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Soldering Technique
Tech Tips Table of Contents

About Stained Glass
Tools and Supplies
Glass Cutting
Breaking Glass
Cutting Circles
Project Patterns
How to Cut Glass to a Pattern
Soldering Technique
Leading Technique
Copper Foil Technique
Making a Lampshade

For most people, soldering is a simple procedure once they understand the basic technique. Beginners will greatly appreciate the benefit by purchasing quality solders and tools. The following are simple procedures that may be helpful.

Soldering Irons

  • Keep the hot iron tip free of dirt by wiping it frequently and lightly on a clean, wet cellulose sponge or metal mesh cleansing pad.
  • Re-tin the tip surface with a thin coat of solder after cleaning.
  • Some irons require loosening the set screw near the tip after the iron has cooled to prevent the tip from "freezing" in the shaft. Occasionally remove the tip and brush off any scales from the shank.
  • Important: Never immerse a hot tip in water or flux.
  • A rheostat is helpful for maintaining heat control.
  • An iron that is not hot enough will cause solder peaks to form.
  • An iron that is too hot will cause the solder to seep through to the other side instead of building up.


Purchase high-quality solder manufactured by a reputable company for dependability and ease of soldering. Contaminated alloys or substandard processing conditions during manufacturing can produce solders that give undesirable results. Dross (dirt) that rises to the surface of a soldered seam appears as black specks or pits.

The numbers on the top of the solder spool refer to the tin and lead alloys in the solder. The first number refers to the tin, the second to the lead (i.e. 60/40). Usually the higher the tin content, the lighter (in weight) the solder is and the stronger the bond. For instance, a large lamp constructed with 60/40 solder will be lighter and more durable than one made with 50/50 solder.

Solders such as 63/37 are manufactured specifically for creating raised beaded or decorative seams. This solder is even lighter in weight and stronger than 50/50 or 60/40.


Applying the appropriate flux is an integral part of the soldering process. When a solder company manufactures its own flux it is usually more compatible with their solder. Important: Remember to replace flux when it becomes cloudy or dirty. It is a wise idea to pour only a small amount of fresh flux into a container or bottle cap before each soldering session so that you don't contaminate the entire bottle.

Soldering Copper Seams

If the metals (came lead or copper foil) to be soldered are oxidized, it can hamper soldering. If possible, store came lead in an airtight container and keep rolls of open copper tape in plastic bags. Clean metal surface with fine steel wool or emery cloth to remove oxidation.

To prevent solder "drip through" when soldering copper foiled seams of your project, use 50/50 solder first to tin coat the seam on both sides. Then apply 60/40 or 63/37 to create a raised bead seam because it melts at a lower temperature than 50/50.

When soldering copper foil seams, heat both metal and solder long enough so that there is deep penetration of solder on the surface.

For best results, always solder a beaded seam immediately after tinning the surface because the metal oxidizes quickly and becomes more difficult to bead.

Soldering Lead Joints

Make sure that all the lead joints butt evenly against each other. Since lead melts at nearly the same temperature as solder, do not heat the lead. Load the tip of your soldering iron with 60/40 solder, and touch the joint quickly with the hot tip. The solder will drop and flow into the seams. A very small amount is sufficient: finished seams should be smooth and flat. If the solder does not melt completely into the seams, beads of solder may break off.

Important: Once a lead joint or a copper seam is soldered, allow it to cool undisturbed. Vibration during cooling encourages large lead crystals to form within the seam, weakening the entire solder bond.


To prevent corrosive acids (white film) from appearing on seams, with the passing of time always wash your piece immediately after completion. Use warm water, baking soda and liquid detergent (not soap). Use a soft brush or sponge and scrub gently. Rinse in clear water. Also, a thorough cleansing prevents the acids from deteriorating the silver backing of mirror glass.

Go to "The Leading Technique"

Not only are the Tech Tips a great way to learn about stained glass, but there's a wealth of information waiting for you in Glass Chat! Glass Chat is a Warner Stained Glass online message board where stained glass artists from all over the world meet to discuss stained glass.

If you're looking for more information on this subject, you can try searching through the Glass Chat archives by entering a word or phrase in the box below.


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