Construction / Molds
Scoring / Breaking Glass
Fitting The Glass
Solder / Soldering
Releasing a Shade
Ring and Rim
Tools, Aids etc.
Health & Safety Concerns
Selling Your Artwork
INSTALLING & LEVELING THE RING & RIM
Paul Crist: Install and level the ring first. Remove any solder drips
from the edge of the rim so the shade will sit flat on a table. Position
the ring in the shade at the correct height and tack it in three places
at joints approximately 120 degrees apart. For 2”, 3” and
4” rings, the upper edge of the ring should protrude slightly above
the outer surface of the lamp, so that the majority of the ring depth
remains on the inside of the shade. For 5” and 6” rings, the
glass should rest against the lower surface of the bead around the ring,
with the long flange of the ring facing downward. Before completely soldering
the ring into the shade, it should be checked for level. You will need
a straight edge longer than the diameter of the shade and a ruler taller
than the shade. Place the center of the straight edge across the top of
the ring and measure its height above the table on both sides of the shade.
Rotate the straight edge 90 degrees and repeat your measurements. If the
difference in measurements is greater than 1/16”, loosen the appropriate
solder joint, raise or lower the ring, and reattach. Repeat your measurements
and readjust until the difference is less than 1/16” in all directions.
When you are satisfied that the ring is level, solder it into the shade
all the way around, both outside and inside. Now the same must be done
for the lower edge. Turn the shade over and place one end of the rim midway
between two adjacent joints and solder it to the edge of the shade at
the first joint. (Wooden clothespins are helpful to keep the loose rim
in position.) Move down another 3” to 4” and attach it at
another joint. Continue to attach at these intervals all the way around
the shade until you can tell where the end of the rim should be trimmed
off to meet flush with the other end. Use a hacksaw to cut off the excess.
Attach the rim to itself. Place the shade right side up on a level surface
and note where the rim raises up off the table. In the high areas, melt
the solder attachment with your iron, push the rim down with a screw driver
until it touches the table, and reattach the joint. Repeat this process
until the entire rim is flush against the table. This will insure that
your rim will be level. Now you can completely solder it onto the shade,
both inside and out.
Chaz Smith: With the Odyssey System, the ring and rim can be installed
while the shade is still on the mold. There is an indentation in the mold
for the ring and on some shades the rim will fit on the mold just like
another row of glass. Before tinning or attaching the ring and rim, clean
them to a shine with Scotchbrite®. They must be perfectly clean in
order for the solder to flow properly. My preference is not to tin the
ring and rim before installation. These parts must be brought to the same
temperature when they are being soldered onto the lamp, so I figure tinning
them is just an extra step. Remember that heat is the key to stability.
The brass must be hot enough for the solder to flow and end up looking
shiny - not grainy. If the parts are not hot enough, you won’t get
a strong joint. I usually tack the ring in place at 3 spots while the
lamp is still on the mold. After removing the lamp from the mold, I check
to make sure that is is level. Then I turn the lamp upside down and add
a few reinforcing wires. I run them an inch or so around the ring, then
turn right angles and follow a lead line out and down the shade. (This
step may not be necessary, but it makes me feel better!) I solder the
ring from the inside, then flip it over and bead the outside.To trim the
rim to the proper length, I use a dremel with a cut-off wheel. I balance
it on the edge of the shade with large paper clips or clothespins and
tack solder it every couple of inches. Then I go back and tin and bead
it. Rather than using a file, I try to use the heat to smooth everything
Mary Ritter: A problem I had while soldering the rim to a shade was trying
to keep the rim from warping. (As careful as I was in cutting the glass,
the fit of the bottom row would end up uneven.) With the lamp in an upside
down position, I would solder the rim to that row of glass, but I tended
to push down on the rim so that it would meet the glass surface. This
resulted in an undulating appearance of the rim once the shade was on
the base. With the shade in an upside-down position, my solution was to
tack-solder the rim to the shade in just the spots where the glass touched
the rim. Then I turned the shade right-side up on a totally flat surface
and sweat-soldered onto the rim. No more warped look!
