Essential Stained Glass Tools and Supplies For Beginners
Getting started with Stained Glass can be a daunting task. There are so many tools and consumable supplies that can be quite tricky to wrap your head around! To top it all off, this isn’t exactly the cheapest creative hobby out there, so making bad choices can be very costly!
Some of our favorite Stained Glass Starter Kits are a good option you might want to consider, but for the DIY artist who wants a bit more control over where the money goes, hand selecting each piece is a great choice too!
Our comprehensive guide should help you pick and choose the stained glass tools and supplies that fit your needs. Whether you’re a novice just getting into it, or a seasoned pro looking for some upgrades, read on to learn more!
Let’s get started!!
The following are tools you more or less have to have in order to create Stained Glass art. There are others that will make your life a bit easier (covered below), but if you’re looking for a minimal startup set, here’s what you need:
A Glass Cutter
You won’t get far without a good glass cutter! There are a variety of cutter types with different grips and wheels to choose from. We cover all the ins and outs of choosing one that’s right for you in our Glass Cutter Buyers Guide, but if you just want our top pick, it’s this one right here:
The cutter features a spring controlled oil flow system, which works well and keeps the cutting wheel well lubricated. Overall, the grip can take some getting used to if you’re used to a traditional pencil grip cutter. However, we think that once you’re used to it (which doesn’t take long), we think you’ll agree that this is way more comfortable (especially for sustained use).
Once you’ve scored your glass with the cutter, the next step is to break it off. That’s where our good friend the running pliers comes in! A decent pair will run you around $10, and our recommendation is this one right here:
There’s not a ton to say about these… The rubber grip is quite comfortable on your hands, and with plastic tip covers on the jaws, the covers protect the glass from getting scratched or chipped. These are the major factors to consider when choosing a pair of pliers, in addition to the sturdiness of the material used.
A Soldering Iron
Next up on our list of must-have tools is an artist’s best friend: The soldering iron! We have an in-depth guide to Best Soldering Irons For Stained Glass which will cover everything you need to know. For most people, we recommend the following:
The American Beauty 3178-300 is an absolute beast in performance and durability. As mentioned above, this iron is overkill outside of a professional setting with high use, and significant wear and tear expected.
You’ll need a few accessories with the Iron, including a stand and wire sponge cleaner. Here’s a great integrated option (but obviously you can purchase them separately):
The soldering iron is one of the most important tools in your arsenal, so we recommend that even new-comers shell out a few extra dollars here and skimp elsewhere if budget is a concern.
Copper Burnisher (or FID)
Making sure the copper foil is properly adhered to the glass piece can be tricky for newcomers to the hobby. A burnishing tool or a Fid are both well worth the price (around $10) and can help greatly reduce headaches. We like this model here, but don’t overthink things if you see one you think looks more your style:
It should go without saying, but tiny shards of glass can be a major hazard to your health in a variety of ways. Eye protection, hand protection, and breathing protection are critical! Here are the pieces we recommend, but any comparable items will do the trick just fine:
These glasses are relatively stylish (as far as safety goggles go), but more importantly they’re comfortable and offer good protection. There’s excellent peripheral vision, and the rubberized arms and nose pad keep them from moving around while in use.
Handling glass is risky, even more so when you’re intentionally breaking it. A sturdy pair of cut resistant gloves are great for picking out sheets as well as when working on a piece. They can get in the way of some of the more fine dexterity requiring steps, but you should strive to wear these as much as possible.
Fumes from the soldering iron, as well as microscopic bits of ground glass can do a number on your lungs. We’d strongly recommend taking steps to protect them whenever possible.
Must Have Supplies
Well, here’s an obvious one… you’re going to need a bunch of glass sheets to make stained glass art! There are plenty of variety packs on sites like amazon, which can be good when starting out. Once you get a bit more established, you might want to check the local glass shops as they will tend to be quite a bit cheaper in terms of price per unit.
Glass Cutting Oil
Keeping your Glass Cutter running efficiently requires greasing the wheel, so to speak. Glass cutting oil like this here will run you around $10, and is a definite must-have:
Unlike many so-called glass cutting oils which are just mineral oil, this product is designed of lubrication and viscosity, as well as providing protection to cutting heads, cutting wheels and drill bits. There are plenty of alternatives on the market, but do be careful that you’re not just buying a bottle of mineral oil with a fancy label.
If you’re going to venture into stained glass making, you better get used to buying copper foil! This of course is what allows you to stick your solder to the glass, so you’re going to wind up going through a lot of it. Our favorite comes from 3M, and this 3-pack should be plenty for most people to get started with. Of course you can buy a single pack if budget is a concern or you’re not positive you’re going to stick with the hobby long enough to go through it all.
