The Dale Maley Family Web Site


Fairbury Old City Hall stained glass panel

The last couple of years, I have made a hand-crafted item, then I donate it to a non-profits annual charity auction. For the Fall 2018 event, I got the idea to make a stained glass panel of our historic City Hall built in 1892.

I took some photographs of the building, and measured the key dimensions.

Using the key dimensions with the south view photograph, I could make a detailed drawing of the building in Sketchup.  Part of the challenge in designing stained glass panels is to get just the right amount of detail.  If you make the design too detailed, the glass pieces get too small, or small pieces are hidden by the solder joints.

I first tried scaling the front of the building that is 270 inches wide, down to just 16 inches, or a scaling factor of 16/270 or 16.875:1.  I printed this out and taped the 8.5x11 printer sheets together.  The resultant panel size of 21x33 inches I judged to be too big.  I then scaled it down so the front was 12 inches wide, or a scaling factor of  22.5:1.  This gave a resultant stained glass panel size of 15x25 inches, which I judged to be about right.

I then "fattened up" the narrow glass pieces, so none of them were smaller than 1/4" in width. If you go smaller than this, the solder joint will completely hide the glass.

Glass Selection

My stained glass instructor retired after 42 years and closed his shop.  I primarily now use Hobby Lobby glass, because the nearest stained glass shops are each about 60 miles away either in Joliet or Champaign.

Primary glasses used came from Hobby Lobby.

#139204 red cathedral hammered

#532218 yellow cathedral, not hammered

#1355494 clear crystal ice

The sky blue came from my instructor's shop in Bloomington, now closed. I have no model number for it.

I used a dark purple for the black door frames.

The green roof pieces, I don't remember where they came from.

The white glass was from Hobby Lobby.

On the real building, the very top bell tower is open on all 4 sides.  I decided to fill these openings with the same crystal ice glass I used on all the windows.........because technically you would see the other side of the brick walls on the real building.


The stained glass part of this project should not be challenging, it is a standard panel.

The challenge was figuring out how to apply lettering to the building, Fairbury, and possibly put some marks on the tower clock.  In Sept of 2016, I bought a bottle of Pebeo paint that is designed to be used on stained glass.  You apply the paint, let it air dry 24 hours, then bake it 40 minutes at 325F in an oven.

I stirred and shook up the bottle of paint, since it had been setting almost 2 years.  I used a pointed artist's brush to apply it.  I was very disappointed when I tried to use it.  It is thick, and there is almost no visible yellow color.

It could be the paint is bad, after setting almost 2 years, even though it was still sealed in the plastic baggie it was shipped in.  Maybe semi-transparent yellow is not designed to be a very visible yellow.

Stained Glass Addicts Facebook group

I searched this group looking for alternative ways to put lettering on stained glass. Some options I found included:

-have trophy shop laser etch the letters.  Apply spray paint. After paint dries, remove excess with razor blade.  Some example stained glass panels looked nice.
    The gentleman that did this, said a Dremel hand etcher should do the same effect as the laser etcher.

-use the Pebeo paint

-etch with an acid solution. Apply spray paint and after dry remove excess with razor blade.

I also searched Youtube.  I found several videos using either a rotary Dremel tool with special bits for glass, or a non-rotary vibrating Dremel etching tool.  Most of the reviews favored the rotary tool over the non-vibrating etching tool for glass etching.

So, one Youtube video said for the rotary tool, buy the following accessories:

1. diamond point 7103

2. tungsten carbide 9911

3. 3/32" collet 481

4. flex shaft 225-01

I decided to try to rotary Dremel etching tool using some letter stencils. I thought all Dremel bits had 1/8" shafts to go in the collet, but that is incorrect.  Apparently there are several different shaft sizes.  You can buy different collet sizes to accommodate the different size shafts.

I decided to buy the recommended stuff from Amazon, plus some letter stencils as well.

Wrong Version of Pebeo oven baked paint

A woman on the Stained Glass Addicts facebook group pointed out that I had tried the wrong version or type of Pebeo paint.  The yellow bottle I have is Vitrea 160, which gives a transparent color.  She suggested I try the Pebeo Porcelain type paint. She had got a sampler pack of 6 colors for less than $20 at Dick Blick Art  Supplies.  I went to the Dick Blick web site.

I went ahead and bought the 6 color sampler of Pebeo Porcelain paints from Amazon, since Prime has no shipping charge.

Pebeo Porcelain Paint

I received 6 bottles of the Porcelain type Pebeo paint.  I went ahead and put some on the same red stained glass scrap piece............that I had put the Vitria type on.

