How to Make a Stained Glass Suncatcher

    Published: 06-16-2009
    Views: 138,592
    Stained Glass Artist Phillip McKee describes the basics of how to make a stained glass suncatcher.

    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.

    Philip Curtis Mckee: Hi, there I am Philip Curtis Mckee, III, founder of the Mckee Stained Glass and today I am going to show you how to make a stained glass suncatcher, using the copper foil method. In fact, you will be making this suncatcher. To start off, I am going to telling you about various types of glass and tools. Then we will move on how to properly cut glass and break it, not just for straight lines but also the more difficult curves. We will grind our glass down, so that we have nice smooth edges and foil it, so that can we apply our solder. Once we solder it together we are going to applying a pettiness, so that we achieve that rich black finish on the soldered line, that people associate with stained glass. Finally we will frame it and polish it so, that it's ready for display in your home or office window. I wasnt always making stained glass but it is my true love. I did my undergraduate work at Yale University followed graduate studies at Harvard. I held a research fellowship at Princeton as well and finally before I was ready to go into the world as an artist, I intensively studied under an established stained glass artist.

    I am here to show you how to make these wonderful works of art in your own home but before we can begin, we have to go over some basic tools and also some basic safety tips. In terms of tools, you will need a glass cutter, several different types of pliers, scissors and specialty shears as well as Homasote board, a grid surface for cutting, either a grinding stone or grinder to grind your glass and a soldering iron. Basic versions of all of these tools can be purchased for a combined total a less than a $100.

    There are many timesaving and labor saving devices out there that you can purchase, should you desire them and they will only increase your enjoyment of making stained glass. In terms of safety, there are few simple rules that you need to follow. First, always whenever breaking glass or performing any step, where something could fly into the air, wear safety glasses. Safety glasses are different from regular glasses, even if you wear prescription glasses, you need to wear safety glasses, because in addition to protecting from the front, they provide side and top and bottom protection when worn properly.

    Second is the clothing you will wear. Always wear a closed neck shirt. A sweat shirt or a sweater works wonderfully. The tie is not really necessarily but you want to make sure that you dont have flying particles falling inside your clothing. In addition, wear closed toed shoes. You really dont want to have a piece of glass or worse, a 700 degree ball of molten of solder falling between your toes. It's also an good idea to wear clothes that you dont mind getting dirty or to cover them with an apron or other safety smock of some sort. It's not just protecting your clothes you need to worry about but also protecting your inside. Never eat, drink, or smoke when working on stained glass. You will be working with some chemicals as well as lead and glass pieces. You dont want any of that going inside your mouth, because of that also, when grinding be certain to keep your mouth closed. I may have to speak during the grinding section of this video but you shouldnt. That will keep small glass pieces out of your mouth.

    Speaking of lead, all solder types have some degree of lead in them, some more than others. The only exceptions are certain types of lead free solder, if you are a pregnant women or nursing, consider either not working on stained glass during those times or using a lead free solder, so, that you can limit the exposure of your new born to lead, since it is a non environmental hazard for children. Finally, a few points about soldering safety, that may seem like common sense but that can cause a serious problem for you, if you get distracted. Your soldering iron will be heated up to a point where it can melt solder, depending on the solder you use, that will be anywhere from 600 to 800 degrees, that will cause a serious burn, if it is touches your skin even momentarily. So, always hold your soldering iron only by the insulated handle. The hot end of an iron is shaped like a pencil, if you are distracted, you can easily make a mistake of grabbing your iron like a pencil and causing serious burns to your hands, that will require medical attention. For that same reason, do not walk with a hot soldering iron or wave the hot soldering around, especially if there are others in the room. Waving an iron can cause a small solder droplets to fly off the end and injure others or damage property.

    When you are not using your iron, always put it in a its metal iron holder, never lay it down on your work surface, it can cause damage to furniture or even start a fire. Finally, if you will not be using your iron for any length of time, turn it off. Yes, it may cool down and you will have to heat it up back again, when you are ready to start soldering once more but it will extend the life of your iron, of your iron tips and avoid the risk of your iron overheating and causing damage. Now that we have gone through the basic tools that you will need and some safety tips, why dont we jump right in and get started on this stained glass project, because I really want you to have this hanging in your window.