How to craft a guardian angel

Creating custom stained glass art

Posted 10/9/19

While she has never seen an angel, Pat Chase has no doubt they are always around to lend a helping hand.

“My belief is they are there when you need them,” Chase said. “It is the idea that they are messengers guiding you along.”

And people can be angels too, she said.

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How to craft a guardian angel

Creating custom stained glass art

Posted

While she has never seen an angel, Pat Chase has no doubt they are always around to lend a helping hand.

“My belief is they are there when you need them,” Chase said. “It is the idea that they are messengers guiding you along.”

And people can be angels too, she said.

“A lot of people have helped us and I feel their force, their spirit. You don’t have to actually see them to know they are there.”

Still, Chase enjoys having tangible reminders of angels, something she accomplishes through her stained glass creations.

From her home studio in Port Hadlock, Chase creates stained glass art for windows, lamps and mosaics. Her work ranges from small to large pieces and includes specialty projects such as commissioned pieces for churches. She also creates 3D designs with seashells.

Chase, a master craft professional and retired caretaker, has been making stained glass artwork for over two decades, she said, and has published two how-to books: “Angel Companions,” and “Angel Companions II.”

“I got into angels during Christmas of 1999,” Chase said. “I had been doing stained glass for a couple of years and I wanted to make a Christmas angel.”

Chase named her first angel “Grace.” Now she has created many.

“It just appeals to me and other people like them, too.”

Starting with a prayer

Before beginning a new project, Chase, a Methodist, says a prayer.

The first step is to start with a pattern, which Chase draws herself. She began drawing her own patterns because she couldn’t find any premade patterns she liked, she said.

“I started drawing and I drew the first one. Then the lightbulb went off. I continued to draw and I did two more.”

With an established pattern, the next step is to pick out the stained glass. Chase does not make her own stained glass, but gets pre-made panes in various colors.

“What I do is draw on my glass,” Chase said. “I usually wear an apron, a glove and glasses.”

Chase marks the pattern on the chosen panes of glass before cutting to fit.

“I like the grain going with the grain,” she said. “What I am doing is scoring.”

After scoring, Chase uses a pair of pliers to gently pinch the glass, cracking it along the established score mark.

“The pliers replace your thumbs,” she said. “If you had really thin glass you could snap it with your thumbs but this is a little heavier. I guide along with my other thumb, come to the end and pinch, pinch, pinch.”

Long outside curves tend to be easier to cut, Chase said.

“On an inside curve, you have to be careful.”

Sometimes there are little pieces in more intricate curves Chase cannot get off with larger pliers. So, she turns to a pair of grozier pliers.

“This is like an alligator, he bites little pieces off.”

The next step is to grind down the edges of the cut glass.

“This is a diamond tip,” Chase said, demonstrating. “You are going to put your glass up against it. I like to wear rubber tips on my fingers, because this is where you get sharp cuts. You do cut yourself, but that is what Band-Aids are for. You try not to.”

During the grinding process, the sharp edges are dulled.

“See, it’s smooth,” Chase said. “It is not going to cut when I put the foil on it.”

After grinding each piece, Chase applies double adhesive copper foil around the edges of each piece of glass.

“I usually do this in front of a TV so I can sit down,” she said. “I usually start at an inside line. This is where you need precision. You want to make it even on both sides, but don’t get your fingers on the adhesive because it is sticky.”

The key in this step is for the foil to be smooth with no wrinkles, Chase said.

Next up, a burnisher is used to ensure the foil stays put.

Finally, Chases uses a special heated iron to melt solder on the joints to keep the piece attached. Because Chase prefers to solder with lead in the mix, she uses an air purifier to remove lead from the air in her studio.

“They don’t recommend this kind of work for pregnant women and you want to make sure your hands are clean. They do have lead-free solder, but I am pretty safe. If I need to I open a window.”

At this stage, Chase also attaches a hangar to the top of the piece.

She uses a chemical referred to as flux which allows the solder to bind with the copper foil.

“Once you have put it together, it is hard to take apart,” she said. “They don’t want to come apart without difficulty.”

The soldering is the most relaxing part of the process, Chase said.

“I enjoy this part because it is calming.”

But attention is still required.

“You can leave the iron on there long enough that it will melt down,” Chase said. “If you leave it on there too long it goes splat, to use a technical term. It comes too far out on the other end.”

If that happens there are ways to fix it, she said.

“You turn it over and you take care of it on the other side. You make a lot of extra solder blobs and it covers your mistakes and is also decorative.”

During soldering, the copper turns to a silver color, Chase said.

“After I finish both sides, I use a chemical called a patina to turn it black, or leave it silver.”

(Chase teaches students interested in the craft. For more information, call 360-385-3457 or visit angelglassart.com.)

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