Copper foil refers to the technique of wrapping each piece of cut glass with a strip of copper foil which is sticky on one side. After all the pieces of glass have their edges covered in copper foil the pieces are placed on a full size pattern and the touching edges of copper foil are tack soldered together. A light coating of flux and solder is first applied to all of the pieces (called tinning) before a second heavy bead of solder is applied to all the copper seams. This method creates a strong seam of solder which surrounds each piece of glass and seals tightly to the glass negating the need for any cement. Often the design will require reinforcement and heavy copper strips can be hidden between the seams and soldered in permanently and invisibly.
The copper tape comes in various widths ranging from 1/8” to ½” with straight or sculpted edges. The tape backing can also come in different colors such as silver or black and is chosen based on the project and the type of glass. Black is often selected when transparent art glass is chosen or when the soldered seam is colored with a dark patina.
Louis Comfort Tiffany popularized this technique in the early 1900 with the creation of his lamps, panels and boxes. The copper foil method allowed artists to create items in two and three dimensions. This method of joining glass is often referred to as “Tiffany”.
This technique allows glass pieces to be cut to a very intricate shape and fastened together with a method that creates a very strong bond when completely soldered.
Copper foil allows artisans and craftsman the ability and freedom to design and create in a way that was limited with traditional leaded glass construction. With much smaller lead lines, pieces like lamps, and boxes allow the beauty of the glass to shine bright.
Often pieces such as jewelry boxes can be further enhanced with decorative solder techniques that is not possible with lead came construction. Many different solder patterns can be applied to the seams of boxes and wall hangings to add a decorative flair which can be quite beautiful.