Tiffany Lamp Making
by Jim Hoyle
Tiffany stained glass lamp shades are much like a puzzle.
First, the puzzle must be designed. The design may begin as a drawing, a
painting, a photograph or any other kind of graphic artwork. Once this basic
design is selected it must then be transformed into a stained glass friendly
design. Stained glass panels, shades, doors, windows, etc. are subject to stress
which can easily break or fracture the glass. Care must be taken to design the
individual pieces and how they relate to each other structurally in such a way
that they will add strength. Of course this all has to be done within the
context of a beautiful design. A simple comparison is a wall of bricks. To
create a strong wall you would not simply stack the bricks in a line on top of
each other but you would place them in such a way to interlock and create a
strong bond. Stained glass structural design is similar in principle. A further
complication is that it is always necessary to maintain the beauty and integrity
of the original subject which is the object of the design.
Second, upon completion of the stained glass friendly design which is
structurally sound and aesthetically pleasing, it is necessary to create
templates for each and every piece of glass that is to be in the design. This is
typically done by tracing the outline of each piece of glass in the design onto
a heavy craft type paper. Afterwards, the craft paper is cut into individual
pieces which represent the individual pieces of glass.
Third, each craft paper template is laid down upon a corresponding sheet of
glass and cut out by hand with a glass cutter tool. The rough edges of the glass
are smoothed by special grozing pliers or a glass grinder. All the pieces are
cut out in this manner then laid out upon a copy of the original design to
assure that everything fits properly.
Fourth, each piece of glass is individually wrapped around the edge in (usually)
copper foil or a zinc frame then placed back onto a copy of the original design
to assure proper fitting. Metal pins, straight edges and wood frames are used to
hold the entire project in place in preparation for the soldering.
Fifth, all copper foil and zinc edges of all the glass pieces are painted with a
soldering flux. The glass pieces are then soldered together one at a time until
the entire project becomes a one piece structure. The project is turned over and
this fluxing and soldering step is repeated on the other side.
Finally, detailed finish soldering is completed, then an appealing patina is
applied to all metal parts.
There are many subtleties and variations in each of the steps above. But there
are no short cuts or machinery other than simple hand tools used in authentic
Tiffany style stained glass.
Tiffany lamps and shades here.