Glass By Barb

  • Jewelry box, transparent blue-green glass.

When to Choose Copper Foil

Copper foil is the method used for items such as jewelry boxes, lamps, or small window ornaments — where the finished project must be rigid and not stretch or bend. It can also be used for windows or hangings, particularly if the design is intricate with many small pieces or if finished weight is a consideration.

  • Burnishing wrapped foil on glass piece.
  • Foil-wrapped glass pieces pinned in place on top of pattern.

Preparation and Assembly

Once the glass pieces are cut and any imperfections ground off, they are wrapped in copper foil. Copper foil is adhesive-backed copper (much like aluminum foil) that comes in rolls of varying widths. The copper foil is applied to the edges of each piece of glass, with the edges of the foil folded around to the front and back of the glass pieces. The copper foil is then rubbed with a plastic tool to smooth any wrinkles and enhance the bond between the glass and the foil. This is referred to as burnishing.

The foil-wrapped pieces are fitted over the pattern (two-dimensional projects) and held in place with small pieces of masking tape or pins. In the case of three-dimensional projects, glass pieces are taped together or pinned to a mold (for example, a lamp mold).

  • Applying flux to copper foil.
  • Soldering copper foil project.

Soldering

Once the pieces are fitted in place, the project is ready for soldering. Flux is applied to the copper foil, and then the pieces are tacked together with solder to hold them in place. The masking tape or pins are removed, and flux is applied to any parts missed because of tape. Then the whole project is soldered, on both sides of the glass. The solder creates the lead "lines". It adheres to the copper and runs down into the small spaces between the pieces of glass, essentially creating a "heart" of solder. (This contrasts with the lead came method, where only the joints are soldered — the "heart" and face of the lines already provided by the lead came.)

Copper wire is soldered to exposed edges to strengthen projects. If a decorative border is desired, it is created by dotting on additional beads of solder. Sometimes ladder chain is attached as both border and support for hangings.

  • Cleaning the glass panel.

Cleaning

Neutralizer is applied to the finished project to remove all traces of dirt and flux. The project is then rinsed thoroughly with lukewarm water and dried with a soft, lint-free cloth.

  • Polishing the waxed glass panel.

Wax (Optional but Recommended)

To keep the solder shiny, a coat of Carnauba wax can be applied to it (car wax). This works especially well for projects where a patina has been applied, as the solder tends to dull. The wax is applied and buffed by hand, exactly the same as if applying to a car.

Pictorial Story - Copper Foil Process

Click here to view a pictorial story of the creation of panels for a piano music stand. This document shows the complete copper foil process.