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Stained Glass airplane & kaleidoscope #2

In early 2017, I built my 1st stained glass airplane that is also a kaleidoscope. After I had it assembled, I noticed I cracked the stained glass at 2 places........where the brass strut was soldered to the wings. The copper foil around the wing is strong enough, that it holds the wing together.

I have never had stained glass break from soldering this did.  I decided to build another airplane, and see if I could avoid the cracks. I also had issues making the propellers, with the brass hub sticking to the axle shaft......I want to develop a way to avoid this also.

The yellow stained glass came from Hobby Lobby.

I used 3 strips of black electrician's tape to temporarily support the 3 fuselage glass pieces in the right orientation when I soldered them up.

I also used 3 strips of black electrician's tape to assemble the 3 mirrors in the right orientation, similar to how I did the 1st plane..........and according to the instructions.......

I made the small triangle eyepiece from some 1/16" thick glass.............that I got by buying a cheap frame from Hobby Lobby, then removing the glass.  Normal glass is 1/8" thick, but the instructions want you to use thinner glass.  Just like the 1st plane, I had to use 1 strip of black electricians tape to hold the eyepiece in position while I tack soldered it. Plane #1 eyepiece and tape is shown below.

Bottom Wing of Bi-Plane

The bottom wing is first cut to yield 1 piece of glass..........then you cut this 1 piece into 3 sections..........then solder it back together.  This is done to provide copper foil joints to solder on the fuselage.

I tack soldered the fuselage to the bottom wing........with plane in its normal orientation.  Then I tipped the plane so the solder joint was the solder better flows into the joint.  I ended up tipping it in both directions to solder each side of the wing.

Soldering the Top wing

On the 1st plane, I used 2 wood blocks to support the top wing in its correct orientation.  On the 2nd plane, I used 1 wood block and a a solder coil for weight.  I then used my small steel machinists square to make sure the top wing was correctly aligned to the bottom wing.

Attaching the Struts

On the 1st plane, I have 3 cracks in the lower wing, and the cracks all originate at the points where the brass struts were soldered on.  I am guessing I got the glass too hot when I was trying to solder the small brass strut to the copper foil.  I remember that the solder did not want to stick to the brass strut very well.

I wanted to try a different method on this 2nd plane, to try to avoid cracking the glass.  My new method is:

1. Shine up the brass rod using steel wool, to make the solder easier to stick
2. Tin or apply a thin layer of solder to all of the brass strut. This will help it solder better to the copper foil on the glass.
3. Cut strut to length. Use bench grinder to trial & error keep shortening the piece until it exactly fits
4. Solder strut to foil.  Just touch the outside of the foil briefly.
5. Tap on strut to verify you got a good solder connection, if not, then resolder

I was able to solder each end of the strut with a very quick touch of the soldering iron, so I minimized the heating of the glass.  The tinned surface of the struts is a little rough looking, I might have to take the Dremel with a sanding drum, and touch up any sharp points when I am done.

Diagonal Struts

These struts use a slightly thinner diameter brass wire.   

I tried tying thin copper wire around the diagonal and vertical strut to hold them in place and that did not work well, so I switched to electrical alligator clips, which did work well.

The process I developed to minimize the heat to avoid cracking the lower wing was......

1. Clean the brass rod with steel get the solder to stick better

2. Tin the brass rod in the vise

3. Cut to rough length with side cutter pliers

4. Hold in place with electrical alligator clips

5. Tack solder the strut in place quickly

6. Make sure good solder joint by tapping on strut with dental pick

7. Cut excess length of strut using side cutters

8. Grind away any excess with Dremel drum sander

I was able to attach 2 diagonal struts on each side of the wings, with zero cracks in the glass!!!!!!!!!!

Front Landing Gear or Axle

I used a plastic 30-60-90 triangle to know when I had the front axle bent at 60 degrees..........

I tinned the areas on the axle where they would be soldered to the plane, to reduce the heat required to solder them to the fuselage.


