Hope the Caring Place Butterfly

Hope, the Caring Place Butterfly

     In July 2013, the Volunteer Recognition Dinner was held for the volunteers for the Highmark Caring Place, a grieving center for children, adolescents and their families in central Pennnsylvania.  I have been a volunteer there for over 7 years and can’t express how great this place is for grieving children and their families.  I am very proud to be a volunteer there, assisting in any way I can to further their mission.
     I was commissioned by the staff to create ‘Hope’, the Caring Place Butterfly, in stained glass to be presented to each Caring Place volunteer in recognition of the hope that they provide for grieving families through the work that is done there.  (HOPE, the Butterfly was created by the Highmark Caring Place as a symbol of hope to grieving children across the world.)  It was quite a task being commissioned to make 200 of these butterfly suncatchers …(1800 pieces of glass, all hand cut), but I was honored to be asked to make them. My stained glass business is only part time, since my retirement from Highmark Blue Shield in 2009, so whenever I would get weary when making these, I reminded myself of who these were for and what they represent and it made the load a little lighter!
     For those who are interested, I have listed below the various stages with pictures in the life of ‘Hope’ and how she was created.  I have not listed all the nitty gitty, but it gives you a look at the basic process involved in creating stained glass pieces. Enjoy!  Also, if you are interested in doing stained glass, there is a local shop Rainbow Vision Stained Glass  that has classes and supplies at reasonable prices.  That is where I got my start.
     A pattern was created and I used cardboard templates to trace it onto the glass after I had rough cut the sheets of glass into manageable pieces.  Sheets of glass varying is size. ( from 8″ x 12″ to 24″ x 48″).  I chose 16″ x 24″ for my purchases, since it was easier to transport but allowed for some quantity discount.  The larger the piece, the cheaper per square inch.  These sheets were then cut down to much smaller pieces.  Unless the glass is one solid color, it has a grain to it or streaks.  You will need to determine how best to cut your pieces to maintain a uniform consistent look and minimizing waste.  The light blue glass has a streak pattern to it, while the dark blue glass is one color throughout, so cutting direction on the dark blue glass did not matter.
Patterned traced and rough cut glass pieces - Hope Caring Place Butterfly Suncatcher approx. 5" x 4.5"
Patterned traced and rough cut glass pieces – Hope Caring Place Butterfly Suncatcher approx. 5″ x 4.5″

The glass pieces are then scored and  ‘cut’ using a hand held glass cutter and grozing pliers.  I say ‘cut’ because glass is not cut in the true sense using this method, but rather scored and’ broken’ into the desired shape by hand.  Sometimes, glass has a mind of it’s own and does not follow the path we have chosen for it.  I usually wear gloves doing this process, since the edges are very sharp and it is almost impossible to do any amount of cutting without cutting oneself (ouch!).  Also, you can’t always be sure it will break where you want it.

A glass saw can be used, but is more time consuming  and not really that easy to control, in my opinion.  I only used my glass saw when making very intricate cuts, especially for inside angles, which are next to impossible to do by the scoring method.  Additionally , the glass saw is very messy, involving water and a diamond encrusted band saw machine.  Prep and clean up time, usually makes it prohibitive for quick cuts.  FYI, the blades are approximately $100 for the glass saw!

Final Glass Cut - Hope Caring Place Butterfly Suncatcher approx. 5" x 4.5"
Final Glass Cut – Hope Caring Place Butterfly Suncatcher approx. 5″ x 4.5″

The next stage is grinding the edges vertical and smooth with a wet grinder.  This is also messy, but necessary to smooth the sharp edges and to shape the pieces precisely.  All pieces are then washed clean with soap and water, ready for the next steps.

Ground edges smooth - Hope Caring Place Butterfly Suncatcher approx. 5" x 4.5"
Ground edges smooth – Hope Caring Place Butterfly Suncatcher approx. 5″ x 4.5″

Once the edges are ground, I used the Tiffany method to foil the glass.  The Tiffany method involves wrapping a copper foil around all the edges of the glass, folding the edges over each surface of the glass forming a channel and smoothing the foil to remove wrinkles and provide a more even surface for the solder.  The foil has a sticky back allowing it to adhere to the glass for soldering in the next stages.

Foiled - Hope Caring Place Butterfly Suncatcher approx. 5" x 4.5"
Edges foiled with copper foil – Hope Caring Place Butterfly Suncatcher approx. 5″ x 4.5″

Soldering involves using a soldering iron, flux and solder. (duh!)   Typically, the soldering iron should have a temperature control to set for various melting points.  The flux is applied to all the copper wrap foil edges.  The solder is then applied using the soldering iron to heat foiled edges, allowing the solder to flow and adhere to the foil.  This is called ‘tinning’.  Again in this step I typically wear gloves.  This allows me to handle glass pieces that get very hot and minimize the chances of me burning myself.  Although, I am not always successful!

Depending on the project the pieces are then soldered together according to the pattern selected to form the final product. Once everything is soldered together, a final bead of solder is added to all seams to provide a more defined look.  Typically with projects with angles or straight edges, some sort of jig or form is used to align things properly.  I fabricated an angle plane in foam rubber to consistently form the wings at the same angle and allow me to join the pieces successfully.  During this process. use is made of aluminum push pins to secure items while soldering.  The end result is shown below.

Butterfly Pieces Soldered - Stage 5A - Hope Caring Place Butterfly Suncatcher approx. 5" x 4.5"
Butterfly Pieces Soldered – Stage 5A – Hope Caring Place Butterfly Suncatcher approx. 5″ x 4.5″

I then added a reinforcement wire to the back side of the butterfly to strengthen the wing span and support the angle desired.  A circle hook was added to the wing to provide an anchor point for hanging for display.

Soldering wire reinforcement on back - Stage 5B - Hope Caring Place Butterfly Suncatcher approx. 5" x 4.5"
Soldering wire reinforcement on back – Stage 5B – Hope Caring Place Butterfly Suncatcher approx. 5″ x 4.5″

Each side was tack soldered and then solder with a bead of solder along the seam.

Soldering Stage 5C - Hope Caring Place Butterfly Suncatcher approx. 5" x 4.5"
Soldering Stage 5C – Hope Caring Place Butterfly Suncatcher approx. 5″ x 4.5″

Hand made wire antenna was then formed and soldered in place.

Adding antenna - Soldering Stage 5D - Hope Caring Place Butterfly Suncatcher approx. 5" x 4.5"
Adding antenna – Soldering Stage 5D – Hope Caring Place Butterfly Suncatcher approx. 5″ x 4.5″

Some projects call for patina to be added that stains the solder seams in various colors, such as black, brass or copper.  For this project and many others, I prefer leaving the silver solder seams in their original state.  I just think it looks better.

The final product was then hand washed, cleaned again with stain glass cleaner to ensure no flux residue remains.  Then a thin coat of glass wax is added and hand buffed to a high gloss!

Hope, the Caring Place Butterfly

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