Basic Stained Glass Tools and Supplies

If you are just getting started in stained glass work, or if you want to “count the cost” before beginning, here’s a list of items you will need for the craft. There are other tools and supplies which you could add later, and some which we don’t use in our studio, but I have tried to stick to the very basic necessities.

Always buy the buy the best tools you can afford to start. They will last many years and make your work much easier! If you don’t have a stained glass retailer near you, look online for new tools. If your budget is tight, check yard sales, Craigslist and newspaper ads for folks selling their tools and supplies at a good rate.

A word about soldering irons: if you plan on spending long hours working on projects, or you will be making large projects, invest in a ceramic core iron (like a Hakko). It holds the heat better and longer than regular irons.

Glass & patterns
These are basics. First choose the pattern you want to make (available at your local retailer, in pattern books or online), then buy glass to suit it. Always buy a bit more than you need to allow for breakage. Glass colors often vary-sometimes even in the same sheet. If you have the perfect one, don’t take a chance on running out of it.

As you continue in glass work, you will find you have glass left over from some of your projects. Always check these “scraps” when starting a new project to see if you can use them.

Glass Cutter. This is the tool you will use most often. We use pistol grip cutter, which has a handle something like a gun grip. If you prefer, a straight “pencil” type is also available and works just as well.

Soldering Iron. The industry standard is Weller. Be sure it has a tip suitable for glass work (not a large general purpose one). The iron should be no more than 80-100 watts and no less than 60.

Temperature control unit and soldering iron stand. Your soldering iron is often too hot for continued application to copper foil and lead. A rheostat helps control the heat output for different applications. We set it at 75% for copper foil soldering.

You also need a stand to hold the hot iron as you work. We use the Inland Solder Station, which has both a controller and stand in one, plus a sponge, space for flux bottle and more. It’s handy to have all these together.

Breaker/Groziers and Running pliers. These are the basic tools for breaking and “running” the glass along your score lines.

Water-cooled grinder. While some glass artists skip a grinder because of the cost, using a stone or grozing the glass instead, we find the grinder makes your pieces fit more perfectly and gives your project a more polished look. You will also need a face shield for your grinder to protect your eyes while grinding.

Splash guard (or other protection around your grinder). This protects your walls and floor from splashing water while you grind. This is more a matter of cleanliness than necessity, but you will be glad you have it.

Cutter Oil (to keep cutting wheel lubricated)
Flux (to make solder flow)
Mark Stay (to keep pattern marks from washing off during grinding)
Sal Ammoniac, often called a tinning block (to clean the soldering iron tip)

Other supplies
Solder— either 60/40 or 50/50 (to join copper foil lines)
Copper foil (comes in various sizes and backing colors)
Fid or burnisher (for smoothing and burnishing foil)
Marking pens (for drawing lines on glass-one for light colored glass and one for dark)
Small file (for removing shards, slivers and sharp edges from glass before grinding)
Cutting Surface (we use the “Waffle” grid system)
Work Board with “L” channel and pins (to hold project as you work)
Alcohol & spray bottle (to clean glass)
Safety Glasses
Glue stick
(to hold pattern pieces on the glass)

Patina (to change color of solder lines)
Metal ruler (for making straight cuts)
X-acto knife (to keep foil lines even)
Flux remover (we use dish soap and water)
Finishing Compound/ Wax (we use Carnuba car wax)

While you can often find “deals” online, be careful to buy proper tools and supplies. Poorly made or cheap products won’t stand the test of time, and might make learning more difficult. If you have a retail stained glass store near you, talk with the owner, develop a relationship with him or her, and get help choosing and maintaining your tools.