This Porcelain type paint is actually solid yellow, versus the very pale Vitria type. It has potential for working as my lettering paint on my stained glass panels. I need to let it dry 24 hours, then bake it in the oven per the instructions...........and then see what it looks like.

New Dremel tools arrived

I decided to try the tungsten carbide cutter #9911 first. It fit into my normal Dremel collet fine.

I used the 3/4" high plastic stencil I ordered, see above, and put the letters FA on a piece of scrap glass using my white paint pen [that I normally use for marking out stained glass pieces to cut).  I then held the Dremel at about a 45 degree angle and carefully etched away the white paint.  I then put on blue Rustoleum, and put it in the oven at about 120F and let it bake or dry for maybe 1/2 hour.   Then I scraped away the excess using a sharp chisel and razor blade knife.  Unfortunately there was a pocket in the stained glass piece, and it got paint into it.............I'm not sure how I remove that paint.

This method was not too bad for a first attempt.  I am concluding the blue rustoleum paint is too thick for this application.  Maybe thinning it with paint thinner would help, or try using spray paint.  My hand etched lines using the Dremel are not perfectly straight, but they never will since I am holding the Dremel with my hand.

So next, I hand Dremeled out the Rustoleum blue paint using the same carbide bit as when I first etched it.  I then painted with the Pebeo blue Porcelain paint using a tooth pick as my brush (I wanted to keep excess paint from entering any adjacent pockets). I let it air dry 24 hours, then used a straight razor to remove the excess paint.

It is very difficult to see where you are Dremel etching on this glass. I removed the old Rustoleum blue paint, and tried to etch a little deeper.  As you can see in the photo above after I razor removed the excess lines are not perfectly straight.

After baking for 40 minutes at 325F in the oven, the appearance of the above photo did not change.

Pebeo Porcelain scarlet Red paint onto yellow glass

Process Steps:

1. Print out full scale paper pattern of yellow piece with lettering from Sketchup.
2. Cut yellow glass to match pattern size

3. Apply blue masking tape to glass on side being lettered.

4. Apply white Elmer's glue to blue masking tape, then press on paper pattern

5. Use Exacto knife to cut out letters.
   [Note: the blue masking tape did not stick onto the glass as well as I thought it would.  I did wash the glass piece in hot soapy water, rinsed, and dried with cloth towel
              before I applied the blue masking tape.  I was not able to cut out the little circles in the letters A, R, B.........they would not stay stuck to the glass if I was able to
              cut them out]

6. Using artist's pointed brush, apply Pebeo scarlet red porcelain paint to letters. You have to apply a couple times to get a solid red color.

I will probably get a lot of "bleed" from the letter cut-out, to the areas adjacent to the letter.  I tried to push down blue masking tape with a tooth pick before I applied the paint.

Maybe clear packing tape would stick better??   Or a special paper made for stained glass?

Removing the tape after 2 coats of Porcelain

I did get a lot of bleeding of the red paint under the blue masking tape.  I then tried using a razor blade and Exacto knife to remove the bleeding.

After I got a lot, but not all, of the bleeding removed, I took it to the sunlight........

The results of this process are not too bad. I was really surprised the blue masking tape did not stick better and prevent bleeding of the paint under it.  The letter U is not solid red........I could try brushing on some more red paint. I could also try scraping off the little round areas on the letters A, R ,and B.

Additional Work on Blue Masking tape process

I applied some more red porcelain paint to the letters that were not completely solidly painted...........then baked in oven at 120F for 20 minutes to dry the paint.  I removed more bleed using both the straight razor blade and Exacto knife.  I printed out another paper pattern of the letters from SketchUp, cut out the little circles in the letters A, R, and B, marked them with a sharp pencil on the dried red paint, and removed the red paint using an Exacto knife.

I am pretty pleased with the appearance of this lettering.  I will go ahead and bake it at 325F for 40 minutes.   I don't think it will change the visual appearance any.

I did go ahead and order some of Piper's paper for using as patterns on stained glass.  Maybe it will have less paint bleed, versus blue masking tape.


Ordered July 25, 2018

"Perfect" Lettering versus my blue masking tape method

Several people on the Stained Glass Addicts site, have their lettering laser etched at a trophy shop..........then fill in the indentation with paint (razor blade remove excess after paint is dry], or other materials.  The resultant lettering is almost perfect in terms of quality..........

This laser engraved "perfect" quality lettering looks great on certain types of projects.

For my Fairbury City Hall panel, I don't think I need perfect quality letters.  The building was built in 1892, and I don't think one necessarily wants perfect quality lettering.   My masking tape method quality will give the panel a local artistic flavor. 

