Safety is boring…I know. But it’s super important when you’re making stained glass.
You’ll find some old timers (& unfortunately some new timers who learned bad habits from old timers) on the internet demonstrating how to make glass art without safety gear.
And well…I’m just going to say it.
That’s. Bad. Practice.
We’ll get into why at the end of this post, but first…
Table of Contents
What safety gear do I wear during what steps of the stained glass process?
An important note: I am not a Safety Professional and as such accept no liability for your safety or others around you. The safety gear listed here are industry standard recommendations & the gear I personally use. I’m sharing information with references to the current knowledge I have, but please double check and/or research yourself as well for any and all chemicals & supplies used in your studio. Pleeeeeeeeeease keep your children & pets away from your stained glass studio area. Please research the individual products you’re going to use in making your art. Look for SDS/MSDS sheets for each.
You’re going to want to wear gear during most of the stained glass process. The only time you can probably get away without anything is during foiling.
The good part, is you don’t have to wear all of your gear for every process. It’s a good idea to wear close toed shoes in the studio area.
Here’s a video about what you need & when (there’s links at the end of the post for the ones I use):
And just in case ya prefer it written out (links for the gear I use in the next section)…
Cutting & Breaking
- Safety Glasses or Face Shield
- Cut Resistant Gloves (optional)
- Safety glasses or Face Shield
- Cut Resistant Gloves (optional)
- P100 mask (often recommended – be sure to at least keep your grinder bit wet at all times)
- Safety glasses if you’re really klutzy? Also, don’t run with scissors.
- Safety Glasses or Face Shield
- Rubber or Nitrile gloves
- 3M P100 mask with specifically 69024 cartridges (not just any ‘ol P100…because flux becomes vapor when heated, you’ll need specific cartridges for the type of flux you’re using. Cartridges listed in links below cover fluxes containing Zinc Chloride &/or Ammonium Chloride)
- Heat resistant gloves or use clamps
For a list of compatible respirator cartridges for the chemicals you use in your studio, here’s a link to 3M’s Respirator Selection Guide. If you have more questions, their technical assistance is fantastic! Give them a call (number listed on the selection guide).
If you choose to use it, do so at your own risk, and please, please use all of the following:
- Safety Glasses/Goggles &/or Face Shield
- 3M P100 mask with 60924 cartridges – PLEASE NOTE: ***According to 3M, for Novacan Copper Patina, the mask cartridges listed below will be effective. For Novacan Black Patina, there is no cartridge available due the Nitric Acid in it. If ppm for black patina are below OSHA limits, then copious quantities of fresh air are the only option available….however, it’s very important to note that in our home studios, we have no way of measuring ppm in our air. Therefore, we have no idea if the amount we are inhaling is within acceptable limits.
- Rubber or Nitrile gloves
- Working outside or, if indoors, with very good ventilation (in conjunction with safety gear) is smart.
Where do I find Stained Glass Safety gear?
Many of the items I’ve listed, you may already have at home. Check out your local hardware store for safety glasses, face shields, masks, & gloves.
If you’d rather buy your stuff online, here’s links to the gear I use:
*At no extra cost to you, as an amazon affiliate, I earn a small commission on qualifying purchases. I’ll only ever recommend products I use & love, or know to be good quality!
Honeywell Safety Glasses
Any safety glasses will do ya, but I like these because they have bendy arms so you can size them to fit your head. And then ya don’t get that weird headache from the arms squishing you.
Safety Works Adjustable Face Shield
Glasses are good, but this face shield has saved my eyeballs & face skin more than once from solder bb’s. I wear it to grind too.
3M Rugged Comfort 6502
Make sure you check sizing for your face with the mask. 😷. Word on the street is that Medium fits 70-80% of people.
3M P100 Respirator Filters 60924
Pick the Ammonia/Methylamine version. 3M says these are specifically for Zinc Chloride & Ammonium Chloride Fluxes like Canfield Blu-Glass, Classic 100 Gel, & Amerway Gel.
3M P100 Respirator Filters 60926
This type of cartridge covers both Zinc Chloride & Ammonium Chloride Fluxes like Canfield Blu-Glass, Classic 100 Gel, & Amerway Gel as well as Paint!
Schwer Cut Resistant Gloves
These gloves help save your pats from cuts when you’re cutting, breaking, & grinding.