Kevin Hendon: I have always had trouble during the installation and soldering
process to keep the rim level and worried about warping and all the other
intricacies that might affect the rim. Now, I can offer you a tried and
true installation that has worked on the last two lamps I’ve built.
First of all, I hold the rim to the upside-down shade, but without attaching
or soldering it to the shade itself. Once I’ve made sure it is the
accurate size, I cut off the excess rim and solder the ends of the rim
together to keep it in round. I then flip the shade over to its right
side up and place the shade on the rim which lays flat on the table. (I
find this method counters the usual instructions to “push”
down the rim, if it is high at any point, in order to keep it flat on
the table.) Soldering is easier now, since the solder tends to run down
the shade to the rim, providing a nicely tacked joint.
Jerre Davidson: To level a ring, I was taught to use two metal squares,
clamped together, to make an upside down ‘U’ shape. The joined
squares are then placed on top of the ring with the legs hanging down
on either side of the lamp. You then measure down each leg of the square
to the bottom rim of the lamp to make sure the ring is level on either
side. When it is even, tack solder the ring in place on those sides. Then,
move the square around the lamp to check on other sections of the ring
- adjusting as you go and tack soldering the ring at those sections. You
can always loosen the tack solder if the ring appears to be uneven from
Joan Bengtson: Before attempting to level your ring, make sure that the
table you set the shade on is level. Trust me, I made that mistake before
realizing that my workshop, which is in the basement, has a concrete floor
that slants toward a drain in the furnace room. To correct the problem,
I used a piece of plywood that was larger in diameter than the shade and
placed it onto the table. Using a carpenter’s level, I shimmed it
to make it sit level. Then I placed the shade on it and was able to properly
level the ring.
Kevin Hendon: On my first lamp, I used a 100 watt iron and struggled to
get the solder to adhere to the ring and rim without leaving the appearance
of clumps. On my next lamp, I tried using a 200 watt iron on the brass
parts and discovered the solder ran as smooth as silk! I didn’t
need to pre-tin the ring or rim since the brass heats up quickly with
the higher wattage iron. I use the Dremmel tool to smooth down the rim.
The tool’s attachments are useful for sanding and polishing.
Joy and Audie Ammons: We have found the easiest way to tin brass rims
and the outside edge of rings is to use an 800 degree tip on a Weller
100 soldering iron. When you purchase a Weller iron, it comes with a 700
degree tip, but 800 degree tips are also available. To tin cast hardware,
we use the liquid solder/torch method.
Mike Barnes: Go over the brass parts to be tinned with steel wool. On
a piece of 2’x2’ plywood, nail in a horeshoe nail to hold
the brass ring or rim. Place the hardware to be tinned on the nail. Flux
it and apply heat with the torch. Remove the torch and apply liquid solder
to the harware using a flux brush. It also works to apply liquid solder
to cold brass first, then heat it and spread out the liquid solder with
the brush. I use Action 51
Tin, a tinning paint made by Canfield. Take care, since there is always
the possibility of the brush catching fire. By using the torch and liquid
solder to prepare the ring and rim, it was easy to use the flat part of
my soldering iron to fill the gap between glass and rim with a nice bead.
Joan Bengtson: When applying liquid solder, keep a clean dry rag at hand
and while each section is still molten, wipe it quickly with the rag.
Plumbers do this to prevent lumps and bumps. Like plumbers, I use Oatey
brand #95 lead-free tinning paste.
Joan Bengston: As for irons, I use a 100W iron with a 3/8" tip on
a rheostat for general use. I have a variety of tip shapes but for beading
on foil I prefer either a pyramid tip or a chisel tip rolled over on its
side edge. I can melt the solder on the vertical flat surface of the chisel
and it flows nicely into the bead. It's frustrating having to stop periodically
to wait for the iron to heat up again, so for heavy duty work like tinning
the cast brass lamp rings and rims, etc. and also for soldering foiled
flat panel windows I use a 250W with a 1/2" chisel tip. It's kind
of heavy but it holds the heat steadier than a smaller iron. I can work
a lot faster with it. I keep it on the rheostat
but I usually find myself setting it as hot as it will go.