The main thing to look out for when buying foil is how sticky the backing is. 3M is a great brand for this, as you might expect from a big name brand.
Another consumable stained glass supply that you’ll be using plenty of is Lead Solder. You’ll want 60⁄40 (which means 60% tin and 40% lead), and it’s best to go with brands that specifically mention they’re for stained glass. Cheaping out on solder can mean less effective flow of the metal to your working piece, and can be very frustrating.
A bottle of soldering flux is another must-have consumable. It basically helps the solder stick to the work-piece better, and that means stronger a stronger finished product. You’ll want to be sure not to apply too much, and also make sure you clean up the piece when you’re done. This type works quite well and cleans up with water:
Flux also comes in a paste variety, but we prefer the liquid.
Some tools are great for saving you a bit of elbow grease, but aren’t strictly required to get yourself started as a beginner stained glass artist. Once you’ve confirmed that you love the hobby and want to take your game to the next level, these are some upgrades you may come to wonder how you ever did without!
A Glass Grinder
Grinders are a great way to get that exactly perfect shape with minimal physical effort. We’ve compiled an amazing Buyers Guide that’ll teach you all there is to know when choosing one. For those in a hurry, here’s our top pick for beginners:
It has a small footprint, which is great if you’re short on space. The device is powerful enough for most beginners and smaller projects, and will last you for some time as you move up in experience in complexity. The grinding area is for pieces up to 4-6”, if you remove the guide.
### A Glass Saw Glass saws are an alternative to manual cutting and breaking. They come in a few varieties, including Band, Ring, and Wire. If you’re starting out new, we suggest this little unit here:
As with all wire saws, it cuts in any direction for making intricate and difficult cuts. The motor is powerful enough to get through think pieces, and the working surface accommodates large sheets with ease. The blades on the Gryphon Omni-2 Plus are somewhat fragile and prone to breaking, but fortunately, the package includes 6 replacement blades, which should be good for a lot of cuts.
A Strip and Circle Cutter
Manual hand cutters and saws aren’t the only way to shape your glass. These specialty cutters produce perfect strips and circles, which can be quite handy for some projects:
If you’re a brand new stained glass artist, it’s ok to hold off on purchasing a circle cutter until you’re ready (but we suggest picking one up as soon as you’re sure you’ll stick with it). This cutter is the best one for circle / strip cuts on the market in an affordable price range. The only real drawback is that it can be a little complicated to use - so be sure to read those directions!
A nice sharp pair of nippers can be handy to have around. Perfect for snipping solder off flush, these (or any pair really) are great to have lying around:
As with our optional tools, these supplies aren’t strictly required to get started and you might want to skip them initially. Once you’re ready to kick your game up a notch, most of these are used to enhance the final outcome of your project. You may not wind up using all of them on every piece, but you’re sure to find use for all of them often.
If you’re interested in changing the final look of your solder, that’s where a patina finish comes in. Basically, a chemical reaction with the metal of the solder causes it to change appearance. These are pretty harsh chemicals, so be sure to use them in a well ventilated space, with all of the eye, hand, and lung protection we suggested above.
Used for finishing your project, Lead Came is another item you’ll likely want to have on-hand. Make sure you get the right dimensions and length for both the glass width as well as the outer perimeter of your project.
Assorted Craft Supplies
You’re almost sure to need a variety of little craft and hobby supplies, but you may have most of these around the house already. A dedicated set for your stained glass workbench might make sense so it’s easier to find them when needed.
This set above is a good starting point, but here’s some other items to consider.
- Masking Tape
- Exacto Knife
- Crafting Mat
- Small Carpenter’s Square
Stained Glass Project Patterns
Another item you might want to consider is a set of project patterns. Eventually, you’ll probably want to set out on your own and design your pieces from scratch, but a book like this is a great way to get started learning.
This book has 31 patterns in it, as well as instructional material that can be helpful when learning to cut, polish, trace, foil, and solder your items.
Conclusions: The Right Tools For The Job
Ultimately, stained glass making is a pretty expensive hobby. Knowing which tools and supplies you absolutely must have, versus the ones that just make your life easier can be a big boon when getting started. We’ve done our best to give you everything you need to know to make an informed choice about the items you select.
Be sure to check out all of our in depth buyers guides for the various trade-offs and options you’ll find among some of the more expensive items. This hobby can bring so much joy to the world, and we just want to do our part to help everyone start out the right way!
So, there you have it. The rest is up to you!
Good luck, and go create something amazing!