D Lead Hand & Body Lead Removal Soap
Plain soap & water don’t remove all the lead. This one is fragrance free.
Why do I need to wear a mask, gloves, & glasses when making Stained Glass Art?
Flux, glass, solder, & patina. Those are your main reasons for needing stained glass safety gear (though protecting your hands from cuts isn’t a bad idea either!).
Solder is hot. Reaaallly freaking hot! And the laaaast thing ya want is some solder spattering up in your face or eyes.
Is lead solder bad for you? It’s not heated enough in the stained glass process to vaporize, but after handling, don’t eat, drink, smoke, or put your fingers in your ear hole, eye holes, nose holes (or anyone else’s for that matter).
It’s easiest, & best to wear gloves when you’re handling anything lead, but if you having some Lead Removal Soap on hand is a good idea.
If you’re concerned about lead, you can use lead free solder. It is a bit more difficult to work with than lead solder, but absolutely doable with patience & practice.
In fact, I work almost entirely lead free (except when doing repairs). Here’s a post I did All About Lead Free Solder.
Flux is not nice for the lungs, skin, or eyes for that matter. I recommend Canfield Blu-Glass Flux because it’s formulated for sensitive people, but there is no flux that’s completely safe. You should always have good ventilation and wear a mask when using any flux.
Our faces are super close to our work so the concentration is high right where we’re breathing. And we don’t have fancy sniffers to tell how many ppm are in the air so we really have no way of knowing if we’re reaching “adequate ventilation” as described in the SDS sheets for any of the fluxes.
Here’s the SDS Sheets for all three:
Glass Cutting & Breaking
Glass is sharp. We all know that. And no one likes a shard of glass in their eye or stuck in their foot. So safety glasses or a face shield are an absolute must and cut resistant gloves & closed toe shoes are a darn good idea. (Links are listed above to my favorites. Glasses, face shield, & gloves. You’re on your own for the shoes.😀)
Dust created in glass grinding is bad to breathe. That’s why your glass grinder bit should always be wet.
Despite the water keeping the dust at bay, some people in the glass community have had concerns about it.
Crystalline silica causes the lung disease, Silicosis.
Stained glass is an amorphous or non-crystalline solid, which is different.
But as of the time of this writing, I cannot find definitive, scientific proof that amorphous silica doesn’t cause any other kind of lung irritation or disease.
Here’s a bit of research on the subject, (please do research and make your own decision):
- NIOSH Silica, amorphous page
- Dept of Environmental & Occupational Health Sciences University of Washington, Silica Page
- Agency for Toxic Substances & Disease Registry, Silica ToxFAQs PDF
Sooo…always keep your grinder bits wet. It helps keep you safe & saves your grinder bits from excess wear. There’s no harm done if you choose to wear a mask as well.
Patina changes the color of your solder to either black or copper.
Patina is a strong freakin’ chemical. There are serious short & long term physical hazards of use without safety equipment like skin peeling & blindness. Please read the SDS for whichever brand you choose to use.
Link to Novacan SDS (Safety Data Sheets):
If you choose to use patina, pleeeeeeeease gear up with the right mask*, gloves, & eye protection!
*Note: According to 3M, for Novacan Copper Patina, the mask cartridges listed at the beginning of this post. For Novacan Black Patina, there is no cartridge available due the Nitric Acid in it. If ppm for black patina are below OSHA limits, then copious quantities of fresh air are the only option available….however, it’s very important to note that in our home studios, we have no way of measuring ppm in our air. Therefore, we have no idea if the amount we are inhaling is within acceptable limits.
There are several different types of glass paint used in the stained glass industry. Pebeo Vitrea is a type that ya paint on & then bake to set it. I’ve recently been playing with Color Magic. It’s a no-bake glass & metal paint & thus far, I’m impressed. It doesn’t scratch off easily & has withstood the flux I use (Canfield Blu-Glass) as well as my One-Step Polish & Wax.
Why wear safety gear when using paint? The fumes are harsh. Like nail polish got super duper concentrated & then ya stuck your face right in it kinda harsh (don’t do that for the love of Pete!). Besides being bad for your health, maybe they’ll make ya feel a bit loopy. And then ya might end up painting an eyeball on a nose. Which would be weird.
Be smart. Be informed. And please, be safe.
Peace, Love, & Stained Glass,
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