Baking the masking tape method

I think the piece actually looks just a little bit better after baking 40 minutes at 325F.........

Clock Tower

I added some dots for the clock face numbers, and will try to paint on some hands as well.......

Starting to cut glass

So far so good.  I am glad I made all my small pieces at least 1/4" in width.  With the 7/32" wide copper foil, you can still see some glass on the small pieces.

How to do Clock Dials

I want to put a drop of black paint on the dial to represent each number on the real clock.  But how to know where to put each dot?  

I made a paper full-scale pattern of the clock face from Sketchup.  Then I used a hole punch to give a target where to put each drop of paint. We will see how this works.

Architecture Accents

I used red dots of Pebeo Porcelain paint as architectural highlights, to match the original 1892 building. For the dots on top of the window, I visually centered where I wanted the dots, then made them using a flat toothpick as the brush. This worked well.  If I make more of them, I would dip the toothpick in the paint, then rub some paint off the toothpick in the bottle neck, to reduce the amount of paint on the dot.  If it gets too thick, the dot might bubble when it is cooked in the oven.

For the second story row of dots, I first painted out a paper pattern of the dots, and placed the paper under the yellow glass.  Since I could see through the glass, I knew exactly where to put the dots.

You are supposed to let the Pebeo Porcelain paint air-dry 24 hours ,then bake 40 minutes at 325F.  I did not want to wait that I baked 15 minutes at 120F........let cool.....did another 15 set the paint.  Then I cranked the oven up to 325F and did the 40 minutes.  They all came out great !!

I left the glass pieces on a wood board when I baked at 325F.  Wood won't burn at this low temp, but it does smell a little bit when it gets this hot.

Remember 325F is hot, so use a pliers to move the glass pieces after they come out of the oven!!!!!

Joint Lines

I kind of figured out where to put the joint lines between pieces of glass as I went.  I updated my Sketchup drawing as I figured them out..............then printed out new paper put 1 copy under the glass and 1 copy to cut the pieces from.

Building the Panel

Everything went along pretty well as I built the panel from the bottom LH corner and worked upwards.

I only have 2 pieces of big one and 1 smaller one.  The big one was not tall enough, so I added on my small piece. I will do all by the top LH corner of sky, then solder both sides........and rotate it 180 degrees to finish foiling and soldering the sky.

1/4" width is definitely the minimum I want to use on a panel design.........for the minimum width of a piece of glass.  When I got to the clock tower, I decided to eliminate the yellow trim around the open sections.  Although it was a 1/4" wide in my design, after you rotate it 45 shrunk to less than 1/8" width [the clock tower is rotated 45 degrees from the main building].

Below is a picture of the 2 pieces of homosote I used...........

Clock Faces

I cut and foiled as many pieces as possible on the 2 pieces of Homosote I had.  On the 2 white clock faces, I cut them, but did not foil them...........since I have to do the painting operation on them.

I rolled some blue masking tape onto itself, to essentially make 2-sided hold my paper punched pattern in place.  I  used a flat toothpick, the small end, to apply just a dot of black the center of each hole punch.  I carefully removed the paper pattern and blue masking tape from the first piece...........then did the same on the 2nd piece. I will bake them 15 or 20 minutes at 120F, to set the paint. The black paint is Pebeo Porcelain black paint.

Painting the Hands

When I tried blue masking tape above, for the word Fairbury, I got excessive bleeding of the Pebeo Porcelain paint under the blue masking tape.   I decided to try a piece of contact paper, I bought from Hobby Lobby.........

I printed the pattern of the clock face on the contact paper.   It did not dry well, and smudged easily..........but if you don't rub it with your stays put long enough to punch the holes for the clock numbers..........and cut out the hands with an Exacto knife. I punched the clock hour marks..............because I did not want to risk the contact paper pulling off the black paint dots.  The black paint dots have only been set using 20 minutes at 120F..............not 40 minutes at 325F.

I used the outside border of the white glass clock face, to align the contact paper correctly when I applied it.

I was very pleased with how the hands turned out............I had zero bleed of the Pebeo Porcelain paint under the contact paper!!!!!!          A big improvement over using blue masking tape.  I did not press the outside of the contact paper down...........I only pressed it down hard around the clock make it easy to remove.  I left the contact paper on while I set the paint at 15 minutes at 120F in the oven.   The contact paper pulled off easily, and did not tear the paint edges either.

Small Used Saw I bought on Ebay for sawing zinc and lead

A couple months ago, I bought this small saw on Ebay.  I had used my big miter saw for cutting lead on a previous project.........and wanted to see how  a smaller saw worked.

