Crafting Amazing Stained Glass Suncatchers
Crafting suncatchers made from stained glass is a beautiful way to decorate any window or wall with vibrant colors and mesmerizing light effects. The art of stained glass dates back centuries, and while an intricate stained glass window requires expert skills, you can easily make simple yet elegant suncatchers at home. Follow this step-by-step guide to craft your own unique stained glass suncatchers.
What is a Stained Glass Suncatcher?
A stained glass suncatcher is a decorative piece made from colored glass that is hung in a window to catch sunlight. As light shines through, it creates colorful reflections and rainbow prisms that dance across walls and floors. Suncatchers come in infinite shapes like circles, stars, and animals.
The glass pieces are joined together with copper foil or lead came. Foil wraps each piece, then solder adheres it all together. The lead came method interlocks came strips between glass pieces. Hang with wire, chain, or suction cups.
Benefits of Crafting Stained Glass Suncatchers
- Add pops of color to any room
- Create rainbows and flecks of light
- Available in endless shapes and themes
- Make great gifts and holiday decor
- Easy intro to working with stained glass
- Fun craft for kids and adults
Basic tools and supplies:
- Colored glass – stained glass sheets or upcycled pieces
- Glass cutter and running pliers
- Grinder to smooth cut edges (optional)
- Copper foil and/or lead came
- Soldering iron, solder, and flux
- Patina chemicals and finishing wax (optional)
- Chain, wire, or suction cups for hanging
- Safety glasses and gloves
How to Make a Stained Glass Suncatcher
Follow these key steps:
1. Design and Cut the Glass
Sketch your suncatcher design on paper, considering the glass colors. Trace on glass then cut pieces with the glass cutter. Grind any rough edges. Clean thoroughly before foiling.
2. Wrap Edges in Copper Foil
Center glass on foil strips and tightly wrap all edges. Overlap 1/4″ where they meet. Burnish foil down firmly using a plastic fid or wooden stick. Ensure smooth, even adhesion.
3. Solder the Foiled Pieces Together
Flux all joints, then tack solder to temporarily hold pieces. Solder along all seams for strength. Let cool fully before washing away flux.
4. Add Finishing Touches
Apply patina chemicals to color the solder and came if desired, then rinse. Add loops for hanging wire or chain. Seal with carnuba wax.
Advanced Tips and Tricks
- Draw your design on heavy paper, number pieces
- Use a lightbox to trace directly onto glass
- Position pieces on pattern before soldering
- Work in sections, tacking as you go
- Start foiling on sections without joints first
- Keep iron moving to avoid cracking glass
- Use lead came on big pieces for strength
- Add reinforcing bars if needed on large projects
- Make cleaning solution with vinegar and salt
Inspiring Designs to Try
The design options for stained glass suncatchers are endless! Get inspired by these ideas:
- Nostalgic shapes – Hearts, stars, moons, rainbows
- Animals and nature – Butterflies, dragonflies, fish, trees, leaves
- Holiday and seasonal – Snowflakes, pumpkins, Easter eggs
- Monograms – Initials with flourishes
- Spiritual symbols – Crosses, Yin Yang, Tree of Life
- Abstract art – Geometric patterns, waves, spirals
- Landscapes – Mountains, sunsets, beaches, deserts
- Architecture – Churches, barns, lighthouses, bridges
Displaying Your Stained Glass Suncatcher
Part of the appeal of suncatchers is seeing the interplay of light through the glass. For best results:
- Place in a south-facing window to maximize sunlight
- Position where the sun will hit it for part of the day
- Hang in the window frame using wire or suction cups
- Display against a light wall color to intensify the effect
- Experiment with different windows and times of day
- Rotate theme with the seasons or holidays
- Group multiple suncatchers together for a bold statement
Endless Options for Skill Building
Once you master the basics, keep expanding your stained glass skills. Try these next level techniques:
- Intricate pattern designs with tiny pieces
- Layered 3D projects with glass jewels
- Items with curved edges like circles
- Using a glass grinder for smooth curves
- Advanced soldering like foiling seams
- Fusing glass together in a kiln
- Learning to cut your own glass
- Working with lead came for strength
- Making full panels like a window
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the best glass to use for suncatchers?
Look for stained glass, transparent colored glass, or recycled glass pieces. Avoid thin craft glass that can break easily. Thickness of 3mm or more is best.
Can kids make stained glass suncatchers?
Yes, with parental supervision. Avoid very small pieces. Opt for simple designs and plastic craft glass. Fuse pieces together instead of soldering.
How do I make a round suncatcher?
Use a circle cutter tool and grinder to shape rounds. You can also score and break into smaller pieces to approximate a curve.
What metal should I use for the frame?
Hobby came, a type of lead came, gives an elegant finish but requires advanced techniques.
How do I make a stained glass sun?
Cut tapered triangles or irregular pieces to create the rays around a central circle. Use yellow and orange glass for the vibrant sun effect.
What tools do I need for stained glass?
A glass cutter, running pliers, grinder, soldering iron, flux, copper foil, came, patina chemicals, and safety gear are essential.
Is lead safe to work with?
When crafting suncatchers using lead, take precautions like gloves, ventilation, and washing your hands after handling. Keep any lead scraps or residue away from children and pets. Lead-free solder is also available.
How do I transfer my pattern to glass?
Trace with a sharpie or use a lightbox. Allow extra space if using came. Another option is gluing paper template pieces on. More details on transferring designs to glass can be found here.
How do I hang a stained glass suncatcher?
Options include wire, chain, string, or adhesive hooks. For windows, use suction cups or frame hooks. Ensure it can support the weight.
What temperature should I set the soldering iron to?
Between 620-750°F usually works well. Do test joints first. Too hot cracks glass, too cool makes messy beads.
Why does my soldering bead look lumpy?
Insufficient heat or moving too slowly along the joint can create uneven lumpy beads. Increase temp slightly.
How can I reinforce large stained glass panels?
Add strength by soldering on brass or copper strips across the back. A sturdy frame also provides support. Refer to my post on Reinforcing stained glass here.
Why does the foil peel off my glass pieces?
Foil won’t stick if the glass is dusty or oily. Always thoroughly clean each piece before foiling for best adhesion.
Can I use a household iron to melt foil on glass?
No, a soldering iron reaches much higher temperatures needed to melt the foil. A household iron won’t get hot enough.
How do I smooth cut glass edges?
Use a grinder or sandpaper to smooth and shape each piece after cutting. Remove any sharp points or ridges.
How do I make small stained glass pieces?
Cut glass larger than needed, then score and break again for smaller pieces. Pliers can snap off tiny shards.
What is the best way to clean flux off a suncatcher?
Best practice is to use a specialized product like Kwik Clean Flux Cleaner (Amazon link). You can also try a 50/50 vinegar and water solution. Rinse thoroughly.
How do I polish a finished suncatcher?
Use a sunshine polishing cloth or apply carnuba wax with a soft cloth. This seals and protects the piece.
Can I make a suncatcher with plastic instead of glass?
Yes, use transparent acrylics or recycled plastic pieces. Construction is the same, just use plastic-safe glues instead of solder.
Note: Dive deeper into the skills and techniques of stained glass by exploring more on my blog, StainedGlassFun.com
The world of stained glass offers endless room for creativity and learning. Start simple and keep growing your skills over time. Let the sun shine through your unique suncatchers!