The ability for glass to be coloured started around the 10th century. By the 14th century the techniques had improved and became a beautiful art form with varied colours and increased luminosity.
Stained glass has always been used to depict scenes within ecclesiastical architecture, with great effect. There are many examples of great works that still remain today. During the 19th century, there was a Gothic revival and the arts and craft movement. These combined to make stained glass very popular again.
Architecturally, stained glass was very popular in the 1930 for glazing front doors, halls and landing windows where a more decorative light could be appreciated.
For stained glass windows you would have a set of glaziers tools including measures, glazing hammers and paddles, glass pliers and much more.
For small pieces like sun catchers you can buy a set or put together a set for yourself. You will need a soldiering iron and sponge, hobby knife, glass cutters, grossing and other pliers, bowls for washing, paint brushes, cloths, towel for drying washed pieces, wire wool for creating an antique finish, safety glasses, protective clothing and surgical gloves, scissors and copper foil scissors, wood or plastic fid for smoothing out the foil, cutting board with holes and grids, a small bin for waste glass, straight edge and a work area.
If you are fitting your work in a door or window you would also need a hacking knife to remove old putty.
For finishing glass pieces you will need a grinder with some pushing tools like a cookie and different size heads on the grinder.
To create a sun catcher you would need, a pattern, various coloured glass some with textures, glue like a Pritt stick that will allow the pattern to move on the glass, solder, flux, a frame for the finished catcher, black or copper patina to change the colour of the solder, finishing compound, cutting oil to lubricate the glass cutting wheel, and soap and water for cleaning.
You will need a self-adhesive foil like copper foil or lead came to connect the glass pieces.
If you are working on a window then you will also need putty, lead light cement and whiting to dry it out.
Two popular technique for making stained glass are pot-metal and flashed or ruby glass. Pot-metal glass has the colour fused with the glass when fired. Ruby glass is a different technique where the coloured skin is added to the white body.
A stained glass window will go through a number of stages. The first stage is the design where a template of the opening is created and the concept and subject of the design is worked on. The patron will normally receive a Vidimus and or scale model for approval. Next the glass is selected for its colour and cut to size. The glass can be accurately cut using nibbling tools. The glass is assembles in cames with the joints soldiered and then cemented. The windows are then mounted.
Creating small pieces perhaps from of cuts of glass like a sun catcher or lampshade uses very similar techniques. Pick a design or create your own, print two copies with numbered and colour coded sections and thick black lines to allow for spacing. Attach one copy to a table ready for laying out the cut pieces. Cut the other design template up, so that you have the inner parts of the design and stick them (easy to remove glue) to the coloured glass. Put straight edges next to straight sides of the glass so you have less to cut. Make sure if you are using textured glass, that you put the template on the way you want the finished piece to look.
It is a good idea to work on one colour group at a time. After taking the pattern paper off your ground glass place them on template to lay them out. The more complicated the design the longer this will take. You do not want to turn it into a puzzle.
Cutting glass means that you need to wear safety glasses, use a glass cutting wheel to score the glass, you can tap it or use a pair of pliers to hold and snap the waste away. Thick glass will be a little more difficult to cut. Do not worry about making mistakes you can just start over. If you have a difficult piece to cut then you can use a grinder. You will need to grind all your pieces to get them smooth and accurately fitting your design.
Clean any dust or dirt off your finished pieces before adding a foil. You can buy self-adhesive copper foils that you rap around the edges of each piece, making sure it is parallel and well pushed down, ending on a join. Use a wooden or plastic fib to remove air bubble under the foil. Cut any excess foil off with a knife. Wearing gloves, you will solder the pieces together, apply flux and with a hot soldering iron melt the solder onto the joints. Be careful not to touch the glass or to overheat the frame as that can crack the glass. Once one side is complete leave to set then flip it over to solder the back. Fit into your frame and then clean both sides of the with warm soapy water and a soft brush then dry. Add a thin layer of corrosive (wear gloves for this) patina with a blush or apply with a cloth to both sides of the piece. Gentle clean the piece again in soapy water.
To complete the piece apply a finishing compound to protect the patina and the piece. Leave to dry and then buff with a clean cloth until all the compound is removed. Then to complete your piece make sure that you clean off any residue on the glass. You can use a knife, cloth, soapy water cotton wool etc, keep cleaning until it is perfect.
In The Basis of Design by Walter Crane, he says that you should not use white glass as this creates holes in the window.
You can use wire wool to gently rub the cames of your finished piece to give it a more antique look.
If you are cutting glass with a texture, stick your pattern so that you can cut the smooth side as this will be much easier.
When soldering next to glass be careful not to touch or overheat the frame as the glass will crack.
Keep a stock of the larger cut off pieces of glass to use on smaller projects and try to pack templates on glass that you are cutting to minimise waste.
The worth of stained glass must mainly depend on the genuineness and spontaneity of the architecture it decorates: if that architecture is less than good, the stained glass windows in it become a mere congeries of design without unity of purpose. William Morris
George Campfield was a glass painter employed by William Morris and who become the foreman of the glass works.
Other notable people in the include Walter Crane, Christopher Whall (who wrote Stained Glass Work and taught Architectural glass), James Sparrow, Alfred Child, William Burges, Phillipe Mairet and Paul Woodroffe.
The Aesthetic Movement that liked the term Art or Arts Sake influenced luxurious rather than religious or industrial designs.