Tools Needed for Stained Glass

Ashley Christensen
October 14, 2022

Stained glass is iconic, classic, and timeless. Many old churches and historic buildings are adorned with majestic, intricate, and detailed designs in their chapel and cathedral windows. Thankfully the art of stained glass is not a lost art, while it might be as popular as it once was, it is still alive and well. In some places, stained glass art is actually increasing in popularity.


If you’ve ever thought about learning how to do stained glass for yourself, now is the perfect time! With all the necessary supplies readily available, anyone who is interested in learning can quickly pick up the tools and get started. But, what exactly will you need in order to create your own stained glass masterpiece?  Here we’ll discuss the necessary and not necessary but nice to have tools to make stained glass. 



The first step in being able to create a stained glass masterpiece is to have an idea or a pattern to follow. While there are plenty of pattern books available, online patterns, or even just a sketch that you have drawn yourself. Regardless of where your pattern comes from, you’re going to want to have multiple copies of your pattern. One will be used as a reference guide, a road map per se, that you will be able to follow as you carefully cut and meticulously sand down each piece to fit them back together like a puzzle piece. The second copy of your pattern will be used to cut your pattern out and will be used as a guide to each piece you cut and place. 


The best part of pattern making is, that chances are you already have all the essential tools at home. By chance you are missing a tool or two, you can pick them up fairly inexpensively. Here are the tools you’ll need to make your pattern: 



Having a ruler close by will be very beneficial as you work on your masterpiece. If you are drawing your own designs, the ruler will help to ensure you get straight lines. Additionally, you can use the ruler to measure your individual glass pieces and the overall size of your project. 



This one might seem like a no-brainer, but you’re going to need something to be able to cut your pattern pieces out. While it doesn’t really matter what type of scissors you use, you’ll want a good pair that will get you the most precise cut possible, saving you time from having to grind down small pieces of glass to fit.


Glass Marker or Sharpie

Markers will be very useful as you work on your project. You’ll need a marker to trace your patterns when you first start working on a new project. Additionally, you may need to use a marker to mark spots where you need to grind down more to achieve the perfect fit. While you can use a sharpie or a glass marker, it is good to note that glass markers will hold up better when they encounter liquid, but either one will work. 



When handling glass, it can be beneficial to have a pair of gloves to protect your hands from cuts. Not everyone likes working with gloves, which is why gloves are not required when working with stained glass, but they are strongly recommended. 



This one is an obvious one, but if you are working on a stained glass project, you’re obviously going to need glass. Depending on the project that you are working on and the specific pattern, it will dictate what colors of glass, and how much glass you’ll need. This is part of what makes stained glass so beautiful. 


Glass Cutter

Once you have selected your glass, you’re going to need a way in which to cut your glass. There are many different kinds of glass cutters, which makes it a personal decision as to which style you choose. Some will hold like a pencil, others are placed between the thumb and finger. Not sure, which type you want, give a few different ones a try and find out through trial and error to pick your preference. 


Glass Cutting Oil

When you cut glass, you are essentially creating a “score”, aka a flaw in the glass that is used as a guide for the glass to break in the shape you desire. Cutting oil helps to lubricate your glass as you are cutting it. This is crucial if you want to have your glass break correctly after you’ve “scored” it. All glass cutters have a reservoir to hold the oil, or you can have a little cup to dip your cutter in every few cuts. 


Running Pliers

After you have cut your glass, it is time to break it along the score line. This is where running pliers shine! Running pliers are specifically designed to apply pressure equally to both sides of the “score” line, allowing for the glass to break down the middle of the score line you created. These are especially useful on larger cuts and straight lines. 


Grozing Pliers

Similar to that of running pliers, grozing pliers are used for smaller or curved breaks on your glass. Instead of the pliers applying the pressure by themselves, grozing pliers rely on equal pressure from your thumb and the pliers on both sides of the score line to break the score line. 


Eye Protection

Eye protection is essential when cutting and grinding glass. Protect yourself from small shards of glass from getting into your eyes. 



In order to ensure that all of your pieces fit into your pattern exactly how you want them to fit, you might need to sand them down a little bit here and there. This is where having a grinder (aka a mini sander) comes to save the day. A grinder works by placing the piece of glass you need to be sanded down, against the metal bit. The grinder won’t hurt you when being used, but beware it can and probably will file down your fingernails! In order for the grinder to work at its peak, it must have a wet sponge placed against it so that water is constantly touching the bit. Additionally, the wet sponge will help prevent glass dust from going into the air. When you purchase a grinder all of the necessary accessories and components (sponge, bit, etc.) will be included.  

Grinder Shield*

A grinder shield is exactly what it sounds like, it is a shield that attaches to your grinder to prevent glass shards from flying up at you. While this accessory is not required to use your grinder it is still nice to have. Depending on what grinder you purchase, some come equipped with a shield while others do not. 