John Schaefer: When it’s time to solder the rim onto your shade,
use wooden clothespins to hold your rim in place on the inverted lamp
Pierre Leblond: I’ve been using masking tape for years as I’ve
struggled to attach rims to shades. A few weeks ago, I used 24 small binder
clips to hold the rim against the 48 pieces of border on the 20”
Jonquil-Daffodil. I was able to mark precisely where to cut the rim. After
cutting, I placed the rim back on with the clips and soldered between
each one. Since the clips are just slightly wider than the rim, the rim
ends up perfectly centered on the edge. It was very easy!
Jan Randa: Brass rims can be cut with precision with a Dremel variable
speed tool with a cut-off wheel. I cut the rim before soldering it to
the bottom of the shade using the cut off wheel. I sand one end of the
rim flat and secure it to the bottom edge of the shade with clothespins.
After I get all the way around the shade, I line up the rim to fit and
cut away the excess rim with the cut off wheel. Then I solder it in place.
Built-up solder on a rim and ring can be removed by using the sanding
wheel attachment made for this tool.
A Dremel tool, wet sandpaper, sanding block, electric triangular detail
sander and/or a flat mill curve tooth file - w/o tang.
Marialyn Prange: I attached the ball chain to the ceiling of my studio.
(You’ll want to suspend it via some wire and a hook so that it hangs
straight down in front of you.) Also, it is helpful to anchor down the
bottom of the chain so that it doesn’t swing around while you are
working on it. You might want to de-oxide it first using emery cloth.
Flux the whole length of chain. Heat up either a heavy duty (150 watt)
soldering iron or a propane torch - as I did. (You’ll have to play
around with the torch flame to get the solder to flow nicely - not too
much blue flame and not too much yellow or you’ll end up with a
blackened ball chain!) I use a bit of old sheepskin to smooth out the
solder as I am tinning. Starting at the top, begin tinning the beads.
Gravity will keep all the beads properly separated and a little solder
goes a long way. You want to carefully move that drop of solder down each
bead. After heating up a short length, take your well-fluxed brush or
wet wool-side sheepskin and brush/grasp the hot length of tinned beading
and smooth the solder out - going from the top downwards. For the first
half of the length of chain, I really made sure to cover everything, since
I was not sure how exact the tinning process had to be. As I worked downwards,
the second half was less than perfect - I didn’t bother to cover
all the dashes between the balls. It turned out that this didn’t
make the final soldering any more difficult.So, now that the whole length
is tinned and smoothed with no extra solder between the balls, take the
length down from its vertical position. What you have is a fairly straight,
maybe even rigid piece of ball chain. The next phase is to get it to conform
to the shape of the rim, so I took my mold and began to heat one end of
the chain with the soldering iron - laying it against the mold. It easily
started to conform to the circular edge. I turned the mold upside down
on my lamp positioner in a horizontal position and used clothes pins to
attach the chain as it conformed to the outside edge of the mold. What
you should have after pinning the whole chain and letting it cool is going
to be evenly-spaced, nicely tinned ball chain in the exact shape of the
rim. Do not cut off the extra chain until after soldering the whole thing
to the rim itself. Put your cleaned lamp back on the lamp positioner -
in a horizontal position with the rim up and at eye level. I fluxed and
made sure the rim had just a light tinning of solder before beginning.
Start attaching the ball chain using a 100 watt iron. It will take very
little solder to secure each ball. Use clothes pins to help attach and
keep the chain in place as you go along. Finally, after you’ve gone
around the whole rim, you can determine exactly where to cut the chain.
Hopefully, the ending ball and beginning ball will have just the right
amount of space between them. If not, cut and fit a little piece of tinned
copper wire between the two balls.