Using lead came as an outside border on the propellors really works well.  I had only enough lead U came left to do one propellor. On the other one, I added 20 gauge tinned wire around the OD to stiffen it up. This is much more time consuming than using lead came, and it does not look as good as the U came.

I used an 1/8" wood dowel with one end sanded down just a bit to fit in the brass hub. With one hand, I pushed down on the dowel/hub, and tack soldered it with the other.  I checked run-out by putting it on the plane propellor axle, then re-soldered if necessary.  This method is not perfect, but avoids getting the propellor soldered to the plane axle, like happened on the first plane.


The wheels that come with the kit are plain wood wheels 1.25" diameter.  I checked, and I can get 1.50" diameter old-fashioned wood spoked wheels.  I think I will wait until some spoked wheels are shipped to me, then use them to dress up the plane's appearance a little bit.

Rear Wing Struts and Rear Support

I almost forgot to do these!

I used my finger of one hand to support the rear wing strut on the fuselage and soldered it with the other hand.

For the rear support, I used a scrap block of pine, and some blue masking tape to hold it hold it at 90 degrees to the fuselage while I soldered it.

Patina Preparation

I did the following steps before I applied the patina to the solder joints:

1. Felt the plane all over with my hands, and removed any sharp points (either with the solder iron, hand file, or Dremel drum sander)
2. Scrubbed with brush and rinsed with water any white pen marks.  Used small screwdriver to reach in-accessible areas where brush would not fit.

My class instructor taught us to apply patina with cotton swabs versus the flux brush.  I tried the flux brush once on an earlier project, and you end up with puddles of patina chemical on the work board........which is basically wasted chemical.   I think he taught us to apply it with cotton swabs, to minimize the amount of expensive chemical used.

After Patina Applied

Ordering 1.5" OD Spoked Wheels

I bought some 1.5" diameter spoked wheels to try using on this project.

I also bought a selection of different diameter spoked wheels for my shop inventory..........for use on future projects.

Assembly of the 2 spoked wheels

I first drilled out the axle hole, until the brass bushing would easily fit into it.  I picked the drill bit size by using the plain wheel that came with the kit.

I used some blue masking tape to provide a temporary stop for the wheel to set down against.  Following the kit instructions, I held the wheel in place with my left hand, and soldered with my right hand.  This worked well, except both wheels are not free spinning.  It seems like the wheels are clamped too tight by the 2 brass hubs. Maybe I should have used tape or cardboard to provide some temporary cleanance while I soldered it.  It is not really important that the wheels spin freely anyway.

Mirror assembly into the plane

I stuck 3 of the round pads on the outside of the mirror sub-assembly, to cushion them from moving side to side.........

I used some hot melt glue, dabbed on both sides of the 3-mirror sub-assembly, to hold the front of the mirrors in position.......

Cleaning the viewing lens on the inside of the plane

I cut a small piece of white rag, and blue taped it onto a long dowel.  I inserted the dowel, rotated it against the inside of the viewing lens, and it cleaned up all the streak marks.

Finished project

Kaleidoscope Images

No glass cracks in lower wing

On the 1st plane I built, I had 3 cracks in the glass...........starting where I had soldered on the struts.

On this 2nd plane, I tinned the struts first, then just touched the solder gun for a second to solder them on.  This reduced heat level, apparently prevented any cracks!!

Youtube video of Kaleidoscope in action

Lessons Learned from Building Glass Airplane #2

Tinning the brass rods before you solder on the struts, reduces the heat, and avoids breaking the glass on the lower wing.

It is still challenging to get the brass hub aligned correctly on the propellor when you solder it on.  I had the best luck reducing the diameter slightly of an 1/8" long wood dowel, then holding it vertical down on the brass hub with one hand, and solder it with the other hand.

Using lead came as an outside border on the propellors really works well.  I had only enough lead U came left to do one propellor. On the other one, I added 20 gauge tinned wire around the OD to stiffen it up. This is much more time consuming than using lead came, and it does not look as good as the U came.