How to Solder Hooks to Stained Glass Suncatchers
Something that isn't always obvious is how to solder hooks to smaller projects and where to put them. If you don’t stop to consider where to place the hook for hanging them, they’re likely to get placed at the very top by default.
Unfortunately, many never realize the impact of this decision. So, you might be wondering "Why does this even matter?"
Try thinking about it like this…
By placing one or even two hooks along the outer edge of a project, there's going to be an awful lot of weight pulling down on that little piece of tape. It’s not really all that strong on it’s own and oftentimes, many hobbyists don’t add enough solder to the edges to really beef it up to make it strong. Learning the art of how to solder hooks on projects really well, is partly determined by this factor.
Would you trust a piece of tape to hold up the weight of your glass project? No. Me either.
This is exactly why the placement of your hook matters.
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Step # 1: Where to attach the hook
Where you place it is going to depend on multiple factors:
1. How large or how heavy it is.
2. The weight distribution and how balanced the piece is or isn't
3. And, at what angel you want your piece to hang.
Regardless of these factors though, seams are generally the best and most secure places to add hooks, as there is no fear of the foil pulling away from the glass as it can on the outer edges.
Depending on how heavy your suncatcher is, you may need to consider if using one or two hooks would make a difference. With a heavier piece, consider whether two hooks would be beneficial to distribute the weight of the glass. Too much stress in one area generally spells disaster down the road.
But if we’re talking about something that is only a couple of inches in size and therefore very light, Christmas ornaments are a good example of this, then one hook placed at the top is generally strong enough to hold securely under the small amount of weight of the ornament.
Free-form shaped suncatchers (something that isn’t round, square or any other balanced shape) can throw a bit of a curve ball if you’re still a beginner at how to solder hooks onto your stained glass.
You’ll need to consider how balanced the piece is for weight. You’ll gain experience with each new project at guesstimating where the balance point is.
Until then, pay attention to where you think you could attach the hook to have the piece hang straight. Add your hook there, and then take note of how the piece actually hangs.
Sometimes shifting your hook a quarter of an inch one direction or another can make all the difference between having your artwork hang straight or not.
Now the third factor ties in closely with the second. If you’re intention is to have your suncatcher hang at more of an angle for interests sake, you can use the weight distribution to your advantage.
Sometimes hanging a free-form suncatcher perfectly straight, doesn’t look natural.
Take a look at this dragonfly. Hanging it perfectly straight looks alright, but doesn’t hanging it on an angle look more natural?
This is completely subjective of course, just keep in mind that simply changing the angle on which your artwork is displayed, can really change the viewer’s perspective of the piece.
Step # 2: What to use to make hooks
Now that you have an idea of where to place your hooks, you’ll need to think about what you can use to create them.
Three materials that work perfectly for making hooks on your projects are:
In case you aren’t aware, the thickness of wire is measured in “gauges.” The higher the number is, the finer the wire is. Alternately, the lower the gauge, the thicker the wire is. It’s more or less the opposite of what you would expect, so just be careful to keep that in mind.
For many suncatchers, I use an 18 gauge copper wire that I wipe with flux and tin with solder myself. You can however, buy pre-tinned wire that saves you this step if you prefer. Then, you can simply bend the wire into the shape you want for your hook and solder it to your suncatcher based on what you decided for it’s placement.
Really? Paper clips you say?
This is so simple, you’re going to kick yourself if you’ve always struggled with hooks!
I buy the silver coloured paper clips and believe it or not, all you need to do is bend the middle portion forward, flatten it out, and you get an “S” shape. By cutting the two halves, you get a smaller and larger loop with hardly any work to it at all.
AND the bonus part is, that each one is already shaped with the perfect bend!
Depending on how thick your project is, one of these will likely fit perfectly right onto a seam.
If you need two hooks for the same project, cut two paper clips, and use either both smaller loops or both larger loops on the one piece. This will keep things perfectly uniform. (Have I mentioned there’s just a little bit of perfectionism in me?)
Anyone who does jewelry work will likely know that a jump ring is a pre-shaped ring that comes in super handy for stained glass suncatchers. You can buy them by the bag and so they last a really long time, or you can even make your own.
Step 3: How to Solder the hook in place
Hopefully at this point you’ll have decided on the placement of the hook and what you will use to make it. All you need to do now, is solder it in place.
If you’re using materials that aren’t stained glass specific (like jump rings or paper clips,) you’ll want to consider tinning the hook material before you attach it to your project. It’s not imperative for items that you plan to leave silver, but if you’re going to apply patina, you need to make sure the hook will actually accept the patina so that everything matches perfectly.
Not sure if you're applying patina correctly? Here's a short video to help you: How To Apply Black Patina To Solder.
You can avoid unnecessary tinning, by testing the material first. Try adding patina to it and see if it changes colour. If it does, you’re all set. Go ahead and solder it to your project. If not, then you’ll need to tin it first.
Tips for soldering the hook
The act of attaching a hook can be frustrating at times. The best tip I can offer to provide guidance with how to solder the hooks in place is to stabilize your hand that's holding the hook in place with pliers. Use a finger or the side of your hand against the table so that you aren’t wiggling around while trying to hold the hook still.
And secondly, hold the hook in place for the count of 5 after removing the soldering iron. This will ensure the hook hardens in the correct position before you try to let go of it.
Testing it out
After you’ve attached your hook, always test it out to make sure it holds and that your piece hangs the way you want it displayed.
To test this, I keep a piece of mono-filament (fishing line) handy. I slip it through the hook and hold the string taut. If the hook holds, carefully let go of the glass while keeping a firm grip on the string to see how it hangs.
If you aren’t happy with the placement after your first attempt, you can grab hold of the hook with the pliers again, melt the solder and reposition the hook to where it should be located.
Over time, you’ll develop an eye for how to solder the hook in the right place to get the piece hanging exactly the way you want on the first try.