Stained Glass Zinc Frame
A stained glass zinc came frame is a good option for the edges of your panel. This is for a couple of reasons. If you have a heavier panel that needs a bit of strength or want a definite border for artistic reasons then a stained glass zinc frame is your answer.
This stained glass tutorial shows you how to measure, cut and solder a mitred zinc came frame together for a professional look. Your glasswork is worth it!
What You Need
Essential: 60/40 solder, flux, soldering iron and stand, wet sponge, Q-tips or cheap brush to apply the flux, your panel, cork or soft wood board, fine felt tip pen, push pins to hold the zinc came in place, zinc came, set square, metal file and a came saw or fine-toothed hack saw. There are special saws for this, including electric ones. You don’t need to buy anything expensive at this stage. Just move the blade of your hack saw down a bit and it will work fine.
Optional: mitre box.
A Word About Stained Glass Zinc
Zinc came comes in several different widths. The wider it is, the stronger it is. You can buy it with H or U profiles. The U shape looks nicer for framing but you can use H zinc for framing.
If your panel is being placed in a wooden frame there is no advantage to using zinc over lead. The wooden frame gives the strength. I use lead for the edges when I’m framing in wood as it’s cheaper and easier to use.
How To Make A Stained Glass Zinc Frame
First of all you need to cut the zinc came to fit the panel. Mitred edges (those cut on a 45 degree angle) look most pleasing but you can abut the zinc if you want to solder the handy hangers into the frame rather than around the top corners.
1. Measuring The Zinc Came
- Saw off a 2″ piece of zinc to use as a marker
- Place this marker over the vertical edge of your panel so that the edge glass butts up to the heart of the zinc
- Giving yourself a bit of extra length on the left hand side, draw two lines down from the marker on to the horizonal came
- Draw another line diagonally across. This gives you the 45 degree angle
- Mark the other corner in the same fashion
2. Cutting The Zinc Came
Try to do this as accurately as you can. Some people use a mitre box to cut the angles. By all means purchase one of these if you think it will help.
- Place the blade over the cut line and saw straight down. It takes a bit of time and effort!
- Don’t push too hard, as you might squash the zinc
- File the ends to tidy them up
- Repeat 1. and 2. above for three sides
3. Measuring The Final Edge
- Pin your three edges in with the push pins, checking that they’re at right angles
- Place your final length of zinc over the top and mark the 45 degree angle as in 1. above. The marks in the photo looks ‘off’ because of camera distortion, so look at the pink lines below
- Cut the remaining two angles
- Pin the final zinc came in place, checking that the stain glass panel is square
4. How To Solder The Zinc Came Frame
- Zinc came needs a bit more solder than lead came so make sure you’re a bit more generous with it.
- Stained glass zinc also prefers fresh flux. Apply flux one joint at a time rather than all at once.
- Now each edge join needs to be soldered neatly to the zinc.
- Work your way around the edges, soldering each join to the zinc came. This ensures that everything stays in place.
- With the chisel tip of your iron at right angles to the stain glass, melt off a small bit of solder on to the seam
- Keeping your tip at the same angle, slowly melt the solder until it merges with the seam and sticks to the zinc frame
- Be aware that zinc needs a bit more heat applied than copper foil or lead
- Work your way around the panel until each join is soldered to the frame
- Next solder each corner. You can use tape to help you make a neater join (see below)
- To do this melt a blob of solder over the join and melt the stain glass solder with the flat face of your iron tip on the solder. See the video below if you’re unsure about this.
- Turn over and repeat the soldering on the other side.
Soldering Zinc TOP TIPS
Soldering a Neat Zinc Join
To create a neat solder join you can stick masking tape on each side of the join before fluxing and soldering. Make sure it’s stuck down firmly first. This contains the solder for a professional finish and prevents a blobby mess 🙂
The images below were kindly sent to me by reader Kathy Lloyd and show this technique nicely.
Additional Soldering Tips for Zinc
U profile zinc came is for the edge frame of your piece. It should, if it is zinc, take solder. It takes longer to heat up so try this:
- When soldering zinc, hold your iron on the zinc a little longer than you would on lead.
- When soldering zinc to lead, touch the zinc came first to heat it a bit before touching the lead too.
- The zinc might turn dark and almost look scorched, but this will clean up.
- Zinc takes longer to heat up so on the corner, zinc to zinc, hold your iron on the zinc to warm the zinc and activate the flux. Then put the solder on the zinc, iron on top and melt the solder.
- Practice with some scrap zinc first.
If you find this information helpful for improving your soldering of zinc, you’ll find my Soldering Iron Maintenance Blueprint equally so.
Many people don’t realise that a well-maintained iron is one of the most effective things they can do to improve their soldering.
I’m betting it’ll be the quickest path you’ve taken towards better soldering – zinc or not 🙂
Helpful Resources For Stained Glass Zinc
This is a useful 3 minute video showing exactly what I’ve been describing, including soldering a corner join. Start watching at 1min 20 seconds if you’re in a rush, as it repeats the same steps for each corner.
She’s using a luxury electric saw, lucky thing!
Stain glass – how to make a zinc frame and solder a corner join
Perfect, all done! Now you’re ready to attach some hooks for hanging.
If you don’t want to hang it, go straight to the final step to patina and polish your stain glass.