any advice?

    • The biggest culprit for stained glass foil coming loose is over-soldering. Especially when tinning the edges of a free-hanging piece. The foil glue melts and there is nothing to keep the solder on. A Beaded Edge is more secure so you might want to watch this video and give that a go.
      The other vulnerable time is cleaning and polishing – again on the edges of a piece. Make sure you clean inwards and be very careful at this stage.
      Thanks for your question – I hope this helps Sheri.

    • Yes, you can get silver-backed foil so that it doesn’t show when you choose to leave your stained glass solder silver and not patina it. Thanks for your question Steve, I hope that answers it.


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