Grinder Bits*

Depending on the piece of glass you are needing to sand down, you may need a different-sized bit than the one that your grinder came with. If you need or want different-sized bits, you can purchase different-sized bits to accommodate the piece of glass you need to be sanded down. 


Grinder Mate*

Another optional accessory that you can use with your grinder, is a grinder mate. Essentially a grinder mate looks like a plier, where it holds the glass between the two places, and can be used to hold the glass to the grinder bit, instead of having your fingers close to the bit. The grinder mate is great for those who don’t want to risk damaging their fingernails, those who have wrist pain, an unsteady hand, or have really small pieces of glass that need to be sanded. 


Copper Foil

When you get to the part of your project where you get to use copper foil, you’ve reached the fun and most relaxing part of your project. In order to be able to attach your multiple pieces together, you have to first wrap each piece individually with copper foil; as the lead will not stick to glass on its own. The copper foil will help to bond the lead to the glass. Copper foil is a double-sided side tape that is sticky on one side, and has a copper face on the other. There are various different sizes of copper foil available, along with different colored copper sides (black, silver, and copper). The thickness of your glass will help you in determining what thickness of tape to get; the thicker the glass, the thicker the tape will need to be, and vice versa for thinner glass. 



This is a fancy, not-so-fancy tool that you will need to use to help firmly flatten down the copper tape onto each individual piece of glass. You want to ensure that your copper foil is firmly stuck to the glass to ensure that your lead can stick to your glass. The fid will help to ensure that your copper foil is firmly stuck to your various glass pieces. 


Painters or Masking Tape*

After you have wrapped all of your pieces with the copper foil, you’ll want to place all your pieces together to match your original pattern. Once you have laid all your pieces back together on top of your pattern, you’ll want to use the painter's or masking tape to firmly hold them together so they are ready to be soldered together. The tape will ensure that your pieces don’t move and stay exactly where you place them and where you want them to live indefinitely. 


X-Acto Knife*

This tool is not required, but it can be beneficial, especially when you are first starting out learning how to wrap copper foil and learning stained glass. An x-acto knife or any other type of craft knife can be used to cut off overlapping copper tape edges to ensure that each edge is clean and pristine. 



Flux is a liquid substance that you’ll paint over the copper foil that will help to bind the lead to the copper. The better quality of flux that you use, the easier it will be to solder the piece together. 


Flux Brush

A small paintbrush that is used specifically to paint the flux over the copper foil tape. 


Soldering Iron

Soldering is the trickiest part of the entire stained glass process. This is where you will take a soldering iron and literally melt lead off a spool along the copper tape lines. The soldering iron is set to an extremely high temperature and should be handled carefully as such. You can purchase your soldering iron at various different brands and price points. It is recommended that you invest in a better quality one, as it can be the difference between a sloppy and frustrating leading experience and a beautiful easy leading experience. 


Soldering Iron Stand/Tip Cleaning Wire or Sponge

The soldering stand will hold your hot soldering iron, while you are not using it. Most stands come equipped with a tip cleaning spot of either a wet sponge or a wire cleaning pad to help keep the tip cleaning while working. 



A spool of solid metal lead that you will melt with your soldering iron to hold your project together. Not just any type of lead will work, you will need to purchase specific stained glass lead. There are different lead content spools available (60/40, 50/50, or Lead-free), depending on your preference. 


Rubber Gloves*

Disposable rubber gloves can help to protect your hands from the acidic flux that will be used prior to soldering your pieces of glass together. These are not required but are recommended. 


Lead Came or Zinc Framing

A lot of stained glass pieces are unusual shapes when they are completed (i.e., circles, octagons, etc.), which makes it difficult to have them framed. This is where lead came or zinc framing comes into the picture. At your local stained glass store, you can purchase some, to frame out your image and have it look completed and finished. 


Lead Nipper Pliers

After purchasing the lead came you’ll need some lead nipper pliers in order to be able to cut it. They can also be used to cut the copper wire if you choose to go that route when hanging and displaying your finished masterpiece. 



This product is optional if you want to change the color of the lead on your project. Patina is a liquid solution that creates a chemical reaction with lead, resulting in a color change. Patina will change your silver-looking lead to either a black or copper color, depending on which patina you use. 


In addition to the above-listed tools and supplies, you’ll need some way to hang or display your finished masterpiece. Depending on how you want to achieve this, will determine what tools and supplies will be necessary. Thankfully, Gordon’s Glass has all the stained glass supplies you’ll need to complete any project. From a wide range of beautiful stained glass to choose from, to all the lead and copper foil options, it is a one-stop shop for all your stained glass needs. Stop in today and check out all the stained glass supplies available, and get started on your next stained glass masterpiece. 


*Indicates that tools/products are not required but are recommended.

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