Clean, Patina and Polish
Your Stained Glass Projects

Patina appears to be the source of many problems according to the posts I read on the stained glass forums. I actually think it's the number one topic repeatedly discussed. They write about it spotting, it turns green, it forms white stuff around the edges of the solder lines, it won't "take", it's splotchy, it's dull, and on and on they go.

Over the years I've had the same problems. I was sure there was something I was or wasn't doing, but I couldn't figure out exactly what it was. I started to research the various techniques that had been suggested. After experimenting with a combination of them, I came up with a technique that always works for me, over and over again. I want to share my discoveries with you.

Patina FAQ eBook

Patina FAQ eBook You will find questions and answers about Using Patina in this 28 page eBook. These are real questions and answers that have been asked on my web site. It should be very useful for anyone that uses Patina.

Some of the areas covered are black patina for zinc and copper foil, copper patina for copper foil and lead came, and more. It only takes a minute to order, and you can download it right away, as an Adobe PDF document.
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If you're not completely satisfied, it comes with a 30 day, no questions asked, money back guarantee.

Double Click on the pictures to enlarge them.

Washing Your Project

First of all, your stained glass project needs to be washed when you are done soldering. Washing neutralizes the flux. Not every method of washing will accomplish the neutralization process. The following directions will work. They are part of my discoveries. For the best results, please follow them exactly as they are written.

products used to clean foiled projects

Here are the products I use to wash copper foiled projects.

1. Parson's Ammonia All Purpose Cleaner that says "Sudsy" on the bottle. If you can't find it, there are recipes for making your own on the internet. Search for Sudsy Ammonia recipe.
2. Mothers California Gold Carbnauba Wax Cleaner
3. White industrial #98 scrub pads

Mothers Wax is sold at many car care centers. I get mine at NAPA.
The #98 white scrub pads can be purchased at most industrial cleaning supply stores or hardware stores.

pour ammonia all over panel

scrub meticulously with scrub pad

rinse well

Step 1. Pour some Sudsy Ammonia on your project and start scrubbing it with the white scrub pad. Make sure you scrub it until suds appear. Go over every solder line. Rinse well, then turn it over and do the other side. Make sure it is thoroughly rinsed on both sides.

dry well

Step 2. Dry the piece thoroughly with paper towels. Paper towels seem to absorb better than a cloth towel.

This will be the last time you will use water on this piece. Let me repeat. This will be the last time you will use water on this piece!

Why? Well, most water from your tap contains trace elements that react with copper patination. This alters the final color, usually resulting in any of the numerous problems mentioned above.

Everybody's water is different, which explains why some people have better results than others. Also, the amount and type of trace elements in the water changes from time to time, often giving you different results from one project to the next. If you don't use water after the initial washing, the problems should be diminished.

Wax and Polish Before and After

wax and polish

Step 3. Apply Mothers Wax to the entire piece, glass and solder lines. Then start buffing it off. Continue buffing/polishing the piece with a cloth or paper towel until no more black comes off.

oxidation on the cloth

No, I didn't make a mistake. You do wax and polish before as well as after. See the black on the paper towel? That's oxidation. If you put patina over the oxidation, I can guarantee you will have some of those nasty problems mentioned on the forums. And before you ask, the answer is YES, the copper will take (beautifully I might add), right over the polished solder lines. The procedure is different for black. It will be discussed at the end of this tutorial

At this point, if you want to leave the piece silver, you are done. It will be a beautiful shiny silver. If you want, you can apply the wax a second time.

Before I go on, I need to explain how copper patination works. There is a molecular reaction between the tin in the solder and the copper sulphate in the patina. It is an instant reaction, but it must take place on absolutely clean solder. That is why we wax remove any remaining oxidation. The wax does not affect the chemical reaction. Actually, it seems to enhance it.

Copper Patina

There are several brands available. Novcan is the easiest to find. Jax and Classique are other good brands but more difficult to find.

You should be able to purchase it at any store that sells stained glass supplies. Another source is the internet. Be sure to buy one made for solder. There are others made for lead and zinc...which you do not want for a copper foiled project.


Step 4. Apply the liquid by pouring a small amount on your project. Scrub it on using a piece of the white scrub pad. Make sure you use enough so that all of the solder lines are well covered. Wipe up the excess with a paper towel. Turn the panel and repeat this step on the back side. Once you have wiped up the excess, let the piece air dry. Prop it up so that air can get to both sides.

Step 5. Repeat step 3, applying Mothers Wax. This time, let it dry before you polish. Use a tooth brush to clean the wax out of corners and around the solder lines. The copper will be even, with no spots and it will shine like a new penny.

finished panel

Here is the finished panel.

If your panel needs an occasional clean-up, my recommendation is to wax it again. The wax will clean the glass and brighten up the copper.

Applying Black Patina

To use black, clean it as described in step 1 above. Do not wax it at this point (see note below). After the piece is thoroughly dry, apply with the white scrub pad. Some people add 1 tbsp white vinegar, others add 1 tsp salt to 1 to 4 ounces of black patina to make it come out darker and shinier. Pour some patina into another container before adding the vinegar or salt, and dispose of any that is left when you are finished.

Note: Since writing this, I have found that waxing the piece first does not cause a problem with black patination. It actually enhances the black.

When the solder is black, rinse in warm water (yes, you can use water on the black) and pat dry with a paper towel. Let it set for 24 hours (this is a very important step), then you can wax and polish with Mothers Wax.

New information: I've recently heard about using Jax Pewter Black for zinc frames. The process is the same - use strips of the #98 white scrub pads or scotch Brite pads to clean the zinc with alcohol, then apply the JAX using the #98 white scrub pads or the scotch bright pads. The Jax dries quickly and streaking is eliminated. You can also use the same Jax patina to finish copper foil projects. The pewter black finish looks very good, as well as eliminating the need to have two types of patina (one for foil and one for zinc).

Like any patination process, it's important to clean excess liquid off the glass after application to the zinc or lead framing to avoid staining the glass. I recommend that you try JAX or any other brand on scrap solder or zinc before using on your finished project.

If you are having problems with patina and have a question you want answered, Click Here to ask your question.

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This page was last updated on October 11, 2012

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You can't imagine how much I wish I had found your incredible website before I spent many hundreds of dollars on lessons, DVDs, tutorials, etc. I can tell that everything I need to know can be found here. All I can say is "Thank You!" Larry

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Your site is fantastic! I took a six week class four years ago and recently started again (after forgetting almost everything I learned!). I have to say that your site is excellent and I can't wait to practice the techniques you've shown. Scarlet

I'm a subscriber to your "Stained Glass Gems" and I just wanted to say THANK YOU for your wonderful site! This is by far the best glass site I've run across. I recently purchased your publication on Patina FAQ and it's very helpful for me... I like to have hard copies of info so I added it to my library. Suzanna