The Dale Maley Family Web Site


Evaluating Use of Copper strip to reinforce stained glass panel

I was going to build a stained glass panel for my sunroom half-moon window.................until I actually got out the stepladder and went up to measure it.............and it turned out to be 6 feet side and 3 feet high !!!!!!!!

The biggest panel I have ever build is about 24x24 inches.   Most rules-of thumb say that if you pane is larger than 3x3 feet or 4x4 feet in must add reinforcement to the panel.  If you do not add reinforcement, then the center of the panel will drift inwards, or outwards over time........until finally the glass pieces fall out.

I did some research, and there appears to be at last two different alternative reinforcement methods (not counting the 1,000 year old option of adding steel bars mounted to the building, then copper wire soldered on the panel and then attached to the steel bars).

Method #1 involves adding a copper strip or copper coated steel strip inside the H of lead came. The references I found said you must putty in the lead, or the strip piece will twist in the lead channel and not provide the desired strength.    I have no problem using lead on that big sunroom window..........but I hate the idea of mixing up all nasty putty stuff, then trying to remove it all.   We did  1 project in class................and it was very messy.

Method #2 involves adding a copper reinforcement strip between the glass pieces on a foiled project. It is supposed to be about the same height at standard 1/8" high glass, and should not show after soldering.

I liked Method #2 because no nasty putty is involved.

I elected to try out method #2 on a regular sized 12x18 inch panel..............and make sure everything worked ok, before I tackled the big 6 foot wide and 3 foot high half-window project.

Pattern for Panel

Copper reinforcing strip

I decided to buy this type from AnythingIn

I used blue masking tape to keep the bundle from unwinding everywhere.

Path of reinforcing copper strip

I decided to make 1 vertical path and 1 horizontal path on this test panel.  Actually this panel is small enough, it needs no reinforcement.............but I want to try out the concept on this panel.

Since the center was a round piece and had to join 2 verticals and 2 horizontals.........I just wrapped around the whole piece with at least 1/2 overlap.

Starting to build with reinforcing strip

After I got the panel built, I decided to solder all the joints that had the reinforcing strip.   I used several thumb tacks to hold the reinforcing strip completely down.  Once I soldered all the glass joints with reinforcement, I removed the hold -down thumb tacks and finished these joints.    I was impressed that I was able to solder these joints just fine.

Strength of Panel before apply zinc border

I have built over 20 panels, so I am fairly familiar with the feel of a panel with no reinforcement.   I was impressed at how much stronger this panel was with the copper reinfocement strip !!  After I added the zinc border and soldered the panel to it..................I was also impressed with how much stronger it was !!

Completed Panel

Project Statistics

Closing Thoughts on this project

Everthing went fine using the copper reinforcement strips.  It was easy to install and easy to solder.  You do need to add some push pins to make sure the strip stays down against the build board.........until you get it soldering in.

I was very impressed at how much stronger the reinforced panels were !!

Maybe I have enough courage now to try building my huge 6 foot wide and 3 foot high sunroom window !!