This little saw cut the zinc came ok.  My only issue is that I can't not see my pencil mark very well, so I cut the zinc a hair short..........but I could fill it in with solder, so it worked.  On future projects I need to improve this little saw by..........adding a light........or making a new oak fence, so I can see exactly where it saws

Finished Stained Glass panel without wood frame

I was really happy with how the stained glass panel turned out, in the sunlight!!

Wood Frame

I decided to make my frame from Menard's red oak with a Golden Oak stain.  I first ripped the boards to 1-3/8" thick widths, then planed them down from 3/4" to 11/16".

I used the same process I developed for a previous project, you can see it here.

I made 2 passes, 1 on each side, of the board using MLCS bead routing bit #5530.

On the previous project, I learned that when you are using the 5/16" straight bit, you must hold the board against the fence at all times..........or you will get dips in your groove.  On this project, I tried using a wood featherboard.........and it worked very well.

On many previous projects, I learned one should first screw in a steel screw........of the same size as the final brass screw.   Then install the brass screw. If you use the brass screw first, you will strip out the screwdriver slot, because it is hard to screw into red oak.  I also apply paraffin to the hole and the screws.

I like the hangers from, so I'm using them on this project.

My framing process steps were:

1. Rip red oak to 1-3/8" thick strips

2. Route edge on 1 side

3. Route edge on other side

4. Take about 4 passes with 5/16" straight bit to make the groove 3/8" deep

5. Miter saw and cut 4 sides of frame

6. Clamp 1 corner to plywood table top to hold it in place, then drill tapered pilot hole

7. Install steel screw using paraffin wax on hole and threads, do it in 2 or 3 steps

8. Attach 2 hangs using pilot holes and paraffin wax

9. Sand 4 pieces with 220 grit

10. screw together with steel screws, use Titebond glue on bottom 2 corners. Do not glue upper 2 corners so stained glass panel can be installed and removed.

11. Apply stain, then 2 rounds of polyurethane and 220 grit sanding.

12. replace steel screws with brass

13. Cut hanging chains to proper length

Panel Framed and in the Sun

Lessons Learned

I learned so many new things, I'm not sure I can list them all !

1. For lettering, you need the right type of Pebeo paint.  The Vitria style Pebeo paint is very faint, and will not give solid colors for letters.  The Porcelain type does give nice solid color letters.  With the Porcelain paint, you might have to put 2 coats on to get a completely solid letter color.

2. Pebeo gives guidelines of air-drying their paints 24 hours, then baking them for 40 minutes at 325F.  I experimented to try to eliminate the 24 hour air-drying requirement.  I found that if you bake the glass piece about 20 minutes at will set the paint fine.  When I got all done, I did do the final bake for 40  minutes at 325F in the oven.

3. I tried using blue masking tape on the glass, as part of the stencil for the word Fairbury.  I got a lot of Pebeo paint bleeding under the blue masking tape...........and it took quite a while to remove it with a razor blade and razor knife.  I then tried using contact paper from Hobby Lobby, and I got 0 bleeding of the contact paper is the way to go.

4. You can apply small dots of Pebeo Porcelain paint using a toothpick as the brush.

5. When painting larger size dots, try to keep the paint height a minimum. If the blob is too tall or deep, you run the risk of the dot bubbling when it goes into the oven.

6. For the clock numbers, which I represented as dots of Pebeo paint, it worked well to make a paper pattern, with hole punches for where the dots go, then use 2-sided tape to hold the paper pattern in the right position.

7. As a design guideline, keep the minimum width of a piece of glass at least 1/4", which worked well on this project.  Once you go below 1/4" in width, the copper foil and solder will completely cover the glass. 

As you shrink the size of the stained glass panel, you can have less and less of the small architectural details......because the pieces become less than the 1/4" width requirement.  Because I wanted to keep as many details as possible, this drove the stained glass panel size to be a little larger than I initially wanted.

I designed the stained glass panel in Sketchup, by making a scale drawing of the building.  The clock tower is actually rotated 45 degrees from the main building.  I designed some yellow accent pieces on the windows of the clock tower which were 1/4".   But when I took the South view of the building with the clock tower rotated, the 1/4" wide pieces became less than 1/8" of an inch........and would not work.  I eliminated these accent pieces on the final panel design.  So be alert to impact of walls that are at 45 degrees to the main view, because the glass thickness will shrink accordingly.

7 Alternative Methods of putting letters on stained glass

As a result of doing this project, plus getting input from the Stained Glass Addicts Facebook group, I have identified at least 8 different ways of applying lettering to stained glass.