Making Stained Glass

Making stained glass can provide you with hours of satisfaction and potentially an at-home income as well!

| March/April 1981

Six years ago, when I bought my first glass cutter, I had little idea that an interest in working with stained glass would eventually allow me to escape the drudgery of the 9-to-5 lifestyle and go into business for myself!

However, I soon discovered that making stained glass items is one of the most rewarding crafts imaginable, and later selling them one of the most profitable. And anyone who has a little patience and determination to spare can learn the basic techniques very quickly.

Getting Started

The first thing you'll want to do is find a roomy work area. The best bet will probably be a table or bench in an unused part of the garage, den, porch, or extra bedroom. A sheet of 3/4" plywood, set on two sawhorses, will serve as an ideal workbench that provides plenty of space and can be rapidly disassembled if necessary.

If you have small children in your family, you'll have to make a special effort to keep your work area off-limits to curious fingers because broken glass pieces and strips of lead are extremely hazardous. So be sure the space you decide to use for your sun-catching art is situated away from your home's regular traffic patterns.

Making Designs

Once your crafts area is arranged, you can start right in and work up a design for your "window art." There are many pattern books on the market (which contain black-and-white line drawings), but most of their designs are too complicated for a beginning effort ... so you may want to plan your first piece yourself. If you stick with simple shapes, straight lines, and/or gentle curves — and limit the size of the project (keep both dimensions between 10 and 18 inches) and the number of glass parts (15 to 25 pieces) — you should have little difficulty.

To begin, draw your design on graph paper to keep it square and in proportion. As a rule of thumb, the shapes in the pattern should comply with the following guidelines: [1] Never draw a "lead line" (one that indicates the position of the lead that will hold your shards together) that stops in space. All such lines must be connected to other lead lines. [2] Never design a right or acute angle without adding at least one lead line from the "point" of the angle. [3] Always divide any large pieces of background glass into small shapes, and avoid having tight curves that jut into such shapes.

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