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

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