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How to Make Leaded Glass Doors

comments (21) February 8th, 2010 in blogs

Ed_Pirnik Ed Pirnik, Senior Web Producer
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Fine Woodworking art director Michael Pekovich decided to dress up the doors of his recent Arts & Crafts cabinet using leaded glass panels. Theyre a lot easier to produce than you might think! - CLICK TO ENLARGE

Fine Woodworking art director Michael Pekovich decided to dress up the doors of his recent Arts & Crafts cabinet using leaded glass panels. They're a lot easier to produce than you might think!

Photo: Steve Scott

Despite the fact that one of the hallmarks of Arts & Crafts cabinetry is the use of leaded glass door panels, most woodworkers will never make the attempt to produce their own panels. If you're like me, you probably think of the art of leaded glass as one that's been lost to the ages--a crafting tradition from a bygone era that's too difficult to learn the basics of in a weekend.

I am wrong.

I recently had the pleasure of watching our art director, Michael Pekovich, produce a set of leaded glass panels for his Arts & Crafts cabinet piece featured on the cover of issue 211. (He also wrote a Master Class on the same topic.) I came away with the realization that it really wasn't that hard to do. Watch this audio slideshow and see if you don't agree.


posted in: blogs, cabinet, arts and crafts, white oak, bookcase, leaded glass

Comments (21)

tim_interior tim_interior writes: Some lattice fences around the little curved-cut pieces would help hold them steady as you score with the glass cutter.
Posted: 11:25 am on July 4th

tim_interior tim_interior writes: Love the leaded glass effect.
Posted: 11:07 am on July 4th

stleo stleo writes: 20 years ago when i did some lamp shades i found a small belt sander with a water tray on the bottom base which kept the wet sanding belts moist.It sure made it very easy to fine tune all the many small cuts. I am not sure a small bench top sander is still available.

posted 10;30 pm june 4th
Posted: 10:28 pm on June 4th

Ron_C Ron_C writes: The leaded glass in the doors is a great and fitting addition to this project, Mike, but I would just like to comment on the cabinet as a whole. It's absolutely beautiful and oozes quality craftsmanship! The proportions, the grain patterns and ray fleck, the through tenons, the well-fit doors and drawers, the finish, the hardware, and yes, last but not least, the leaded glass in the doors: it all comes together in a masterful way. I see an exquisite heirloom piece that I'm guessing you must be very proud of, and that will be enjoyed for many generations to come. I hope to develop my skills enough to someday pull off something this nice. Beautiful, Mike, just beautiful!
Posted: 3:01 pm on March 29th

garyprott garyprott writes: Instead of using a metal square for the straight edge use a wooden one. We are woodworkers right? Make one out of a good hard wood about 1/8th to 3/16ths thick. Also any glass cutter will do just fine. Find a small can, put in some small torn up rags, then a light oil. Dab the cutter in the can before each cut. I worked as a glazier for about 12 years. This works pretty good
Posted: 9:45 pm on December 15th

Grumpy_Geologist Grumpy_Geologist writes: Try to set up your work so that when you score the glass, you do it in one continuous operation. Stopping part way and then trying to restart in the same score (almost impossible) can leave a ragged edge in places. At least that's the way I was taught. A continuous score snaps easily - a restarted or repeated score can run away on you.

I do all my scoring/breaking on/over a .5 inch plastic grid (as used in some fluorescent lights). Mine sits on a light box and catches all the glass slivers that are generated during a day's cutting.

Stained glass is a good hobby - teaches patience
Posted: 3:05 pm on November 14th

TheAlchemist TheAlchemist writes: Mike, I've been looking all over the Web for a diamond-wheel glass cutter, including Delphi Glass, but with no luck. Can you tell me where you got yours?

I'd be most grateful.

Posted: 11:34 am on August 22nd

poppajack poppajack writes: I live in Florida, any sources for glass in the south?
Posted: 3:08 pm on March 12th

blackhawk_msn blackhawk_msn writes: It's been a while since I did any leaded glass work. It is a fun hobby. The biggest reason you don't want to use a saw to cut the glass is that each chip you get will have a tendency to find its way under the glass as you are cutting thus scratching the glass.

For the thinner glass you can simply use the oil cooled glass cutter along with some glazier pliers and very easily break the glass on the scored cut line. Just remember that inside curves are a disaster waiting to happen.

