The stained glass snowflake in the photo to the left took a fall at one of the craft shows I did last winter. Thankfully I was close to my studio and could do a quick repair before the next day of the show.
Here's my process, step by step ...
1. IDENTIFY ALL BREAKS
It may seem elementary, but before you touch glass to be repaired you need to know what has to be fixed. In my case, it was just the center mirror that was broken in the snowflake, but in other cases you may have multiple breaks. I find it helpful to mark all broken pieces with either a black or silver Sharpie so I can identify each piece quickly.
For my piece, it was thankfully very easy because I had another mirror already etched and copper foiled, ready to replace the broken mirror. For other repairs, I have found that the newer stained glass piece, the easier it's going to be to find replacement glass. Antique glass can be difficult to match because it's no longer in production and modern glass may not match the antique glass color or texture. Each repair is unique and evaluation of available replacement glass along with artistic integrity should be considered for the best possible results.
3. REMOVE BROKEN GLASS
For a stained glass piece constructed using copper foil, removing the broken glass is typically much faster than for pieces constructed using lead channel. The snowflake I am repairing was constructed using copper foil, so to remove the broken glass, I just had to score and break the glass. For a leaded piece, it must be carefully disassembled piece by piece working from the edge into the broken piece(s) of glass to be replaced.
Now that the majority of the broken glass is removed, the copper foil that was on the glass needs to be removed too. The easiest way to do this is to remove as much solder as possible from the front and back of the panel surrounding the broken piece.
Most repairs won't be as easy as this one. I had several etched mirrors, the same size, foiled, and ready to go. All I had to do was pick up a new one and put it in place. For other repairs, though, you'll need to lay your stained glass panel with the new hole(s) over paper to create a template for the glass to be replaced. Just trace along the opening onto the paper, cut out the template, use a gluestick to ahere the paper to the glass to be cut, and cut the glass! In most cases, you'll need to cut/grind the glass a little smaller than the hole it's going in because you need to allow room for the foil that needs to be added. If the glass is snug, grind it a bit so it has a little wiggle room. Once all of your pieces are properly fitted to the stained glass panel, foil them and prepare to solder them in place.
To make sure the new pieces of glass are on the same level (height) as the rest of the panel, you may need to put a dime under the glass. Because the rest of the panel is already soldered, it's slightly raised from the work surface, and you'll need to bring the new glass to the same level. When everything is lined up and in place, flux and begin soldering. I started with tacking the new piece in several places before completely soldering the front and back.
Now that the soldering is all done, it's time to clean your panel. My chosen product to clean up the flux is CJ's, but there are several good cleaners out there. Flux is an acid that needs to be neutralized so it doesn't continue reacting with the solder over time.
Do you have any great tricks to repairs that you've found over the years? I'd love to hear them!