There are various types of lead used for stained glass, but the lead between the pieces of glass is called came, it is H section and can be slightly rounded on both sides or flat on both sides. It is only soldered at the joints and on larger pieces needs to have glass cement between the glass and lead to hold everything secure. It is a very sticky and dirty job, but weirdly satisfying too once it dries it is waterproof and stable. On very large pieces a strengthening bar is needed to make the piece stronger and also to stop the lead and glass slumping which can happen after many years. It is difficult to use lead on detailed work, as most of the came has a thick 1mm centre which goes between the glass pieces. This makes it difficult to do very small pieces of glass, very tight curves, or right angles or inverse angles without lots of joins. There is smaller scale lead, but it is incredibly soft and difficult to work with, it melts very quickly and the glass edges need to be perfect.
Once the piece is soldered and cemented the lead can either be left as it is, or it can be polished to a satin dark grey or chemically darkened using a patina. Copper patina can also be used instead to give it a copper glow.
Tiffany Style Techniques
This is named after Louis Tiffany who started using the technique for his lamps (amongst other things) in the 1870s. Each piece of glass is edged in a sticky backed copper foil tape and then when all the pieces are put together solder is run down each join which makes a very strong but slightly flexible joint.
Like with using lead, patina can be used on the solder to alter the colour and given it a nice sheen. The lead foil comes in different widths and also different coloured backgrounds (copper, black and silver). If the glass is opalescent or opaque it doesn’t really make much difference what colour the back of the foil is, but if it is possible to see through the glass then using black when a black patina is used or copper when a copper one is would make a difference. If no patina is used, then silver backed works well.
Much smaller pieces of glass can be used, so the detail can be greater. The downside of this is that each piece of glass needs to be cleaned thoroughly to remove grease and the copper foil wrapped round each edge. This is very time consuming and fiddly. If find doing this in front of the TV with an easy to follow film, with a glass of wine, the boxes on my lap for the tape, glass – finished and unfinished – and the odd tool required is the best way to do this part of the process. The problem with this is that I always end up with small bits of foil stuck on the furniture, in the dog’s fur or on my husband…..