Stained glass is an interesting hobby that requires patience and some skill. You have to be willing to listen and learn as it is not a simple task. Patience definitely comes in handy when working with the metal and glass as it can be tricky at times. In addition, having an artistic flare can only add to the quality and uniqueness of your pieces. For this particular piece, we are going to discuss the best solder iron to purchase for stained glass work. It is probably one of the most important pieces to have. However, before we run through our top picks, we are going to discuss the various tools to have on hand and some basic steps for producing easy pieces when you first start out.
Tools to Have for Stained Glass Work
Besides a solder iron, there are a variety of other tools you need to have available when conducting a stained glass project. Not surprisingly you can purchase starter kits that include most if not all of the tools you need to get going, but here are the tools in more detail.
- Stained Glass Sheets
Obviously, you cannot make stained glass without colored glass pieces. Stained glass comes in a huge variety of colors and shades to help you create one-of-a-kind pieces. There are several varieties of glass that allow lots of light in, some light, or provide a lot more privacy. Decide what you end look is going to be and purchased accordingly from a reputable glass maker.
- Stained Glass Grinder
A grinder can cut down on the amount of waste that can be produced when using a simple glass cutter tool. They come in a variety of sizes and functions. Do yourself a favor and head out online to read reviews and recommendations.
- Glass Cutter
Glass cutters are used to etch your glass pattern on to the colored glass sheets. They are extremely useful for hands-on users, but they require a bit of practice and technique to use in combination with a grinder.
- Stained Glass Pliers
These pliers come in a variety of sizes and shapes depending on what type of glass work and technique you plan on using. They are extremely useful for cutting and shaping glass.
- Pattern Shears
Pattern shears are extremely useful for cutting out your patterns or templates for stained glass work. They are uniquely designed just for stained glass. They are a handy tool to have.
- Stained Glass Solder and Flux
Obviously if you use a solder iron to make stained glass, then you need solder and flux to produce a nice finished product. We have touched on various solder options before, but to refresh there are two types: lead-based and lead-free. Either one is useful for stained glass work. Flux is what makes the solder flow more freely and produces a smoother finish.
- Copper Foil Tape
Copper foil tape is what is used around the edging of cut glass pieces. This allows the solder to grip and hold two pieces together.
This is a product that changes the color of solder to copper, brass, or black versus the silver coloring. It all just depends on the final look you want to achieve.
Steps for Doing Basic Stained Glass Pieces
There are several major steps that can be applied to all stained glass works. Here they are:
- Buy the right tools
We have already discussed a variety of tools to have. Do your research and purchase decent quality supplies.
- Figure out your design and produce it
Start off with something simple before moving into more complicated pieces. You can find patterns online or draw your own.
- Choose and purchase your glass
Figure out which glass you want to use and in what shades. Find a reputable dealer and buy your product.
- Create a glass template and cut out
Print out your design and etch the appropriate pieces on to the right color glass. Score and cut out each piece of traced glass. Make sure to mark each piece.
- Smooth the glass edges
Using a grinder smooth any rough edges to ensure smooth connection points.
- Foil the glass
Apply foil tape around the edges of each piece in whatever thickness works best for your design.
- Add flux and begin to solder the pieces together
Apply flux to the copper tape if desired and then solder the pieces together one by one. Recommend tacking at the corners first and then doing a solid solder line.
- Finish with patina if desired
Finally, apply patina if a color change is desired over the solder lines.
Best Solder Iron for Stained Glass
Now that we have discussed a few important topics, let us talk about the best solder irons to use for stained glass projects.
1. Weller W100PG Fahrenheit Heavy Duty Soldering Iron
We have discussed Weller products in the past for electronic soldering, but the more heavy duty varieties are also useful for stained glass projects. This particular Weller product can handle up to 800 degrees Celsius, although it does have variable temperature options. It includes three different sized tips for the user depending on project need that can handle 600, 700, or 800 degrees Celsius. It has a fast heat-up time as well.
The interchangeable tips that come with this unit are a nice bonus because they can handle three different temperature settings. This comes in handy depending on the work you are doing. The Weller unit is perfect for beginners and professionals and is a well-known brand in the soldering world.
It does not come with a soldering station. That must be purchased separately. Depending on what your setup is, that may or may not be a deal breaker for you. The most common complaint for this model was that the unit seemed to heat, but the tip did not rendering it useless.