Peter Grotepass: In our studio, we use two steps to attach the chain,
but before soldering ball chain to the lamp’s lower border edge,
clean it up thoroughly.
Step One: Solder the ballchain in a horizontal position on the table by
attaching every single ball to the rim with flux/solder. Assistance from
another person will probably be necessary. While doing this, some spaces
between the balls will inevitably be filled with solder, but at this point,
don’t be concerned. The important thing is that the balls are affixed
in the correct position. Keep the chain spread so balls are soldered at
the maximum distance possible from each other.
-O.OO-O.OOO is wrong, but O-O-O-O-O-O- is correct.
Step Two: This step is done in an upright position after the balls have
been soldered to the lamp’s rim. With your iron, slowly heat the
chain - ball by ball. By doing this, superfluous solder will drop down
onto the table or inside the shade. Unintended gaps between balls will
open up again. We discovered that a small wooden stick helps keep the
balls in the right position while they are heated by the iron. Place the
stick behind the ball chain inside the shade while you solder on the outside.
Proceed ball by ball, but do not use any additional solder. Make sure
that the area in which you are running the existing solder is no larger
than the space of three or four balls. Otherwise, you’ll be unable
to control the wooden stick and the balls might fall into the shade. To
join the beginning and end of the chain, use the wooden stick to attach
the last ball and the first ball together at the same time.
Chaz Smith: Remove as much solder as possible around the broken piece
so that you can pry up all the foil surrounding the broken piece of glass,
but not the foil around the adjacent pieces. With your cutter, make scores
upon the broken piece in many directions. You might even score and break
more once the first cracks are made - anything you do to break it up will
make it easier to remove. Lay a big soldering iron on the broken piece
and let the heat run the scores. Carefully remove the broken pieces and
use your soldering iron to melt away the solder. Use tweezers to pull
away the old foil, being careful not to disturb the foil on the adjacent
pieces. Cut a replacement piece, grind to fit, foil and solder it in place.
Mike Barnes: Walt Boepple used a piece of aluminum can and his iron to
free a broken piece of glass. Since I needed something with more body
to it to “unsolder” pieces in my latest project, I discovered
that my Exacto knife was the perfect answer. I placed the soldering iron
(point down on the soldered foil) and followed it with the knife...moving
both along the soldered area. Task accomplished!
Bill Callow: Carefully use an airhose to blow out excess solder when removing
a broken piece from your finished lamp.
SB Anthony: Walt Boepple taught this to me. Cut the can into strips about
1/2”x2” - large enough to hold onto, but small enough to insinuate
into the seam. So that there is a minimum of solder to work with, melt
away and let drip through as much solder as possible. Flux the area, then
heat the solder until it’s liquid. Slip the edge or corner of a
strip of the can into the molten solder. Move your iron along the seam
and wiggle the strip farther into the melted solder until it is completely
between the two pieces of glass. You might have to use more than one strip.
The aluminum keeps the solder from re-attaching as you move along. This
method is not always easy, but in the end it does less damage to the work.
Walt Makos wrote: Use a solder wick (braided copper strip) or a solder
sucker. Get the solder area hot to the point of melting and then use this
tube to suck up the solder. Both can be purchased at an electronic store.
Paul Crist: After soldering is completed, the shade must be cleaned to
remove all traces of wax and flux. Warm (not hot!) kerosene does an efficient
job. Use a small scrub brush to apply it, going over the shade several
times. Next apply a chlorinated cleanser (Comet, Ajaz, etc.) with water
and scrub thoroughly. The cleanser contains pumice, which imparts a “tooth”
to the metal, making it more receptive to the patina.
Dave Hammond: After I’ve completed soldering my lamp, I use a combination
of methods to clean it up. First, I dust and spread whiting on the shade,
just as if it were a lead panel. Next, I use an acid remover, like CJ’s
and just for good measure, I rub a paste of baking soda and water over
the project and let it dry. Finally, the shade is washed, rinsed and dried
off. Now, the shade is ready to take the patina.
