Step by Step Process
On this page I have posted photos of the different stages required to produce an item. This will give you an idea of the work that is involved when designing and producing a quality keepsake.
This particular project was commissioned by my customer as a gift to his partner for her Birthday.
Unfortunately their little cat was put to sleep a couple of months earlier so it was important that I got this right.
This photo is of Suki, my customer’s wee cat.
When I’m asked to make a piece of a family pet, I always ask for a photo or photos. This gives me an accurate image to work from, after all being asked for a particular breed but not provide an image may result in a picture of the correct breed whilst having no resemblance to the pet. Animals are individual, they have different characteristics just like us.
After printing a copy of the photograph I then transfer it onto several pieces of tracing paper where I can define obvious areas of the cat i.e. nose, cheeks, eyes, etc whilst taking note of different colours, and the way the animal’s hair/fur lies. Doing this is an important part of the process, enabling me to develop a true likeness.
This particular image was not the easiest to transfer and define properly due to her colour. She was pure black with very little distinguishing colour variations. I used a backlight behind the photograph so I was able to draw freehand areas onto the tracing paper that would eventually be pieces of glass.
This stage can take several attempts until I’m satisfied with the drawing.
These two photos show the template cut into the required shapes and stuck on to the glass ready to cut with my glass cutter. I would use a marker pen to transfer the template onto the glass depending on the colour of glass. This glass is black so I stick the paper template onto the glass so I can see the shape to cut. I could use a white glass marker pen but I find this method easier.
The next photo shows the glass pieces cut, edges ground to remove any sharp pieces of glass and also to roughen the edge so that thin sticky backed copper foil will stick better to the glass. The copper foil is burnished on to the entire edge of the glass, placed together on top of another glass template and then soldered together.
The next stage of this project is to solder the pieces together, I flux the foil before I tack solder, this allows the solder to adhere to the foil and join the pieces together. Tack soldering provides a good base for the finishing layer of solder. Soldering is a skill and it has taken me a long time to perfect this process. You have to be careful that you don’t get the glass too hot when soldering as it will crack, if I’m not happy with a particular line of soldering I will leave it and work on a different area. This gives the 1st area time to cool before I tackle it again.
I use a grade of solder that has a low melting point so that it flows nicely, however it is made of 60% tin & 40% lead and because of the lead content I provide a leaflet warning of this and for the recipient to wash their hands if handling the item. Once I’m happy with my soldering I then wash the item to remove any dirt and chemicals from the flux. The solder is a lovely shiny silver but this would look odd on this piece therefore I used a black patina to colour the solder black. This may need several coats of patina to get the colour right.
I needed to think how to display this project, the glass colour is dense, no light would show through therefore making it into a hanging window display would not be appropriate. I decided to make it freestanding and cut a glass base for Suki to sit on, I cut pieces of green glass strips to make into grass so that it looked as if Suki was sitting in the grass. I also fixed glass supports on the other side. All of this extra glass also helped to strengthen this piece.
The final stage is to clean the assembled piece, this can be a lengthy process as I like to use several different cleaners before I’m finally satisfied with the result.
I use a good quality car cleaner (I use different cleaners if I’m leaving the solder silver), to polish and remove any tarnish that maybe present. Using a toothbrush I am able to remove polish residue from difficult areas to reach, once I’m happy that the polish has been removed I then coat the solder with a finishing wax which will help to protect the solder. The last stage is to sign the piece, stick some felt pads on the base and give another polish with glass cleaner.
My Customer’s comment;
“Thanks for your help in making …………..’s birthday gift , we will both treasure it, as you know she meant the world to us ,sadly missed.”