Skillful soldering produces strong, smooth, and even soldered joints in your stained glass projects. In this post, we will offer guidance on choosing the right tools and supplies and how best to apply the solder.
Materials needed for soldering stained glass
It’s a short list. All you need is a soldering iron, a spool of solder, flux for stained glass, flux remover, and a soft cloth for cleanup.
- How do you choose a soldering iron for stained glass? For stained glass, choose a soldering iron based on its wattage, heating type, temperature controls, grip comfort, and the availability of interchangeable tips, while considering your project’s needs and budget. For soldering copper foil or leaded glass, an iron with an adjustable temperature range between 650 F and 1000 F is optimum.
- What soldering iron is best for stained glass work? A soldering iron with a 1/4″ to 1/2″ tip and adjustable temperature is ideal. A temperature-controlled soldering iron will give you the ability to adjust the heat output, depending on the thickness and type of glass you are working with. The Weller 100 and Hakko FX-601 (featuring a stable ceramic core heater) are the two most recommended options.
- Which solder is best for stained glass? The best solder for stained glass typically falls into the 60/40 (60% tin and 40% lead) mix, as it offers a smooth flow suitable for both copper foil and lead came projects. However, specific preferences may vary based on the artist’s technique and project requirements.
- Can I use lead-free solder for my stained glass project? Yes, you can use lead-free solder for stained glass projects, which is typically a tin-copper alloy and is preferred for health and environmental reasons. Ensure it is compatible with your specific project and materials.
- What is flux used for in stained glass? In stained glass, flux is used to clean and prepare metal surfaces, ensuring that solder flows smoothly and bonds effectively to metals like copper foil or lead came.
- What type of flux should I use for my stained glass project? For most stained glass projects, a liquid or paste flux is recommended. These types of flux are easy to apply and provide good coverage. We recommend Ruby Fluid liquid flux, perfect for stained glass work, also available as a paste. There are also fluxes available in powder form, which can be mixed with water to create a paste.
How to solder
Preparing to solder
- Clean and tin the soldering iron tip before use. A clean, tinned soldering iron tip will transfer heat more efficiently and produce a smoother, cleaner solder seam. Repeat every few minutes while soldering your project.
- Apply a thin layer of flux to the joint before soldering. Flux helps to clean and prepare the surfaces for soldering and promotes the smooth flow of the solder.
- Use a steady hand when applying the solder. Holding the soldering iron like a pencil in one hand and the solder in the other, start 1/2″ from the outside edge. As the initial bead swells, back it up to the edge, then start back across.
- Apply the solder in a continuous bead, moving fast enough to maintain the bead size along the seam. Take care not to add too much solder, as this can create a bumpy, uneven seam.
- When a seam that you are soldering ends at your projects edge, run the bead to the edge (but not over), then reverse direction. Disconnect from the bead at a right angle to the joint, moving out of the solder and onto the glass, and lift up and off.
Extra help. A step by step guide on soldering stained glass from stellartechnical.com is found here: 6 easy steps to solder copper foil for stained glass.
- Adding solder to a flat seam is as simple as melting some additional solder into the seam and slowly moving your iron across the seam to re-melt, distribute and smooth out the solder bead.
- If your seams keep coming out flat and your iron is too hot, solder may be seeping through the joint to the other side. If this happens, turn the irons temperature down.
- Molten solder can leak through when the joints between glass pieces are too wide. 60/40 solder tends to leak through more than 50/50, so try switching. Be careful when laying out and cutting glass that you end up with small even gaps between pieces. Read our post on scoring and breaking glass for more.
- Remove excess flux and solder after soldering. Use a clean, dry cloth or a brass-bristled flux brush to remove any excess flux from the project. Use a small wooden or plastic stick to pop loose and remove any cooled bits of excess solder from the glass. The wooden stick of your flux brush works well. Don’t scrape the glass by using metal as a scraper.
- Practice good soldering technique. Soldering stained glass takes practice to get the hang of. Take your time and focus on proper technique. Practice on small pieces or scraps of glass before tackling larger projects. Most importantly, don’t be afraid to experiment to find what works best for you.
Frequently asked questions
- How do I properly tin my soldering iron tip for stained glass work? First, clean the tip with a wet sponge, tip tinner, or a sal ammoniac block. If your tip is damaged or so heavily contaminated that it can not be cleaned and restored, replace the tip with a new one. Next, apply a small amount of solder to the tip and spread it evenly using a circular motion.
- How do I get a smooth soldered seam? To achieve a smooth soldered seam, ensure the soldering iron tip is clean and tinned, use a consistent amount of flux, and maintain a steady hand while dragging the solder across the joint at a uniform pace. Proper heat control and regular practice will also enhance seam smoothness.
- Why is the solder not sticking? There are two possibilities. If your soldering iron drops in temperature too much, the solder will not get hot enough to melt and fuse the metals together. Secondly, flux is a necessity. Without flux, solder won’t stick. Make sure the area to be soldered gets covered with flux before soldering.
- How do I remove excess solder from my project? To remove excess solder from your stained glass project, use a soldering iron and a copper sponge or brass wool to carefully melt and wipe away the solder.
- Can I use regular flux or do I need a special type of flux for stained glass work? For stained glass work, you should use a flux specifically designed for it, as it ensures proper bonding of solder to the copper foil or lead came. Avoid acid or rosin-based fluxes, which are not suitable for this purpose.
- How do I apply flux to my stained glass project? Flux can be applied using a flux brush, a flux pen, or a flux bottle with a fine nozzle. To use a flux brush or pen, simply dab a small amount of flux onto the joint that you want to solder. To use a flux bottle, squeeze a small amount of flux onto the joint in a thin, continuous bead.
- How do I remove excess flux from my stained glass project? It is important to remove all excess flux before soldering, as any flux that remains on the glass after soldering may turn black and become difficult to remove. A clean, dry cloth or a brass-bristled flux brush can be used to remove excess flux from your stained glass project.
- Is it necessary to use flux when soldering stained glass? Yes, flux is essential when soldering stained glass as it removes oxides, allowing the solder to flow smoothly and bond effectively to the copper foil or lead came.
- Do I use flux on all types of glass, or only on certain types? Flux is used on most types of glass, including stained glass, but should not be used on glass treated with a protective coating or finish, as some fluxes will damage the coating.
- How do I properly store and handle flux when working with stained glass? When working with flux, follow the manufacturer’s instructions for storage and handling. Flux is generally stable and non-toxic. However, for safety, keep away from children and pets. Store flux in a cool, dry place, away from heat and flame. Keep the container tightly sealed when not in use.
Wow, what a design that is! Pattern books are full of ideas to inspire you. Read my post on that very topic:
To summarize, using the right flux and solder is key to getting smooth, strong soldered joints in stained glass projects. By following the tips and techniques in this post, you can improve your soldering skills and make beautiful, professional-looking stained glass pieces.
Remember to select the right soldering iron, flux, and solder, and to apply and remove the flux and solder correctly. With practice and patience, you’ll be able to successfully solder stained glass and create projects that you can be proud of.