Friday, July 27, 2012

Glass Axis Day #2
      Today's the day I finish (hopefully!) the nature inspired stained glass composition I began yesterday on day #1 of my 2-day advanced stained glass class at Glass Axis in Columbus, Ohio.  Read about how my project started off here.
The results of yesterday's grueling glass cutting madness.
I'm relieved to see that the buckets of sweat I dripped yesterday have dried up by now.
     The weather report promises another hot one. So with fans turned on high and bottled water within arms reach, we pick up where we left off yesterday.  I actually got permission to come in an hour or so early today because those 75 pieces of glass are causing me great deadline angst!  I'm 3 hours from home and I don't think my dozens of glass bits tacked limply together will survive the trip in any condition to be finished later. I've got some serious work to accomplish today!
Each and every piece of glass must have it's edges smoothed by a glass grinder.  
     The first thing on my agenda is to grind each piece of glass.  Using a glass grinder (think wood sander-but for glass), I smooth the edges of every piece.  Pieces that may not have been cut in exactly the right shape can have their shapes corrected during this phase.  As each piece is ground, they are placed back onto the pattern to ensure everything is fitting together.  A good fit is imperative!
"Foiled again!"  I crack myself up.
      After all 75-ish pieces have been through the grinder, next comes the copper foiling step.  Each piece of glass is wrapped all the way around with a narrow strip of adhesive copper foil.  The glass is centered on the foil strip, wrapped, then the edges are folded over and burnished flat for a secure adhesion. This method of applying copper to each piece of glass, then soldering everything together was established by the infamous stained glass designer Louis Comfort Tiffany over 100 years ago. It is very popular because it allows artists to show great detail in their glass designs. 
Everyone is wrapped and ready!
      Once the copper foil has been added to all pieces, the composition is secured with nails to keep it from moving. It is now time to solder all the pieces together, making them permanent. Soldering flux is brushed onto all the copper areas, and the fun begins!
Tools of the trade: soldering iron, 60/40 solid core solder, fume extractor
      I begin by tacking all the pieces together with a little blob of solder, then begin the aesthetic soldering on the front side.  The goal is to create smooth lines of rounded, not flat, lead.  Notice the square fume extractor box in the photo...proper ventilation is mandatory when working with lead.  Precautions of many kinds are taken when I solder: open doors, fans moving air, my fume extractor, rubber gloves, and at times I will even wear a face mask. And of course, lots of hand washing!  Most cases of lead poisoning are triggered by the ingestion of lead (eating or drinking after handling lead), or the inhalation of lead fumes (created by soldering) or dust. Scary stuff!  

My classmate tack-soldering her creation.
She's using lead-free solder.  It is healthier but much more expensive,
and a bit harder to use since it doesn't flow as smoothly as lead.  
      After eight hours of glass grinding, copper foiling, and soldering, the end of our class time is drawing near. As I have a 3 hour drive home to contend with, I've come to terms with the fact that I will not be able to finish my project completely at Glass Axis.  However, I was able to get the front side completely soldered, and that will make the piece secure enough to transport.  
Front side soldering complete!
      When I get home to my own workspace, I will be able to solder the back and add the finishing touches to my largest, and finest, stained glass creation in 15 years!  See you at my place...