2. Hakko FX601-02 Adjustable Temperature Controlled Soldering Iron
The Hakko soldering iron produces approximately 67 watts of power and has adjustable temperature options. It has a ceramic heating element that allows for quick heat-up and consistent heat control. The Hakko is extremely lightweight and has a comfortable handle to enable ease of use.
This product includes a temperature dial right in the handle for easy control of appropriate heating. It is also capable of maintaining the temperature within several degrees of the set amount. This enables the user to avoid cold spots on their solders line, which leads to a cleaner looking product. The Hakko is ideal for medium to small stained glass projects.
This is an extremely popular soldering iron that works great for smaller stained glass projects. However, it did have a few complaints against it. The quality of product was a repeated trend throughout the complaints. It had issues maintaining temperature even though the product description stated it was fully capable of doing so.
3. American Beauty 3138E-100 Heavy Duty Ergo-Iron
This particular soldering iron comes with a bent heating element that allows for close up detailed work. While this brand is typically used by professionals, it can be used by hobbyists as it is quite a good tool for stained glass projects. The handle is built to be ergonomic and prevent hand fatigue when working on larger projects. The 3138E-100 also has a lead-free tip that is paragon iron-clad for long term usage. In addition, it includes a 3/8 inch diamond style tip.
This company is a known brand amongst professionals and tradesman, but it is becoming more popular with smaller hobbyist and crafters alike. It has a unique design that is easy to handle and provides 100 watts of power. They have amazing customer service and repair any defects quickly. They stand behind their product quality. It also has the highest temperature of all the units we looked at. It can handle up to 855 degrees Fahrenheit.
Currently, there are no negative reviews for this product as it is relatively new. However, it comes highly recommended.
4. American Beauty 3158-200 Heavy Duty Soldering Iron
This is another American Beauty product. It comes equipped to handle up to 200 watts of power. It has a 5/8 inch diamond tip and is 14 inches long. In addition, it has a Ni-chrome compression wound heating element, which means it heats up efficiently and maintains temperature. It has a modular design that allows for easy swapping of parts. It is another American Beauty product that comes highly recommended.
The customer service related to this product is top end. The company stands behind their product and strives to response promptly to any concerns. The modular design is a plus for swapping out tips or even malfunctioning components. It is capable of producing heat of nearly 1000 degrees Fahrenheit, which makes it ideal for high heat projects.
As with the other American Beauty model, this 200 watt version is quite popular. The only complaint we noted was related to regular maintenance. Since this costs quite a bit, users need to take special care to clean and handle this unit or be prepared to regularly send this into the manufacturer.
5. Hexacon SI-P250 Soldering Iron
The Hexacon produces 250 watts, which is by far the largest wattage unit we have reviewed. It is heavy duty and strong for optimal use with stained glass work. It comes equipped with a 5/8 inch semi-chiseled soldering tip, but can be swapped out for other 5/8 inch sized tips. The SI-P250 does a great job of heating up and maintaining temperature over a long period of time.
This product is rated one of the best units over 250 watts. It is another heavy duty unit typically used in industry, but is gaining popularity with artists. The Hexacon is ideal for larger stained glass projects and can handle heavy, thick solder joints. It has fast heat-recovery so that there is no cold spotting in your work. It is also ideal for quick solder points. In addition, it is also quite easy to use and handle for a decent amount of time.
This is yet another produce that comes highly rated, but is relatively new to the stained glass world. It does not currently have any negative reviews.
If you are interested in starting stained glass projects, take the time to review over what tools you need and what brands are ideal for the entire project. While we focused mainly on soldering irons in this piece, you also need to do research on good glass cutters, grinding tools, glass etchers, appropriate glass panes, as well as patina and copper foil tape. Any one of these products can prevent you from having a nicely finished work, but they can also ensure your pieces look polished and complete. In addition, we provide basic steps for performing your first stained glass piece. If you require more specifics, we recommend doing some online research to see videos or additional reviews on unique stained glass tools.
We have mentioned several high-end solder irons for attaching glass pieces together. They come in a variety of sizes, with different tips, and are capable of a wide range of temperatures. Solder irons used in stained glass projects need to be capable of producing high heat points. This is because the metals you use for stained glass soldering is pretty heavy duty and requires a lot of heat to be melted. Always determine your needs are ahead of time and take a moment to review over tips and tricks for producing great products. It is especially important to get the right soldering iron because that can make or break your project. You need to be able to tack the glass together and have the solder hold. We highly recommend researching appropriate solder as well for use with stained glass. Some products are best for electronics or plumbing while others might be more suited to this type of work. As always, we recommend researching online reviews as they can provide insight on the goods and bads of each product.