Stained Glass Soldering Boards – The Essential Guide

Stained glass soldering boards require two things:

  1. to be sturdy enough to hold your stained glass in place
  2. to have a degree of heat resistance

Homasote makes perfect stained glass soldering boards. Made from pressed fibreboard, Homasote is safe to use for soldering and good for assembling. You can even cut glass on it.

Funnily enough, for a product that’s similar in make up to papier-mâché, Homasote board is heat proof. It’s made from recycled paper compressed under a high heat and pressure. Glue holds the whole lot together.

Homasote is a brand name for the product known as “cellulose based fibre wall board”. As you’ve probably guessed, Homasote board was initially used for the building trade and has been high-jacked by stained glass! Amazon.com sell them here.

Stained Glass Assembly with Homasote Board

Copper Foil Method

stained glass cutting boards
The overlapping configuration you need

The surface of the Homasote board isn’t rock solid. This means you can easily tap nails or push pins into it to hold your stained glass securely in place before soldering.

Because of this, Homasote board is particularly good for copper foiled projects.

Pins easily hold a freeform sun catcher in place prior to soldering. Just place them at regular intervals around the edge of your work before tack soldering.

For square or rectangular panels you can use Homasote board along with Layout Blocks to hold the panel in place. Tap nails along the overlapping layout blocks to create a perfectly square panel. This overlapping configuration is shown in the  image above.

TIP: Adjustable Homasote Board
Adjustable homasote board

Take a look at the adjustable board above sent in by reader Carole Jackmason.

It has a permanent baton attached to the left hand side of the board. When you’re ready to assemble your stained glass panel just nail in a layout block at right angles to the baton and you’re ready to start.

Your stained glass panel can be as big or small as you like with less fuss.

Lead Came Method

You can use Homasote board for the lead came method but I wouldn’t recommend it.

This is because the surface of the board isn’t hard enough to withstand the pushing and pulling needed to assemble a lead came panel.

The nails or pins will dislodge during assembly. Annoying!

I’d recommend chip board for the lead came method. It’s harder and more robust. Bang the nails in hard with the top end of the lead knife or a hammer and they’ll remain in place during assembly.

Alternative Stained Glass Soldering Boards

Drywall

Sometimes known by wallboard or brand name Sheetrock – drywall is a heat resistant board used in the building trade. Made from gypsum powder pressed between two thick pieces of paper, it is very lightweight which is a plus!

It’s not quite as adaptable as Homasote board because you can’t cut glass on it and in my experience it doesn’t take pins well and can chip and dust.

Rigid Foam Insulation Board

Alternatively you can use rigid foam board covered with butcher paper. Like Homasote, the surface isn’t solid so you can easily push pins or nails into it to hold your stained glass in position.

It won’t last for too long but you can easily replace it. A very lightweight solution for smaller projects. This would be a good alternative if you can’t find homasote.

TIP:

To make drywall and rigid foam stained glass soldering boards last longer, cover the whole piece with wide masking tape all over, including the edges.
The board will last for years if you take the time to do this.

More Ideas For Stained Glass Soldering Boards

Board made from scrap kitchen counter top

You don’t need to nail your stained glass to the board to hold it in place. For smaller projects you can use masking tape to secure the pieces before tack soldering.

I use left over scraps of a granite kitchen top for these smaller projects that don’t need a jig.

Dwayne Brandly teaches stained glass and has kindly shared this tip with us. He makes work boards for his students to make their class projects on.
He glues cork on one side of the board.
This is good for cutting on and doing the tack solder or completing one side of the project.
He glues smooth laminate on the other side.
This side is great for burnishing the foil. The smoothness of the surface means that students can slide the piece around without worrying the foil will catch on the cork and rip off as they move it around.

See how to make your own Layout Bars in this post here

Click her to see how to get your panel square and fitting

Find out about other stained glass tools and materials

 

29 thoughts on “Stained Glass Soldering Boards – The Essential Guide”

  1. Regarding work surfaces, I, too, was taught using sheetrock, and have continued to use it for a few years while always keeping my eyes open for an alternative. One important consideration: you should use 5/8” sheetrock if you’re using push pins. 1/2” is thin enough that the tips of your pins can poke through and mar any surface beneath the drywall. Both Home Depot and Lowe’s in my area sell precut 2’ x 2’ pieces of both thicknesses. They’re only a few dollars each, are easily carried in the smallest car, and can be carried by one person.
    The other thing I was taught originally, but had to learn the importance of on my own, is to place something between your glass and the sheetrock whenever using flux or patina. Flux, especially, will soak into the sheetrock and then contaminate future artwork. The best thing I’ve found is the brown paper that my glass often arrives in. I save every scrap and use it between the glass and the drywall.

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  2. I have also stolen from the building industry. I use dry wall to cut and solder on. The paper on the drywall won’t catch on fire. It may singe, but won’t burn. I get my pieces from local building supply stores, and ask for damaged pieces. This way they are very inexpensive, and can be sized to my needs. Just tape the edges to avoid the “mess” of powdered plaster.

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  3. Thank you Milly for all the useful tips they are very helpful. I enjoy reading them all. I just wished I had more time to indulge in Stained glass but do it when I can.

