Framing Your Stained Glass Piece

    Published: 06-16-2009
    Views: 81,355
    Stained Glass Artist Phillip McKee demonstrates how to frame a stained glass piece out of metal or wood.

    Phillip McKee

    As an artist, I work in the medium of stained glass. I have always had an interest in stained glass. From early childhood I was enchanted by the Middle Ages and especially the medieval church. Seeing the beauty of the windows was always a joy to me. It was with great joy that I studied Medieval History first at Yale University and later at Harvard. I even held a research fellowship at Princeton in 1993. Even though I studied economic and diplomatic history instead of Art History, I still managed to work my artistic interests into my work at every possible opportunity.

    But after all of that education, I chose to become a firefighter. Needless to say, this was not greeted with much enthusiasm by my family. However a firefighter's work schedule gave me the free time I needed and I was able to pursue my other passion -- glass art!

    Since 9-11, stained glass has become an even greater part of my life as I went through rehabilitation for injuries suffered at the Pentagon. Glass has provided me with a creative outlet that I have sorely needed during this most difficult time in my life and in the life of our country. It has also given me a new place in life now that I am physically disabled and no longer able to continue as a firefighter.

    I am also pleased to announce the publication of my book Make It or Break It; Stained Glass For Beginners as a CD E-Book by CWS Press. It is an innovative CD-ROM that allows for page-flipping and browsing just like a book but it can also be searched like a regular electronic document. The CD also comes with a free trial version of GlassEye 2000 and over 340 patterns in GlassEye format.

    And I am now the senior Stained Glass Art Instructor for the Arlington County Adult Arts Education Program at the Fairlington Arts Center. If you live in Northern Virginia this is a wonderful way for you to be able to study stained glass under my tutelage while remaining close to home! In addition I offer private lessons in my home studio.

    But I did recently return to my academic roots. In June 2004, I exhibited several pieces as a part of the "Visions & Experiences" Exhibit at the Yale University School of Art Gallery. If you did not have a chance to visit the exhibit while it was occurring, I have created a Virtual Tour. It is an executable file which can be downloaded and viewed on your computer.

    Hello, I am Phillip McKee at McKee Stained Glass. It is now time to frame our stained glass creation. When framing, you have several choices, one is to frame in wood. With wood framing, you can either use a pre-manufactured frame, one that has been made for you or you can purchase wood framing stock and cut it to size yourself. Pre-manufactured frames can be very easy and time saving. However, they require that you be incredibly accurate during your stained glass construction, so that you make sure that it still fits the frame. Another option is using metal, when framing in metal, you can frame with zinc, brass or copper. Zinc framing is by far the most popular method, because of its relatively low price and the wide variety of shapes and sizes in which it comes.

    We will be using zinc channel, zinc channel comes in a six foot length, so we will have to cut this down to size to make it a little more usable. It is made out of a flat piece of zinc that is enfolded by a machine into this form that creates a channel which holds the glass and a body. The face is the width of that body. The larger projects, you will want to use a wider face, so that your frame is proportionally sized. First off, let us cut our channel in half simply to make it a more usable size. We are using a metal-cutting saw for this purpose, but you can also use a pencil. When cutting, always make sure to wear your safety glasses and keep your hand away from the blade. The first thing you want to do is cut a blank.

    A blank is a small piece of zinc that will assist you in measuring. Next, we are going to measure out our sides, when you frame, you can frame either with mitered corners or boxed corners. It is easier to hang your piece if you box out the corners, by that I mean joining your frame at right angles in this manner. You also want your sides to stick up and be exposed, so when preparing our frame, we use our blank to show the approximate distance above and below the piece that we need to cut our frame. We then mark it, come over to our saw and cut it. Be certain to cut on the proper side of your printed mark. Check again, to ensure accuracy, now check the opposite side. If you have properly squared out your pattern, these should be exactly the same. Now, you can use the existing piece to mark and cut your second side.

    Once you have those cuts, you can cut your top and bottom. Have one side sticking up and another side artificially low and lay your zinc on the top of your frame. Now, take your marker and mark again, the space in between the two sides that will be your top. Check for accuracy and then check again on the other side, once again, if you have done your layout properly, then you will have an accurate piece. Use it if accurate to mark your next piece. If not, if your piece was not properly squared, measure the sides separately. Now, it is time to put all the side together. You can use pushpins to help hold the sides in place for soldering. Now, it is time to bring back our soldering iron, which we heated up and also bring back our flux and our solder.

    Zinc solders differently, than does copper or lead. We still have to apply flux, but zinc is a heat sink, it dissipates the heat very quickly. So, we can not simply apply our solder. First, we need to warm up the joints slightly, then we can solder it together. If when warming it, we have accidentally removed too much flux, simply reapply and solder. Do this to all of your corners on this side. Once you have solder applied to all four corners, then you can remove your pushpins and flip over your piece. Be careful it will be hot; we follow the same procedure on this side. Now, we are going to add our hangers. For these we use especially constructive handy hangers that actually fit inside the channels of our frame.

    Apply some flux to these and insert. Also, apply flux to the portion that is showing on the outside. Now, when doing this portion of the frame, it often helps to have blocks that will hold it or use your solder like a third hand. So that, you can more easily solder the frame together. Do not hold onto the zinc, as that will be very warm. Also, do not attempt to hold onto the frame directly beneath where you are working. It will burn you if solder drops into that space. Now, it is time to clean up any excess solder from your piece, review your joints, ensure that they look as pretty as they can be and if you desire, you can fill the gaps in the bottoms with solder as well. If you find handling the piece in this manner is too warm for you, always feel free to wear protective gloves. Once it is all soldered in place, it is then time to do final clean up and preparation for display.