As for soldering irons... A Weller 100 watt definitely works but I would likely recommend a Hakko 456. They aren't as many watts but have a much better heater system and will last forever. If you plan to do this a lot, I would also add a temperature controller into the iron system (IE: lamp dimmer switch inline of the power cord). This will greatly increase the longevity of the soldering iron tip. Also, rather than using a wet sponge look at the "Brillo pad" type tip cleaners. They don't change the temperature of the tip but still do a wonderful job cleaning the tips.

I used standard 60/40 rosin core solder on all my windows. It worked fine. Make sure to use a good paste flux and make sure to fit the lead came very carefully. The wider the gap the weaker the joint.
Posted: 7:36 pm on March 11th

ukmeager ukmeager writes: I recently had a large morror cut with a 3 way curve in it the guy did it with a glass cutter and a pair of pliers it fitted into my frame perfectly
Posted: 10:48 am on February 20th

ClayDowling ClayDowling writes: Let me second the recommendation for They're a local business and incredibly helpful. They offer classes on making windows if you're in the Lansing, Michigan area.
Posted: 7:07 am on February 14th

frasier frasier writes: Hi -

Started doing stained glass a few years ago just to be able to Arts & Crafts style furniture that contains leaded glass panels.

There are various types of glass. Not all of them break or grind the same way. Specifically, some glass chips quite easily, even with grinding machines designed specifically for glass shaping. That said, I think a wet saw would likely damage the glass giving.

As for sources, you may want to check for a local merchant. They may be a bit more expensive than internet suppliers, but you won't have to worry about shipping costs. The local merchants are a wealth of information, have a great selection of glass (it's suprising how many options are available and the price ranges).

A few other things I'd like to point out. I suggest using a 100W soldering iron (minimum) with a thermostat in the tip. I use a Weller iron (they cost between $50-$80). When using lead came, I suggest using a 50/50 (tin/lead) solder.

Cutting the came also has a few tricks that weren't discussed. First, the cutting tool cuts from one side....the good side leaves a clean cut. The other side tends to mosh the came. The came is essentially an "I" beam. When cutting, always cut parallel to the heart or the vertical part of the "I" beam.

Lastly, came is made of lead. Be sure to wash your hands after handling and especially before eating. Definitely, don't put your hands in your mouth after handling the lead.

Good luck.

Posted: 11:59 pm on February 12th

MPekovich MPekovich writes:
DallasRay- I'm curious about the glass band saw. I've done some intricate Tiffany-style copper foil work in the past and I ended up spending a lot of time at the diamond grinder cleaning up tight curves. Can the band saw handle tight curves without a lot of clean up? How quickly do they cut?

Thanks, Mike
Posted: 3:26 pm on February 12th

DallasRay DallasRay writes: I've got a glass bandsaw and it works very well for straignt and curved cuts. I think I payed about $200 for it.
Posted: 2:46 pm on February 12th

kirkwood kirkwood writes: i use 1/4 woodendowels on each bottom side of glass under the scribe mark and just give a small push down its works great for me
Posted: 12:35 pm on February 12th

CiscoEd CiscoEd writes: I've used a wet saw to cut heavier glass for tables and other items, but a special breaker works for heavy glass as well. I've also used a wet saw for another form of stained glass window called Dalle de Verre. These are slabs of colored glass that are 1" thick and set between lines putty instead of lead.
Posted: 10:04 am on February 12th

saschafer saschafer writes:

A wet saw designed for tile and such wouldn't be a good choice for glass, because of the different consistencies of the materials. You're likely to get a lot of chipping along the cut edge.

They do make saws for glass: They're called "ring saws," and you can find them at the web site that Mike mentions.


Posted: 8:56 am on February 12th

MPekovich MPekovich writes: I was able to find all the supplies I needed at

EW- I've never tried a tile saw on glass, but for straight cuts, I guarantee a glass cutter is the fastest way to go. By the way, they actually sell mini band saws for cutting glass. I haven't tried one, but my guess is that they would be good for cutting intricate curves which can be a challenge with a glass cutter.

Ed has a good point that tapping the underside of the score line can help guide the break, especially on curved cuts.

Posted: 8:36 am on February 12th

m1muddy m1muddy writes: Who is a good source for leaded glass making supplies?
Posted: 12:25 am on February 12th

Eric Eric writes: I'm curious if anyone knows if you can just use a wet saw to cut the glass like you would for tile. Seems a whole lot easier.

Do tell.


Posted: 10:05 pm on February 11th

CiscoEd CiscoEd writes: Pretty good guide. For cutting long runs, though, try tapping the bottom of the cut to run the score before breaking the glass. Keeps the cut from going astray.

Posted: 6:43 pm on February 9th

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