Glass artisan for more than eight years. I enjoy everything involved with working in glass from hot glass to stained glass.
Functional Stained Glass
I love functional art and prefer to build stained glass pieces that serve a purpose, like boxes.
Building a stained glass box can be as complicated or as simple as you want to make it. Clearly, the more pieces you use to make the four sides of the box, the more difficult it will be to build.
We're just going to focus on a 4-sided box with a bottom. The top is left open.
Making a box is a little more difficult than a beginner's panel or sun-catcher. This tutorial assumes you have some stained glass experience.
First things first ... Design a pattern. For demonstration purposes we're going to use four cuts of the same glass, one for each side.
How to Make a Stained Glass Box
- With a ruler, measure out a square of glass and mark it with your marker. This will be your cut line. The square can be any size you wish but since we'll be using a boxer jig it's best to keep it under 5 inches.
- Cut out your 4 sides of glass. Be sure all four pieces are exactly the same size. For example, if you're making a 3x3x3 inch box, you'll need 4 squares measuring 3x3 inches.
- Take your glass to the grinder and grind all the edges of your glass squares.
- As you grind, use your layout guides to be sure all the squares are square. Your layout guides should be set and secured at a 45-degree angle. Check each corner of each piece of your square glass pieces.
- Once all your 4 squares are perfectly square, lay them out side-by-side along your layout guides. Here you are checking to make sure they are all the same height. If any piece is not at the same height, grind it until it is the same height as the rest.
- Clean your glass. We're ready to foil each piece. TIP: Plug in your soldering iron and let it heat up while you foil your glass.
- With your foiled squares, we need to tin the copper foil. This is a process where you will flux the copper foiled glass, then add a thin layer of solder with your soldering iron. The result when you look at it will seem like all you did was change the color of the copper foil from copper to silver.
- Time to get out your boxer jig and wedgies. TIP: With your soldering iron create several little pools of solder on your work board. This will come in handy later when we don't have a third hand to hold our solder spoil.
- With your boxer jig, place two of your squares at either side of the boxer jig as pictured above.
- Look closely at the boxer image above. Notice how the two stained glass pieces are lined up. They aren't butted up to each other end-to-end but rather the corners of the edges are lined up. This method will make a more sturdy box because it creates a channel for your solder bead.
- Carefully hold onto your two pieces and place the 45 degree angle of one of your wedgies into the inside of your two stained glass pieces. This will help secure the 45 degree angle of your box as you build it.
- Hold the three pieces together, two stained glass pieces and the wedgie, with your left hand securely to the boxer and with your right hand, flux that corner you just created with your two squares. (Swap this if your dominant hand is your left hand)
- Keep holding your pieces in place and now with your soldering iron and solder, tack the corner together. Remember the little pools of solder I mentioned in the tip above? Use this solder to tack your box in place.
- You have just created the first corner of your box. Now repeat this process with the other pieces of glass until you have a hollow 4-sided box.
- Once you have all 4 sides tacked and secure, you will need to put a bead of solder down that channel we created on each corner of your box. To help with that you will use your wedgies as pictured above to balance your box on its side.
- With your box balanced carefully on its side, be sure it is level. If it isn't level your solder will run down the slope, making an uneven bead.
- Go along each corner and add a nice bead of solder down each of the 4 corners.
- Now we cut the bottom. Turn your 4-sided glass box over so the bottom is on the top.
- Measure out the bottom and cut a piece of glass to fit. Be sure not to cut the bottom too big. You don't want any over-hang. Ideally, you want the bottom to be slightly smaller than the exact outer edges of your glass to compensate for your copper foil.
- Cut, grind, clean, foil and tin the bottom.
- Line up the bottom to fit evenly across the sides.
- Hold the bottom secure, flux and tack solder in place.
- Just as you did with your side corners, tip your box onto your wedgies and add a nice solder bead to secure the bottom in place.
- Evaluate your box and look for any solder clean up. When working on angles like this the solder is prone to dripping. Don't forget to clean up any solder that may have dripped into the inside of your box.
- Clean, polish and patina (optional) your box. You're finished. :)