Stained Glass Lead Came Made Easy

Stained glass lead came comes in 6ft lengths sold in single lengths or boxes or in spools which have to be unwound and stretched before use.
There are many different widths and depths and a bewildering array of  profiles or ‘sections’ – for example, the most commonly used round, flat, H and C to the specialist Colonial.

Traditionally, 1/2″ (12mm) flat lead is used for the edges of leaded stained glass windows, as it gives you 3/16 ” (5mm) leeway on each side for any errors in the measuring/fitting process.

Jump to Storage Ideas

Getting to Grips with Stained Glass Lead Came Sizes

It’s very easy to get confused with all the different measurements – the width, the channel, the heart – they are all equally important but mean distinctly different things. This diagram is of an Flat ‘H’ profile on its side, as this is how we use it in stained glass. It will help you understand which bit is which and will give you the confidence to be able to order lead for your project.

Measurements of stained glass lead came explained
Measurements of stained glass lead came explained
  • A = The Height. This is the total thickness of the section from top to bottom
  • B = The Leaf, the Flange or the Face. This is what you see as the ‘lead lines’ when you look at a stained glass panel
  • C = Leaf, Flange or Face thickness. This is can be rounded or shaped, depending on the profile.
  • D = The Heart or the Channel. This is where the glass slots in. If you have very thick or fused glass you might need a high heart lead.
  • E = The Heart Thickness. This goes in between the glass pieces and determines how strong the lead is. If you want to strengthen your panel you might want the heart to contain a steel core.

Stained Glass Lead Came Tips

glass in stained glass lead came
How glass slots into a perimeter lead
  • Remember that the main reason for choosing a particular lead is the best one – how it will look in your stained glass window design.
  • Stained glass lead came with a round profile is better for leading curved shapes, as it doesn’t pucker up like the flat lead does.
  • Wide heart lead is higher than standard came, and useful for plated glass (two pieces leaded together on top of each other) and for antique sheet glass that is irregular in thickness.
    It’s also useful if you’ve slumped your piece and it’s a bit uneven. I’ve also used wide heart lead when I wanted to increase the strength of the panel, as you can cram in more cement.
  • Biased lead is used to join two parts of a large panel together. The heart of this came is not centered. You put the wider came at the bottom, to increase its ability to keep out the weather.
  • Steel cored lead is used for strengthening stained glass panels, and can accommodate slight curves.
  • Alternatively, if your design has deeper curves that you want to strengthen, you can buy separate hardened steel wire that is placed next to the heart of the lead when you’re leading your stained glass panel. You can buy it singly or by the kilo (approximately 12 lengths).

To Stretch or Not to Stretch?

stretching stained glass lead came
Stretching stained glass lead came

I always stretch came but the lead I buy is very pliable and would be impossible to work with if I didn’t. If you buy hard lead you won’t be able to stretch it much and if you buy pre-stretched lead you won’t need to stretch it. So it’s not simple!

Technically, you’re not actually stretching the lead, as stretching can actually weaken the lead came. Stretching (or straightening) the came out gives it rigidity and therefore makes it easier to work with. This increases the stability of the came during the leading process.

It won’t, however, give it any more strength so it’s not essential in a structural sense.

Stretching helps untangle all the kinks that invariably happen how ever hard you try to stop them! This results in more pleasing lines in your leaded panel. But more importantly, if you don’t stretch it before you use it, it will stretch in your project, and you don’t want that.



Storing Stained Glass Lead Came

Lead Came is heavy and a bit awkward to store and still be able to access easily. I have a lot of it so I can store mine in the original lead boxes which are standing on brackets that are firmly secured to the wall – see the image of my studio  below:

Lead Came storage using lead boxes on brackets

However, this ingenious lead storage solution below was sent to me by a reader and looks like a great idea- thanks Jeff!

“I would like to offer a lead came storage suggestion that some of your readers may enjoy.

I do my glass work in my garage as it meets my space and safety needs. Since this space is used for a myriad of things I have it set up to be able to switch between projects (glass, woodworking, etc). The only problem I had was how to store lead came.  I buy it in pre-stretched 6 foot lengths from a local supplier and I needed somewhere to keep it horizontal, clean and out of the way.

So; I purchased an appropriate length of PVC pipe and cut it lengthwise. I added hinges along the cut and then made a second lengthwise cut 90 degrees off of the first one.  Lastly I mounted it along a wall.”

lead came storage using upvc pipe attached to the wall

 

lead came storage using upvc pipe - showing the lid

Additional tips from Readers:

From Stephen Hazard

I store my lead in PVC tubes. I use 3″ or 4″ tubes longer than the came. I cap one end and on the other, I use a screw plug ( you need a connector with inside threads and a screw in cap ) this keeps air from coming in contact with the lead. I store them high on a wall with brackets to hold them. Retrieving the lead I have a tin can that fits inside the tube. The can is connected with a steel rod all the way to the opening. You pull the rod and out comes the lead.

From Ron:

One thing I  did with my method, is put packets of baking soda at each end and in the middle. The soda absorbs the moisture and prevents the “scale” that forms on the lead and interferes with the flux and solder.

Safety Issues

I often get asked about lead poisoning and can honestly say that none of my blood tests have ever shown any dodgy levels in my system. But having said that, I always wear gloves and handle the lead with great care. I never eat or drink in the studio and always make sure I wash my hands thoroughly after working. It is recommended that you wear latex gloves when leading, and that you seek medical advice if you are pregnant. Read this page on Workspace Safety Tips before starting any stained glass project.

Always read the manufacturers advice before using lead.

 


Learn to Make Stained Glass using Lead with my online course  Leaded Stained Glass Artistry

To see how to cut and shape lead came when making a stained glass window, go to Making Stained Glass – Leaded Panels.

There are some more  lead tutorials here:

Making Leaded Stained Glass

Stained Glass Lead Soldering The Easy Way

How To Frame With Stained Glass Zinc Came

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