Including Etched Glass, Plastic, Mosaic and Ceramic Sundials
By John L. Carmichael (author) and Dave Bell (webmaster)
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Website last updated 11 April, 2009
Design & Construction/
Window Design and Assembly Steps
The skills required to design a stained glass sundial are the same as those needed to design a traditional sundial, and stained glass assembly is not as difficult as people think it is. Most beginners rapidly learn the basic skills needed to assemble stained glass so don't feel intimidated and give it a try. Most large cities have stained glass shops that offer classes in stained glass assembly. You can obtain your materials and tools from your local stained glass shop or online. Here, we've listed in order the steps necessary to design and assemble them.
Note: If you are a beginner, to avoid errors, you should probably prepare and assemble each glass piece one by one, sizing each piece individually as you attach the came or foil. Experienced glass artisans usually find it easier to precut all glass pieces before assembly.
- Determine the sundial's future location. Find out the following.
- Position on building wall or ceiling
- Directional orientation of the sundial face (also called the declination and inclination)
- Design the sundial face pattern using these design parameters.
- Location of sundial
- Desired sundial functions (time, date, anniversary, solar declination, solar noon, etc.)
- Size and shape of sundial
- Type of time notation (Daylight Savings or Standard Time)
- Shading from nearby objects such as roof eaves, trees and buildings.
- Your budget
- Design and assemble the gnomon using these design parameters.
- Sundial's location
- Sundial's face design
- Prefered attachment method
- Gnomon distance from sundial face (will there be a double pane window?)
- Test the sundial face pattern and gnomon to see how well the sundial performs.
- Draw a full-size glass cutting pattern and make two identical copies. Use these design parameters.
- Artistic adornments desired by client
- Structural strength needed in metal glass joints
- Glass types and colors
- Make all glass metal came union lines 1/16" thick, and make all copper foil union lines 1/32" thick.
- Label each glass piece on pattern with a different number
- Make a drawing for the client or yourself in color showing the finished window (optional)
- Prepare Glass Pieces for Assembly
- Select and purchase glass. When selecting, always inspect glass for imperfections, coloring, texture and gnomon shadow visibility with the sun lighting it from behind or use a light box.
- Cut piece of paper from the glass pattern for desired piece of glass.
- Glue paper pattern to glass piece.
- Score glass along paper edge with glass cutter, break score line, and grind glass to proper shape. Or you can use an electric glass cutting saw instead of a glass cutter.
- Drill hole in glass for gnomon attachment if required by gnomon design.
- Paint and kiln-fire glass pieces if necessary.
- Assemble Window
- Attach a 90° angle window edge assembly guide along bottom and left sides of wood assembly board. Then tape copy of paper glass pattern to board.
- Cut mitered corners of edge came at 45° angle and attach the bottom and left sides of the window's edge 'U' came to to assembly board edge guide using farrier nails.
- Attach first glass piece to the 90° bottom left corner 'U' came, then attach came or foil to adjoining glass pieces, cutting and sizing each glass piece individually as assembly proceeds outward. Hold glass pieces and came in place with farrier nails until they are secured by soldering.
- So that solder will adhere to the came, clean all metal came joints on one side of the window with a wire brush, then carefully apply solder flux to the joints with a flux brush. Avoid getting the brush and joints too wet because excessive flux might get on the glass and discolor it, and may also cause the solder to spit and sputter, resulting in a poor joint union. Immediately after applying flux, apply solder to the came joints (or foil unions if using the Tiffany method). When finished soldering, clean off and neutralize all excess flux with flux cleaner to prevent white mold formation. Turn the window over, and repeat the procedure on the other side.
- Now you need to cement the glass to the soldered came to firmly secure the glass pieces and waterproof the panel. Spread an old newspaper on the worktable under the soldered panel. Fill a paper cup about 1/3 full with stained glass cement powder. Add linseed oil little by little while mixing it to the consistency of peanut butter or honey, and spread it with a putty knife up against the metal came. Then use a cement brush to push it under all the gaps between the came and glass.
- Remove excess cement before it dries by spreading whitening or sawdust with your hand over the panel, then with the cement brush, remove as much cement and whiting as possible. Remove what's left next to the came edges with a little pointed wooden stick. Now turn the panel over and cement and clean the other side the same way. Let panel dry for 24 hours.
- Clean and polish came and soldered areas using steel wool.
- If you want to change the metal's color, clean it thoroughly with 0000 steel wool until it shines, pour patina chemical into a small clean cup and carefully apply it with a toothbrush or cotton swab to the metal on one side of panel. Blot off excess with a paper towel then let dry. Treat other side of the panel the same way. When through, clean panel with a flux remover (like Kwik-Clean). Patina chemicals are corrosive acids, so protect your eyes with goggles and avoid getting it on the glass since it can damage the coloring of some types of glass. Lead patina will work on lead, zinc, and solder. Zinc patina will only work on zinc. Lead changes color easier than zinc does.
- Apply liquid wax to the entire window with your hand or a rag and let dry to milky white. Then buff with moist towel till it shines. This seals the patina and protects the glass.
- Install window and gnomon.