One of the more common questions I’m asked by students is, “What’s your number one piece of advice for new stained glass artists?”
I’m always happy to help fellow glassers! But, when it comes to learning a new art, I prefer to give ya more rather than less info. So here’s my top five pieces of advice for beginner stained glass artists instead.😁
The first thing that always comes to mind is…
Before ya get started in stained glass,
WEAR YOUR FREAKIN’ PPE!!! (I’m sorry I yelled. It wasn’t at ya…just to ya.).
Cuz it’s all fun and games til someone loses an eye.
Or a lung.
All the info ya need to know is on my Stained Glass Safety page.
Now that we got that outta the way….
Table of Contents
#1 Practice your cutting on picture frame glass instead of your stained glass!
It’s freakin’ cheap. Stained Glass is not. Grab some at a yard sale, thrift store, your parent’s basement…
If ya have a glazier or window company nearby, you can sometimes get their scraps for free or super duper cheap.
Learning to get consistently good at cutting (scoring) your stained glass takes some time.
So don’t waste your precious pretty stained glass. Practice on the junky glass til ya get it down pat.
Quick Tip: Wherever you decide to source your scrap glass, be sure it’s NOT TEMPERED. Tempered glass doesn’t break, it shatters in a super explody kinda way (eeeek!).
And, the better you get at cutting, the less you’ll have to grind.
But, despite what you may hear some other creators tell ya online…
#2 You need a grinder to do Stained Glass!
Can you technically use a carborundum stone?
If you’re doing lead came only and you’re really good at scoring & breaking.
If you’re doing copper foil? Nope. Nope. Nope. Not gonna work.
Well…it will kinda work. But there’s two reasons it’s a terrible idea.
It is absolutely no exaggeration when I tell you it’ll take you 20 minutes to take off one tiny little nubbin on the edge of your glass with a carborundum stone.
My shoulder still hurts from trying it out. Repeatedly.
Carborundum stones really are for just sliiiiiightly dulling the edge of a glass sheet so you don’t slice your fingers while you’re digging through your supply.
You can take that same nubbin off in less than two seconds (for realz…seconds) with a grinder.
You need the edges of your glass to be ground smoothly before you foil.
Cuz copper foil tape is easy to rip. Pokey bits & sharp edges will slice & dice right through your foil.
So you absolutely, unequivocally, beyond a shadow of a doubt, need a glass grinder.
I reaaaaallly wanted to tell you otherwise, but I’m always gonna give it to ya straight.
If you’re looking to save some money on a grinder, the Gryphon Gryphette Glass Grinder is both a fun bit of alliteration as well as a relatively inexpensive (but still really good quality) option.
*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!
Another option for saving some money on your tools & supplies is to…
#3 Tell your friends and family you’re getting into stained glass art!
About a month after I started doing stained glass, I ran into a friend who promptly ripped my heart out, made my very cells scream, and maaaaaaybe even traumatized me a lil bit.
Ya know what he freakin’ said to me?
“Oh! You’re doing stained glass!? I wish I would’ve known! My Pappy used to do stained glass. We had an auction when he passed and no one bought any of his stuff so we threw it all out. I woulda given you his whole studio’s worth of stuff for free”.
Thunk. Thud. Smooooooosh. Noooooooooooo!
That was the sound of my heart falling out on the floor followed by my cells screaming.
All those tools! All those supplies!
All that. Beautiful. Freakin. Glass!
Blaspheme! Sacrilege! Oh the horrrrrrrrror! *I still might be crying a lil bit inside*
So ask around. Making stained glass Tiffany style lamps was really popular in the 80’s & 90’s.
Ya never know who has what laying around in their basements or attics just waiting for you.
But whatever ya do…
#4 Don’t cheap out on your soldering iron for stained glass!
You can get away with some cheapy tools when you’re starting out (grozing pliers, running pliers), but…
Every single glasser I’ve spoken to who started with a junky iron regretted it. I also spoke to myself and myself regretted it as well.
Cuz of consistent heat & adjustable temperature.
When you’re running a solder bead, a crappy iron starts to lose heat. Which gives ya the lumpy bumpies in your soldering.
For an experienced artist, it’s insanely frustrating cuz it’ll make your work look like crap no matter how good your technique..
For a beginner? It’s enough to make ya wanna quit (or at very least think you’re the world’s worst solderererer & you’re never going to get good at it).
Either way, you’re not going to get smooth solder lines with a junky iron.
Which begs the question…
What’s the best soldering iron to get for making stained glass art?
The Hakko 601 (601-02 if you’re in America, 601-01 for Japan, 601-03 for a lot of Europe….all depends on your electrical outlets).
It has a ceramic core that keeps your heat consistently even, a temperature control right on it, and it’s relatively small (a lot of irons are the size of a freakin’ baseball bat).
You may hear some old school artists advising that you need a 100 watt iron. Ya used to. But because of the ceramic core in the Hakko, ya don’t anymore.
The Hakko 601 has become the favorite in the glass industry.
Quick Tip: If you’re in the U.S. and see one on Amazon that’s a bunch cheaper than the others, it’s probably the 601-01. That’s the one for Japanese outlets so you’ll end up having to buy a converter to make it work and then ya won’t have saved any money at all. Make sure ya get the 601-02.
When you’re making your first bunch of pieces of Stained Glass Art…
#5 Don’t be afraid to Eff. It. Up.
Cuz ya will. We all did. And no matter how long we’ve been making stained glass, we all still do sometimes.
Stained Glass Art is not a quick craft. It’s a learned skill. A whole freakin’ set of learned skills actually.
Don’t let that discourage you from doing it! Anyone. I mean anyone can learn how.
But, especially if ya haven’t taken a class from a really good teacher, your first bunch of pieces are gonna suck. Which is sooooooooooo ok!!!
Everyone’s do. For realz.
Here’s one of my first pieces vs now:
But you will absofreakinlutely get better and better with two things:
- And MOST importantly, the right techniques
We’ve all heard the phrase “Practice makes perfect”.
Except for that practicing a hot mess only makes ya perfect at making a hot mess.
Which is what makes learning good techniques so important.
Which leads us to…
Number 6. I know…it was the top 5 pieces of advice for beginner stained glass artists.
I’m bad at math.
So if ya wanna get good at it… (glass, not math)
#6 Don’t go it alone!
I’ve asked a zillion experienced glass artists on my TikTok Lives & in my Peace, Love & Stained Glass Community if they have anything they wished they would’ve done differently when they started out.
Their second answer is almost always the soldering iron situation we talked about above.
The first is always “I should’ve taken a glass class!”.
Cuz we didn’t. And it was freakin’ tough.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s ridiculously freakin’ fun and also super relaxing too (especially soldering once ya get the hang of it).
And you caaaaaaan learn on your own by wreckin’ shop and trying over and over til ya get things down, and reading every book you can find, and sifting through YouTube tryna figure out who the heck knows what they’re talking about and who doesn’t…
Myself and many of those experienced glassers I was talking about did.
But holy crap did we waste a metric crap ton of glass & solder & time & money trying to get good at it in the process!!
So learn from our mistake. Take a freakin’ class.
If you’re vibing with me, come take a Beginner’s Glass Class with me online. Ya get help after from me too!
If ya wanna take one with someone else good who’s local, you can do that. Either way, just take a freakin’ class!
No matter what you decide, I’m here for ya!
In the meantime, I made ya a Free Beginner’s Guide to Stained Glass (with a 5 Day email Jump Start into Stained Glass) to help ya out.
If you have any questions, let me know!
Peace, Love, & Stained Glass,