Ernie Downey: Since I’ve used baking soda to clean up my lamps,
I haven’t had a problem with that dreaded white residue. After I
wash a lamp with soapy water, I sprinkle sections of the wet lamp with
baking soda and use a small scrub brush to really work in and around,
up and down and back and forth over the solder lines. After repeating
this 2 or 3 times on each section, I use a sponge and water and rinse
the lamp clean.
Joan Bengtson: Here is a unique cleaning tip that I copied from a program
on HGTV that showed an artist cleaning her glass in order to prepare it
for accepting gold leaf. This concoction will work for us, too - especially
after we’ve soldered a lamp. It is simply a mix of ordinary rubbing
alcohol and whiting. This mixture had a very liquid appearance. It was
applied with a soft cloth or sponge. No rinsing was necessary and a soft
dry cloth was used to dry and polish.
Joe Porcelli: Oxidation is the villain of patina. Oxidized pieces yield
unpredictable results - everyone is familiar with white, chalky, powdery
oxidation that appears on solder lines. It is best to patina right after
soldering, but if you can’t apply the patina, the clean and dry
lamp should be placed in a plastic bag to protect it. If the solder is
only lightly oxidized, clean it off with 0000 steel wool; otherwise a
chemical cleaner such as Jax Metal Cleaner® will have to be used.
Donna Brewer: In order to clean my lamps outside when the weather is nice,
my husband checked at Home Depot for a large, shallow, inexpensive plastic
tub for me to use. He found a cement mixing tub, made of plastic that
cost about $10! I am able to easily scrub a lamp clean and, since the
tub is plastic, I don’t worry about damaging the lamp.
John Herman: A flexible tinned copper wire braid 2 1/2mm in diameter is
perfect for finishing off lamps with irregular borders. This flexible
braid is available through the Worden Company. Braid should be installed
on the lamp while it is still on the mold.
Lynne Salcetti: When I’m applying flexible braid to a shade I wish
I had an extra hand! I use a variety of tools to nudge the braid in place
- long tweezers, a hemostat and a dental probe to push the braid into
deep inside curves. I also use my (thickly-gloved) other hand to squeeze
the braid in a little arch as I drip solder along it to anchor it in place.
Then I go back and make a nicely rounded bead.
Paul Crist: After your shade has been cleaned, the rim and ring are filed
to remove any excess solder. A single-cut file is preferable, because
it will not load up with solder as easily as a double-cut file. The lower
third of the rim should be filed down to the brass and the edge blended
into the bead. The top of the ring should also be filed down to the brass
and the inside and lower surface of the ring completely cleaned of any
solder. All filed surfaces are then sanded with 120 grit emery paper to
remove any file marks and smooth the surface. This can be followed by
200 grit if you want it to be very smooth.
John Baker: After a lamp project is “completed”, I like to
put it on a base, light it up and view it for the first time...up close
and personal. Since no one is perfect (on the first try anyway), I get
my stuff ready to DETAIL my lamp.
1. Use multiple toothpicks to clean out any missed wax. They don’t
scratch the lead and are cheap! Usually wax and flux show up in tight
cracks of leading. Also use toothpicks to dig out any buried BB’s
of solder hidden in the many crevases.
2. Use an exacto knife with a new blade to trim off any “overlaps”
of copper foil. With a carefully placed cut, you can even up most of them.
You can also use the knife to trim off the worst “split edges”
of foil where it was forced to curve more than it wanted. When done properly,
it looks like you foiled it right the first time.
3. Look for any leaded seams that didn’t take a good patina. (My
favorite stuff is copper sulfate solution which has aged for several days
with lots of contaminates.) I use a fine wire brass bristle brush which
is soaked in a hot batch of the patina. By carefully brushing the troublesome
areas, the brush scrapes off the offending crud and
allows the patina to “take” - all in one step.
4. After a thorough washing and drying, I re-examine for other flaws while
it’s on the lighted lamp base. If satisfied, sit back and enjoy
the view; otherwise, back to step one.
5. Use brown shoe polish on the patina after it has aged for about a week.