Even though stained glass is flat, two-dimensional, its ability to refract and reflect light sculpt the space it’s in. As light changes throughout the day, the space is transcended through light, creating an ever-changing three dimensional atmosphere. Thus, light becomes an important ingredient for stained glass (or art in general), and the designer has to consider the play of light as it passes through the piece.

In the studio with Howard, I learned the preparation steps, and how to select glass for the project. We talked through some of our decisions for choosing a certain kind of textured glass that work with certain lighting, and in adherence to our own artistic styles and sketches. Each color affect the thickness and texture of the glass, which in turns affect how hard or easy it is to cut. There’s much chemistry here that I don’t know much about, but feel free to read more here.

Divide and Conquer

We decided that I will work on the panel of the boy reading the book, while Howard tackles the main panel of the girl.  Then, we put on some really good music (Patsy Cline), don our favorite apron or hat or flannel or all of the above, closed-toe shoes, and goggles. I’m ready!

Here’s the process, in steps for easy reading:

1) It is extremely important that the measurement of the window is exact. Try to imagine the agony and frustration of a finished stained glass panel that doesn’t fit the window frame. The true dimension is the actual window opening, while the desired dimension is the stained glass (pictured). The difference is the zinc metal frame that contain the stained glass.


2) Using the exact measurement of the window, we printed 2 life sized vector drawings or cartoons of the panel. Then, mapping each shape with a number to help us identify and track each piece, like a puzzle.


3) We situated the cartoon on a flat board (we used a paper compressed board), and fitted the metal reinforcement bars along the edges of the cartoon. We used push pins to stabilize the bars. We’ll be using this board to assemble the pieces of cut glass together.


4) It’s important to make sure the corners are completely squared. I doubled checked with a square ruler.


5) Howard came by to check my progress and also double check my reinforcement bars and perfect corners.

Once in a while, Howard looked over from his own panel, reassured me of my progress. “You’re comin along, kid! You’re comin along,” he tells me with confidence in his voice. Yay!


6) Next, I cut up the 2nd cartoon into its own pieces to be used for cutting glass. Using an exacto knife, I cut in the middle of the black lines. Keep the pieces together according to their sections, i.e. tagging…sky, boy, book, grass, ground etc. so I can find them easier later.


7) These are my tools. I initialed my name on the top, so I remember which side/end to use. Using the correct end will help to maintain the life of my tools. From top to bottom: Breaking Pliers, Breaking Grozier, Pliers, oil dispenser tube, and glass cutter (with carbide wheels – they last longer than steel.)


8) Here, we traced the piece 16 on to a piece of glass that we selected with a sharpie, placing the piece at least .25″ from the edge. Then score the glass along the traced lines. Don’t forget to wear your goggles to protect your eyes while cutting and grinding glass.


10) Using the Breaking Pliers, we snapped the glass so it can break along the score line. You can only score and break each line at a time. Generally, it’s more efficient to break off the whole section from the unused part of the glass, so we can reduce wasting of glass.


11) With each score line, we’d used different pliers to break glass accordingly. For breaking smaller pieces, we used the grozier pliers.


12) After each piece is cut, we reassemble them on our board. This is my progress thus far, before I left the studio.


This is Howard’s center panel of the girl. It’s mostly done and looking fantastic! I am so incredibly giddy about it.


Next, I’ll talk about glass grinding. I have yet to set up my studio at home to house the glass grinder. It’s a bit messy.  Stay tuned 🙂