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How A Stained Glass Panel Is Made

A design for stained glass windows begins as a full-size cartoon, or preparatory drawing on paper. Sometimes the craftsperson draws the cartoon. Other times the cartoon is supplied by a customer or an outside designer.

Colored glass is selected based on the cartoon and purpose of the window. Then the glass is cut with a glasscutter to fit the shapes depicted in the cartoon. Smooth-jawed pliers are used to cut the glass into shapes that have awkward curves.

To apply a design to glass, an artist uses a mixture of powdered glass and metal oxides that becomes a black or brown paint when water is added. The artist carefully traces the lines from the cartoon onto the glass. To achieve a shaded effect, the stained glassmaker uses a thinner wash, which is left on the glass to dry. When it is ready to be fired, the glass is loaded into the upper part of a kiln. The temperature of the kiln fuses the paint to the glass. Because of the high temperature, the glass becomes strained, so it's necessary to leave the glass in the kiln to cool slowly.

Lead is used to edge each piece of glass because it provides a strong, flexible bond. The lead is cut and bent in order to match the contours of each piece. The glass, surrounded by lead, is fused together.

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