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    • You’re most welcome Margaret. Maybe in the future you’ll be able to set some regular time aside? You don’t need that much, even an hour a week would move you on to start with 🙂

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  4. Hi Milly, I’ve read your articles several times over the past few months but didn’t read the comments until today. I worked with stained glass for several years, then grandkids came & GG helped with child care and I got away from stained glass. Unfortunately stained glass & little tikes don’t work well together. Fast forward…With COVID and schools shutting down, my husband and I worked with the grandsons in different areas of supervised crafting and woodworking. Luckily, they got to return to school in the fall. My plan for Spring Break is to let them try a couple of simple stained glass projects. What I use to work on is ceiling tile. Where I work, they change out the dropped ceiling tile from time to time. Over they years I have asked for a few and they give them to me. Great for recycling and excellent for working with all areas stained glass, cutting, foiling, soldering, using pins or nails. Even if I had to buy replacements for the 2′ x 4′ tiles, they are relatively cheap.

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      • Sue, Milly: I too use the 2×4 ceiling tile. I worked in the construction industry for many years and there was always some damaged tile that would have ended in the dumpster.
        Milly, I enjoy this idea sharing format you have. As I read through the various comments, I wonder why I didn’t think of that or think it’s nice to see someone else using a technique that works for me. Thanks again
        Mel

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        • That’s so good to know Mel, thanks for letting me know.
          The tips everyone are sharing are building up into something really useful for everyone. Thanks for adding yours 🙂

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    • I’ve nicked this from laveronline.co.uk as it’s a much better explanation than I could come up with! “sometimes referred to as Particle Board or Low Density Fibreboard – is made by mixing small wood particles with epoxy resin, which are pressed together under intense heat and pressure to produce a rigid board, typically with a smooth surface.”

      Good question, I hope that helps.

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  5. Here are some more suggestions from my VERY helpful readers – thanks to them all!
    William:
    I use a big sanded (ran it through a planer to make it perfectly flat) pine board 12″ wide and as long as you want. if you get the grade they call “clear “, there are no knots to make it uneven and it will hold tacks for both foil and came without slipping but tacks push into pine easily. And if you need a bigger (wider than 12”) panel, they glue together edge to edge really well. they are pretty heat resistant at least at the temps stained glass uses and if you get a little char, it sands away easily.

    Sharon: I use drywall. I have a 4×4 workspace on one table covered with drywall. I tape around the edges with the foil type HVAC tape. Very sticky and will never come off. I do solder and cut glass on the drywall. No problems cutting glass. Just have to make sure there is nothing under the glass except clean drywall. I have a bench brush. Important to brush away small slivers of glass or tiny balls of solder. I piece of drywall will last for years..like a decade. It is also easy to set up blocking angles with the drywall. I use push pins..thumbtacks with colored plastic on the end for easy handling available almost everywhere office products are sold. I can also use straight pins with colored balls on the end for small projects or for having a uniform separation between solder lines within the piece.
    My point is…that drywall works very well for soldering and cutting glass. I use old foam computer mouse pads for foiling. The foam is dense and not think. It is probably harder to find these foam mats now since everything is touch and mouse is built into laptops nowadays. But if you can get your hands on these old mouse pads…they are great for burnishing the foil. I have taped the back side of several together to make a larger area for some of the bigger pieces I need to foil. I use a wallpaper roller, the old wooden type if you can find one, to burnish. I also use an eraser to burnish heavily textured glass. It also cleans the foil. Here in the US , when we were kids , we would use an eraser to make our copper pennies all shiny and new looking ! I also use foam board to encase my finished pieces if I am transporting them to another location.

    Karen: You can use cement board; that stuff used to create a solid surface for tile.
    But my personal favorite is silicone pads used for cooking. It is heat resistant and easy to clean. It is non-slip so the parts don’t skitter around. Try it.

    Floyd: I got a 2×4 ceiling tile from Home Depot for around $18. Made two 1×1 and one 2×3 working surfaces.

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    • I have been using sheet rock as a cutting and assembly surface for years. Bought a 4 x 8 sheet and cut it up into several smaller, e.g 4 x 4 and smaller to accommodate different sized projects. It easily allows use of stick pins to stabilize pieces. Best of all it cost around 6 dollars to buy a full sheet. I would consider other surfaces if there is a significant advantage?

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      • Brilliantly helpful comment, thanks John. My only concern would be regarding lead came construction as you need a robust board for all the nailing, pushing and pulling. I use 1/2″ chipboard for that.

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  6. I use a 1inch thick rigid foam insulation, wrapped with painters tape then covered over with tin foil. The foil will last for 2-3 projects before I have to replace it. I do my soldering on here. But I will try a piece of fiber board.

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  7. I recently was making a small piece in copper foil, mostly of nuggets, bevel pieces, and an agate slice. It was very irregular, and I couldn’t figure at first how to hold it all in place to tack solder it. At last I found an old chalk board with a shiny surface, and used tiny bits of blue photo tack under nearly every nugget to hold it together. The board held up well for my purpose, standing up to the heat of the solder but not bonding to it. And the photo tack stuck well enough that it took some pull to get the piece loose when it was tack soldered, despite the tiny bits of the sticky stuff that I used. Not expensive either, and I used very little of the package of it.

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  8. I use ceiling tiles. They are inexpensive and last a fair amount of time. They will hold pins or nails. I cut them in a few sizes and cover the edges with duct tape.

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  9. A tip about painting your homosote board…..don’t! Especially not enamel. Solder will melt into it. I initially though it would be cleaner and smother. Not. Ed

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  10. Thanks again for more wonderful helpful tips!… I am once again in Central America and not trying stained glass..hope to finish some projects when I return to Florida! Really appreciate all your useful information Milly…all best wishes to you and your students!

    Reply

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