Stained glass is a difficult medium to work with. It can break easily and is difficult to shape into the exact shape you want.
However, if you master the basics you will be able to make beautiful glass art and mosaics that have the potential to amaze anyone that sees them.
Fortunately, by using the right tools for stained glass making is already half the journey.
Today we will go over everything you need to know to assemble your own DIY stained glass kit as a stained glass hobbyist.
What Is Stained Glass?
The term stained glass can refer to any kind of colored glass or work that contains colored glass. Traditionally stained glass is used in churches, mosques and other important buildings.
Nowadays, many hobbyists also use stained glass to make small stained glass windows, leadlights and glass art. Especially came glasswork has become popular due to artists such as Louis Comfort Tiffany due to the relative simplicity.
The stained glass owes its color due to the addition of metallic salts during the manufacturing process. However, this process can only create relatively large pieces of glass of a single color. The smaller details are often painted on top of the glass afterward.
— tori (@hopelesstor) 20 November 2017
How Are Stained Glass Windows Made?
Making any design using stained glass is an intricate process with many different steps. That’s why taking an online course in stained glass can be very helpful for beginners.
Like any art form, it all starts with an idea.
This idea is normally drawn on a piece of paper that will indicate the general design and which colors will go where.
Most old stained glass windows will have some kind of story or deeper meaning to them. Of course, if you are a hobbyist you might opt to make something that just looks nice as well.
The design is then transferred to the different colored glass and cut out. Since cutting glass accurately and precisely every single time is almost impossible, the pieces are often ground to smooth the edges.
Extra detailed can be painted on top of the stained glass using special inks and fired to make the marks permanent.
When all the individual glass pieces are prepared you can assemble them together. This is normally done using an H-sectioned lead came. The joints are soldered together and special cement can be used to prevent the pieces from rattling.
Making stained glass art was a craft that used to take years to master. And even then it would take months to complete a single project.
Fortunately, modern tools have made things a lot easier. Even a beginner with a stained glass starter kit can get the hang of it in no time.
Which Tools Do You Need In A Stained Glass Kit For Adults?
As mentioned before, there are many tools that can make working with glass easier. Of course, that doesn’t mean you need every single tool out there. Especially since there are so many of them!
Below is a small list of items you might want to include if you are building your first stained glass window kit.
- Glass Cutter: these cutters are normally made out of carbide steel can is hard enough to cut through glass. Whether you use a cutter that is oil-filled or not is personal preference. The main thing to keep in mind is that you need to be able to apply enough pressure to cut the glass. When choosing between a pistol-grip and a pen-grip cutter, make sure to get a model that suits you best.
- Lead Knife: besides cutting the glass, you will also have to cut the lead came to fit your design. A lead knife lets you easily cut the came without deforming it.
- Grinder: using a grinder is not absolutely necessary but it does make it much easier to correct small mistakes that can occur when cutting the glass. For more information check our article on the best grinder.
- Soldering Iron: I will need a soldering iron to melt the solder and connect the lead came pieces together. This might be one of the most important tools so it is worth taking some time to find a model that is comfortable to hold and safe. Make sure to buy one that has at least 100 watts for the best performance.
- Solder: solder is normally made from a mixture of lead and tin, which influences the melting temperature and how smoothly it is to apply. It is common to use 60% lead and 40% tin solder for copper foil and 50% lead with 50% tin for lead came.
- Flux: this is normally a paste or tallow. It makes the solder run smoothly and stick to the lead. Without applying any flux, the solder simply rolls off the lead and it will be difficult to work accurately.
You probably noticed that the above list is missing a few things.
We mentioned tools to cut the lead came and the glass, but we didn’t actually include any lead came or glass itself!
This is because choosing stained glass and lead came to work with is a very personal choice.
Stained glass comes in many different colors and thicknesses, while lead came can come in a variety of different widths and profiles.
Rather than trying to choose the best one from the start, it will be better to try different ones to discover which one you prefer.
Additionally, we didn’t mention any microwave kilns for fusing glass because most starter sets don’t include them.
Also don’t forget safety!
Using a good pair of safety goggles can protect you from many dangerous scenarios. If you don’t have a spare laying around the house, you might want to buy a DIY stained glass kit that includes one.
Our Recommended Stained Glass Starter Kits
We realize that making your own starter kit can be pretty difficult. Deciding which tools to buy and which tools to pass on can be difficult if you have little to no experience working with stained glass yet.
That is why we have gone through the stained glass kit reviews for you and came up with two recommendations.
Basic Stained Glass Tool Kit
This kit is a no-nonsense kit that only includes what you truly need to get started. It contains 10 items such as a soldering iron and glass cutter.
It comes with 10 sheets of 4 x 4 inch stained glass that will get you started. But you can easily buy new sheets of glass when you run out.
The main downside is that this set does not include a glass grinder, hence the low price. This means you will have work a little harder and do some extra manual work.
This stained glass start-up kit by Sun and Moon might not be perfect, but it can be a great place to start and try making stained glass art yourself.
Best Stained Glass Starter Kit With Grinder
There are point things that make this kit stand out to most other starter kits.
First, it comes with a SuperStar II grinder which is known to be one of the best glass grinders there is. This probably explains the high price point for this set as well, since a good glass grinder is not cheap.
Secondly, this kit also provides a “Stained Glass Basics” instruction book. Which is ideal for beginners. Rather than looking for information on how to work with stained glass scattered all over the internet, you now have it all in one place.
Of course, it also comes with all the regular goodies such as a soldering iron, glass cutter, flux, etc.
This stained glass kit might be on the pricey side, but it does live up to its name. It really includes all you can wish for if you are going to work with stained glass.