Cartoon Preparation

Cartoon and pattern are words used interchangeably by many people, but cartoon is the proper term for the actual piece of paper you will be constructing your panel on. It will have cut lines drawn to the exact width of the lead came heart, room left on the edges for your border lead, notes about reinforcement, color placement and anything else you would need to jog your memory. In other words, it is the blueprint that you will construct your window on. Preparation of this blueprint is a very important step in constructing your stained glass window.

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Double Click on the following pictures to enlarge them.


Draw a square/rectangle/whatever shape the window will be, to the exact measurements that you want the finished panel to be. Do this on a piece of paper that is at least 4 inches wider and 4 inches longer than the finished panel size.

Determine what size lead came or zinc you will be using around the outside edges. The size is totally up to you. Use whatever size you think will look the best with your design. One word of advise though. Use a flat face lead rather than a round face lead if you will be installing the panel in any kind of a frame. The beading for the frame will lay much better on lead with a flat face. Also, use H came, not U came so you can trim the lead, if needed, for a good fit in the frame.

One other consideration is whether you want a border of lead showing around your window, or if you want the border lead covered up with the wood beading. The size of your border lead will be determined by this decision. Measure the width of the beading then choose a border lead that no wider than the beading if you want it covered up, or wider than the beading if you want it showing. My preference is to have a bit of lead showing around the edges. I think it gives continuity to the interior lead and it frames the window better than only wood beading. However, it's totally up to you which way you want to do it.

measuring for heart line with outside lead or zinc

Take a piece of the lead or zinc and cut away a small portion so that you can see the heart. Lay it along the outside edges of the cartoon and precisely mark where the edge of the heart is. Do this in at least 3 places along each side. Using a ruler, line up the marks and draw a straight line from top to bottom and side to side. These are the lines your glass will be cut to/end at.


cartoon drawn up

Now you can draw your pattern in the remaining empty space of the cartoon. I'm not going to go into drawing/enlarging a pattern. You can use a computer resizer program, photocopy the design on a transparency and project the design onto the paper and trace it, have it enlarged at Kinkos, or what ever method you use to enlarge designs.

Make the cut lines 1/16" (1 1/2mm), which is the width of the heart of most of the lead came that you will be using to construct your panel. It's always a good idea to measure the heart thickness of the lead you choose to use just in case it is different than 1/16 inch. I use a Staedtler Lumocolor Permanent F318 marker to go over the cut lines, on the pattern, to make them the right width. Whatever you use to mark your cut lines, draw a few lines on a piece of scrap paper to make sure the width is correct.

Make sure the lines are not too narrow. You want a little (and I mean a wee little) wiggle room between the glass and the lead. Don't build the panel so tight that you have to trim down the last few pieces of glass to make them fit. There's nothing more frustrating than finding that you have cut all of your glass on the large side, then having to grind every piece to get a proper fit. What a waste of time and energy.

Once the cut lines are drawn and widened, think about if and where reinforcement might be needed in the window. Reinforcement will be needed wherever there is a hinge joint. A hinge joint is a straight or gently curved line that goes from one edge to the other. It is an area that could, and probably will, cause the panel to bend, thus causing glass to break when it is lifted to turn it over or being installed. Hinge joints are also weak areas in the panel and can cause the panel to sag over time, especially if the hinge joints are horizontal. If you are going to need to reinforce your panel, now is the time to decide where the reinforcement should go. I always draw, with a red pen, just underneath the cut lines that will need reinforcing. That jogs my memory to use reinforcement in those areas.

I use copper re-strip to reinforce windows. It needs to run across hinge joints, not along them and it has to go from one edge to the other with no breaks in between. You can learn much more about reinforcement for both lead came and copper foil in my ebook "Reinforcement". Information about the ebook is Here

3-4-5 measuring

One last thing before we go on. Make sure the cartoon is square. In other words, use a square or a triangle and check the corners to make sure they are 90 degree angles. Measure the diagonals, from bottom left to top right corners, then do the same from bottom right to top left. Both of these measurements should be the same. Another way to make sure the pattern is square is to measure and mark 3 inches from the top left corner down the side. Then measure and mark 4 inches from the same corner across the top. Now measure the distance from one mark to the other. It should be 5 inches. Do this at each corner. If they are all 5 inches, then it is square.

You are now ready to set it up for constructing your window.



Setting Up Your Cartoon



You are now ready to get your cartoon set up for constructing your window. You typically start working from the bottom left corner and work towards the top. Starting this way just makes it easier as you are inserting the glass into the lead channel. You will be pulling the glass into the lead, and pulling is easier than pushing.

If you have a reason for wanting to start working from the top of the cartoon, rather than the bottom, just turn it around so the top is at the bottom of your work board. I do hope I'm making sense, but you will see what I mean in the photographs that will be following.

If you really feel that you have to, you can start working from the top left corner. It will just mean pushing the glass away from you into the lead channel rather than pulling it towards you into the channel. It's harder work, but nothing you couldn't deal with. And...if you're left handed, start from the right side rather than the left.

cartoon taped down

Once the cartoon is ready and pattern pieces are cut, or a duplicate cartoon is made for trace cutting, tape it down to your work board. Make sure it is taped tight, with no wrinkles.





framing strips in place

 view 2 framing strips in place

Put framing strips along the outside edge of the bottom and left hand side of the cartoon. These strips are usually made of wood and should be about 1 1/2" x 1/2". Actually any size will do as long as it is deep enough to keep the lead/zinc from rolling over the edge of it as you are building your window. Make sure the strips are not warped and are absolutely straight.


I like, and use, the Morton Layout Block System. They are strips of aluminum L's that are attached around the edge of the cartoon with push pins. I actually use small nails to attach them, as the push pins that come with them are difficult to remove if you are building your window on a wood board. Morton suggests using homosote or fiberboard to build on if you are using their Layout Blocks, so the push pins can be easily removed.


first piece of lead in place

bottom lead in place

Once the framing strips are in place, you can put down the bottom and left side lead, cut to exact length. Use scrap pieces of lead and horse shoe nails (as shown in the photographs) to secure the border lead in place.



Always make the side pieces the full length of the cartoon, and the top and bottom pieces will go between them. The reason for making the side pieces full length is that the heart of the side leads will support the window and relieve the bottom lead from smashing over time, by having to support the full weight of the window.


Now your cartoon is set up and ready for you to construct your window.

For the next steps in this series of tutorials click here:
Cutting and Stretching Lead
Making A Leaded Window
Soldering A Leaded Window
Putty A Leaded Window
Lead Came


If you have any questions or comments about preparing a cartoon, please feel free to Contact me.





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This page was last updated on March 4, 2016