By Colette Langan


by Colette Langan

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A beginners guide on how to make stained glass

stained glass commission installed

This is a brief overview of the process of making a stained glass window.  I haven’t photographed every step in the process but have the most important parts of it covered.



I really enjoyed this commission as my client was very flexible, the only constraints on me were ‘Don’t make it too dark and I’d like some red in it to match the carpet.” The outside space wasn’t very inviting so obscuring the view wasn’t an issue; the house was built in the 70’s so there was no requirement to make it match a particular era as an older house would.

I started with a sketch, when satisfied with the drawing I drew it to scale taking into account shapes of the glass and how the lead lines run to maximize strength and minimise the possibility of cracks or sagging in the future.

The drawing is made to full scale, the tinted glass used in the background casts it's reflection

Even though I chose the colours on paper I stick the glass to a backing sheet of glass so that I can see how the colours are working together, which is placed on the window. As much of the glass was clear or with a mild tint it wasn’t necessary to mount all of the glass on the backing plate, so I only fixed the areas that I needed to. Once the glass is cut I move on to the glass painting.
stained glass

The glass is cut ready for painting

Glass paint is made from very finely crushed glass so that it is a fine powder.  Water is added to make it a fluid, other additives are also used but this is about the personal preference of the artist and how the paint handles, than of any technical significance.  When the paint receives sufficient heat in the kiln it melts, fusing to the surface of the glass making it permanent.  This is the same technique that is used in church glass which has stood the test of hundreds of years.  

stained glass
leading in progress

The lead panel is built against an L shape which is placed to my left because I am right-handed. The window is built from the corner, each piece supporting the next. When the leaded panel is completed it has batons nailed along the top and to the the right to stop it moving.   It is checked to make sure everything is square and the measurements are correct. At this point adjustments can be made relatively easily.  The panel is soldered front and back, turning it over with one side soldered is the trickiest part of the process, as it is quite weak and floppy.  Large panels require a board and two people to turn them over but I never make panels that big.  

The final part of the process is the cementing.  This is a very important albeit messy step, sometimes referred to as puttying.  It is what makes the stained glass weatherproof and gives it rigidity.  It needs to be left to set, in our cold climate I leave it overnight though in hot weather it doesn’t need to be left so long.  I leave it for a few days flat on the bench so that it drys evenly and is properly set before it is moved.  After this it is polished and tie wires are soldered on so that the glass can be tied in place once it is installed.