Pattern Pieces




This tutorial is about pattern pieces,also called templates, how to make them and how to use them in your stained glass work. However, before we start with making them, I want to talk about accuracy.

The key to success, when making a stained glass project, is accuracy. Plain and simple, it is either accurate, or it isn't.

"That's good enough" or "that will do" are not phrases we use when making anything out of stained glass, whether it's a window panel, lamp shade, suncatcher, box, or anything else you can think of.

It all starts with your pattern. If it isn't accurate, you'll have problems in every step from there on. You'll have to re-cut glass, fill in big gaps with solder, use wider or narrower lead or zinc around the outside to make it the right size, or worse yet, have to start over because it is too far off to fix.

stained glass window

One word here about photocopied patterns. Photocopiers distort patterns. It may not be enough to notice, and if your project is free form, it probably won't matter.

However, if your pattern is geometric or has to fit a specific measurement, check it before you start making pattern pieces to make sure it is accurate.

If it isn't accurate, now is the time to fix it. Make sure parallel lines are parallel corners are square, dimensions are exact, anything it takes to make the pattern accurate.

As a side note: even patterns from books can be off, so check them before you begin a project.




Making Pattern Pieces


Double Click on all pictures to enlarge them.


When the pattern is correct you can start making pattern pieces. Use light weight cardboard, something like poster board or even file folders, if you have any spare ones laying around.

The cardboard pieces will need to hold up while going around them with a marking pen, and cutting and grinding around them. Cereal boxes, the backs from paper pads, cardboard inserts, etc don't hold up once they get damp. The shape distorts and you're back to square one with accuracy.

copying the pattern onto poster board

Sandwich carbon paper between the pattern and the cardboard, making sure the carbon side is facing the cardboard. Hold the three pieces together with paper clips. Use a medium ball point pen to trace over the pattern lines.


Number each template piece as well as the pattern, and draw directional lines if you are using glass with a definite direction. Flower petals look funny with some of the lines going across and others going up and down.

Here is where you can chose how to cut them out. If you use pattern shears and they cut out a line exactly the same width as the medium ball point pen line, go ahead and use them. Make sure the lines are centered on the shears.

pattern traced on poster board, ready to be cut out

If you don't use pattern shears, cut them out with sharp scissors (my preference), cutting along both sides of the line. Make sure you cut right along the edges of the line, not inside the edges and not beyond the outside of the edges. When you are done, you should have pattern pieces with no pencil or carbon paper lines on any of the edges.


being checked for accuracy

Lay the template pieces on the pattern/cartoon and make sure they fit perfectly inside the lines. You should be able to see the lines all around each piece. Don't forget the "A" word. Accuracy.....






Tracing Around The Pattern Pieces



tracing around pattern pieces

Lay the pattern piece on the glass
and trace around it with a Sharpie.




traced on the glass

The pattern is now
accurately traced on the glass.






checking for accuracy

Cut the glass precisely on the inside edge of the line.
Then lay the cut glass on the template, or on
the pattern/cartoon to check it for accuracy.





If there are any places that need grinding, mark them with the sharpie and grind. You will find that there will be many pieces that do not need grinding. Yes, I'm an advocate of only grinding if needed. I do not grind every single piece.

Here's what I do if a piece doesn't need grinding to make it fit properly:

1. Swipe the glass edges with a carborundum stone, but only if the edges are sharp enough to damage the foil or cut fingers.

2. Give the edges a quick wipe with alcohol to get rid of the oil from the cutter. The alcohol evaporates quickly so you don't have to wipe it off.

3. Foil the glass. Yes, I usually foil as I go.

4. Get on to the next piece.

For lead, I do nothing unless a piece needs to be ground to fit properly.


Other Methods To Preserve and
Use Your Pattern Pieces



Cover the cardboard with contact paper, both front and back, before cutting out the pattern pieces. If you are cutting multiple pieces of glass using the same pattern piece, contact paper is a good idea. The plain poster board/cardboard only holds up for so long, then it begins to deteriorate.

Spray the cardboard with acrylic waterproofing spray and let it dry before you start cutting out the pieces. I would do this if I were going to use them multiple times, but it seems like a lot of time and money spent for a once only use of each pieces.

Glue the pattern piece to the glass before cutting the glass. Many people like a physical edge to cut and grind along. I've seen them use glue sticks, double sided tape, rubber cement, and spray adhesive. I'm sure there are other ways of sticking it down that I'm not aware of.

Use a paint pen or metallic marker, rather than a Sharpie, to draw around the template pieces. It won't come off when grinding or using a ring saw. A white paint pen works well on very dark colored glass.


Trace Cutting and Using a Light Box



cutting over the pattern




To learn about Trace Cutting and Using a light Box,
click here: Trace Cutting and Using a Light Box





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This page was last updated on October 11, 2012






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