Lately, I have been spending a lot of time with fused glass. Today, however, I was working on a stained glass piece. While I was soldering I started thinking about what it is that makes solder lines look good. When teaching beginner stained glass classes, I find that soldering is the step that students find the most challenging. So I thought I’d share some thoughts on soldering.
When I find my lines not coming out as smooth as I would like, the first thing I check is my grip on the iron. You don’t need a death grip, and you don’t have to push the iron. Let the weight of the iron and the heat do the work. Hold the iron lightly, pulling it slowly as the heat of the iron melts the solder. If the solder isn’t flowing, it could be because the iron is not hot enough.
Keep It Clean
Another common problem especially with beginners is not keeping the iron tip clean. Nothing will ruin the flow and look of a solder line like a dirty tip. I clean my tip off between every solder line I do.
Easy on the Flux
Too much flux can be a problem too. That often causes the solder to spit leaving bubble holes. I cut the bristles on my flux brush down to almost nothing. This prevents me from overloading my brush with flux.
And finally, practice, practice, practice! The more you do it, the better you get.
And if you are a buyer of stained glass, let the buyer beware! I see a lot of stained glass for sale on the sites I sell with really bad solder lines. When you look at a piece online, be sure to zoom in on the picture to see the quality of the work.