Problem with Reinforcing Freeform Suncatcher

by Joe Libertz
(Leesburg, VA)

I'm working on a freeform suncatcher in which the pattern designer recommends reinforcement of some kind. She states that she uses pre-tinned wire for reinforcement.


My question is ? how do you know which gauge wire will give proper reinforcement? I tried using 18 gauge. It's difficult to bend around the intricate curves on the perimeter of the work. I've damaged the existing solder joints while trying to apply pressure to bend the wire to the piece. Could I get away with using a lighter gauge wire than 18 gauge?

My next problem with this project is that I can't seem to hide the 18 gauge wire under the solder. I tried to pool solder on top of the wire, but the solder seems to shrink so that when the piece cools there is a defined indentation between the height of the wire and the edge of the glass.


Answer

You can use a lighter gauge wire. 20 gauge will bend easier. The trick to bending it is to use needle nose pliers and bend it before you push it into the intricate curves. Work ahead before you tack solder the wire in place. You can hold the wire in place with wooden spring type clothes pins. That way you won't be pulling the foil off when you're trying to manipulate the wire.

To get the solder to bead up over the wire, lay the piece flat on your work bench, then solder the edge facing up. Turn the piece over and solder the other edge that is facing up. Finally, hold the piece so the outside surface is facing up and do a touch and lift motion along the edge. You should not have to add any more solder on that final surface. The solder on the 2 edges will pull upwards and form a bead over the wire. You can see how it's done here: Edge Beading

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