The traditional method uses lead came. This is the method used for centuries in Europe, mainly in Religious buildings such as cathedrals, churches and monasteries, and including wealthy or aristocratic homes.
An alternative method, replacing the lead came with copper foil, was invented in the 19th century, enabling creation of three-dimensional works, in addition to two-dimensional ones to which the lead came method is limited. The copper foil artwork is commonly called Tiffany stained glass, even though there is a debate about whether John La Farge or Louis Comfort Tiffany invented this alternative to lead came glasswork.
In the lead came method the pieces of glass are embedded into the channels of the came, and the joints between the came strips soldered together.
In the copper foil method, the edges of the glass pieces are wrapped with adhesive copper tape, and soldered together along the adjacent copper strips.
The next step is to make a template copy of the design for cutting the glass. The width of the lead came or the copper foil that separates the pieces of glass may be compensated for with double blade pattern shears that remove a thin strip of material on the template copy.
For large designs, a scale model may be made, which is digitally photographed and further modified with AutoCAD. After measurements and other notations are applied, the full pattern is printed on a large-format printer.
The lead came has channels into which the glass pieces are inserted. There are two types of lead came: for the circumference of the design, came with a U-shaped cross section may be used, as it takes glass only on one of its sides. For the middle of the design, came with an H-shaped cross-section is used, taking glass on both its sides. The channel or "heart" height of lead came is available in different thickness to allow for thicker or thinner glass as well as the "face" (profile) in various sizes for design options and construction.
Lead came is available in 5-6 foot pieces and on dispensing rolls for smaller gauge lead. Lead came is commonly cut with lead dikes or glazing knife. Table top chop saws are also used where repetitive sized pieces are needed or when working with a zinc based lead or zinc came. Cut lead came is also done in angles to allow for proper mitering where the stained glass design requires it.
Each piece of glass is set in place upon a glazing drawing, with came shaped around it to make a matrix. Horseshoe nails and scraps of lead are used to hold the already-assembled pieces to the work surface. Horseshoe nails are used, because the steel is not tempered, and therefore has less chance of breaking the edge of a piece of glass. Sometimes on a delicate piece, a scrap of lead will cushion the glass from the nail. The glass and lead are assembled gradually, beginning from one corner of the work, and building-up away from it. The ends of the came are tucked under the ears of the other lead it meets.
The lead came is soldered at the joints between strips with lead/tin solder. This is in contrast to the copper foil method described below, where the whole length of the copper strip is soldered.
The steps of the copper foil process are depicted in the images below.
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