I have been making stained glass pieces for almost 12 years now. In all that time, I have never done any decorative soldering; partly because I do mostly lead came construction, not copper foil, and partly because it didn’t appeal to me. That may be because I have seen too many stained glass pieces where decorative soldering was used as an excuse for poor soldering technique. But this week I gave it a try, and I can see now that, when done well, decorative soldering can definitely enhance a copper foiled piece.
What I learned was that decorative soldering definitely requires some practice, and a familiarity with your soldering iron. The key is having the right temperature for the technique. A soldering iron with a smaller tip would help as well as 60/37 solder. I, however, used a standard tip and 60/40 solder since that was what I had on hand.
I experimented with dashes, flower vine pattern, stipple, dot. Dashes were fairly easy to get. Dots, on the other hand, required just the right amount of heat. My dots started out looking like dashes. They got better, but still need some work. Stipple was my personal favorite. It was easy to do and I like the hammered metal look that is gives the solder. Flower vine was pretty cool, but required the most amount of practice. This technique involves patting a damp sponge into the hot solder. Add a few dots to the center and it looks like a flower vine.
There are many more decorative soldering techniques. If you are interested in learning about decorative soldering, look for the book Stained Glass a Guide to Today’s Tiffany Copper Foil Technique by Kay Bain Weiner. “Today” being 1994 when it was first published. No matter, a good book to have in your library if you do copper foil.