Reinforce Hinge Points in Stained Glass
If you’ve ever experienced a hinge point in your work, you know the disappointment that comes along with it. But, if you know how to add reinforcement to your artwork, you won’t have to worry about them rearing their ugly heads when your masterpiece is finally finished!
Without reinforcement, these hinge point can reveal their weakness right after you complete your project or, for some pieces, it may take time for them to reveal themselves.
Regardless of when the weakness affects your artwork, be it right away or months down the line, the key to addressing these hinge points starts with learning to recognize them in the design before even starting to cut the glass for your project.
The blog post, Hinge Points and How They Affect Your Stained Glass Art, is Part 1 of addressing hinge points. If you haven’t read it yet, now is the time to go back and read through it. In the article, I walk you through what a hinge point is, how to identify one, and how you can use the design itself to eliminate them.
Today’s post is about reinforcing the hinge and it will make a whole lot more sense if you've read Part 1.
Now there are always times when we fall in love with the design just the way it is and don’t want to change it. Or, maybe the damage is already done and we just want to reinforce the piece to salvage it and make sure it doesn’t get any worse.
So this post will guide you through the process of reinforcing hinge points, what to use and where to place it.
This post contains affiliate links, meaning, I recommend products and services I’ve used or know well and may receive a commission if you purchase them using my link (at no additional cost to you.)
Prevent Bending of a Hinge Point
There are many ways to reinforce your projects to add stability to hinge points, and they usually fall into 2 main categories:
- Reinforcement that goes around a piece.
- Reinforcement that is added within the design.
So before we dive into the nitty gritty of these two methods, let’s look at some examples of what reinforcement should do and let's debunk the biggest perpetuated MYTH I’ve seen shared all too often by well-meaning hobbyists trying to help others learn how to reinforce hinge points.
Now, the bigger question is, “Where should the reinforcement go to stop the hinging?”
Well, let’s take a step back from stained glass for a moment and put this into everyday practice that might make it more clear.
How to Brace a Hinge Point
In the previous post, I explained that a hinge point was kind of like a door that swings open, and the myth is that reinforcements should be placed along the length of the hinge.
So let me ask you...If the red line shown on this simple drawing of a door was the hinge, and blue line the reinforcement, how well do you think this would work to prevent the door from swinging open?
Do you think this would work?
Seems fairly obvious when you think about it, doesn't it? Placing the reinforcement along the hinge wouldn’t work that well at all.
But if we look at the next drawing below, you can see the blue reinforcement line is placed perpendicular to the hinge. Do you think this would be any better?
Even if it were placed in the same orientation but moved to the right side of the door it would work.
So let’s get back to thinking about this in terms of stained glass.
We wouldn’t want to place the reinforcement where it’s shown in the image above for 2 reasons:
- We can’t really attach the reinforcement to the glass (and we’re not going to use glue to do this!)
- Who wants an extra line across the glass taking away from the beauty of the piece?
So how about the next arrangement?
We still have the reinforcement going perpendicular to the hinge, but, it's less distracting when looking at the door.
This is the basis for how our reinforcement will be placed within, or around a stained glass piece to eliminate the weakness of a hinge point.
Solution # 1 - Reinforce the outer edges of the piece
By reinforcing the outer edge of a piece, you don’t have to interfere with the design and it can often be the simplest and quickest way to reinforce hinges.
Let’s go back to the example used in the last article with the image of the sun, which has a distinct hinge point across the horizon. By placing reinforcement along the edges on both the left and right side of the panel, you can stop the hinge point from bending. See how easy that is?
Okay, so now let’s look at this piece that has 4 hinge points. You could reinforce it along all 4 edges to stop all of the bending .
As you can see the concept is simple, but that still leaves us with a question...
What Is Used As Reinforcement?
Panels and suncatchers alike can be reinforced along the outside edge and there are so many materials that can be used to help provide stability to hinge points.
What type of project you're creating, how large it is, and the complexity of the layout of the hinge points can all affect your choice of what to use. Basically, you're looking to stiffen the area you want to reinforce adequately for the needs of the project.
Here are the most commonly used materials for reinforcing the edges of stained glass pieces.
Panel - Distinct Shape (Round/Square/Rectangle/Octagon)
- Frame it with zinc came
- Place in a wooden frame
- Copper wire (if the panel's not too large)
Suncatcher - Free form shape
Solution # 2 - Add reinforcement within the piece
The first solution is likely to be the simplest method to keep in mind, but depending on the project, adding reinforcement within the design itself can work wonders too.
So let’s look at our design using the block of 9 squares. Another way to reinforce this design would be to use this arrangement.
We’re still addressing all 4 hinges but this time two of the lines are within the design.
Now you may think that the first method of framing around the panel would be easiest and that may be so, but this is just another way of solving that problem. Keeping things simple is a great way to think about hinge points, but sometimes you need to get a little more creative with the solution.
Take a look at this simple butterfly and notice the hinge that runs from top to bottom.
Since this is a free-form shape, we couldn’t use zinc came or a wooden frame to go around it. We could use wire soldered all the way around it, but that would be more work than placing some reinforcement inside the design.
Here’s what I propose…
The blue line shows where I would put reinforcement to stop the left and right halves from folding along the hinge point.
Steps to Adding Reinforcement
The first thing to consider when adding reinforcement into your design is to decide which material to use.
You have a few options:
Using Copper Wire
To use copper wire in the example of the butterfly, you would simply cut and foil your project as usual. Then you would tin (put a super thin coat of solder) along all the joints. Don’t build it up just yet because we want to bury the wire in the solder so that it isn’t visible. Just make sure that all the pieces are stuck together in their correct placement.
Then lay one end of the wire (that’s already been fluxed) onto the end point of the blue line shown in the diagram above, and drop a ball of solder. This should hold the tip of the wire in place while you move on to the next step.
Now you can bend the wire to mimic the shape of the seam between the top and bottom halves of the butterfly and tack in down as you go. Once the wire is in place, you can finish soldering the project as you normally would.
Ta da! You just reinforced your butterfly to prevent the hinge point bending and no one even knows there is a wire embedded right into the seam!
Pretty sneaky isn't it?
Using Restrip or Braided Reinforcement Wire
When using restrip or braided reinforcement, they're used in the same location on the butterfly design as the copper wire. Only, the addition of them to the project is handled differently.
In these cases, you cut and foil your pieces as normal but you wouldn’t tin the project. You would slip these materials (you only need to use one or the other, not both together) down between the pieces of glass and then solder right over top of them as if they weren’t even there.
The restrip is a sturdy copper strip and is quite stiff, so you may need pliers to help you bend it into the perfect shape. Surprisingly, it’s quite thin despite being difficult to bend by hand.
The braided wire is easier to bend into shape, and it’s almost as if you were running a length of wired ribbon down the middle - you can easily bend it with your fingers and it’s stiff enough to hold it’s shape.
Then you would solder your project as you would normally. The restrip and braided wire reinforcement will be concealed under the solder and prevent the hinge points from bending.
What About Large Panels?
Every project is different and requires different approaches for reinforcing hinge points.
If you’re dealing with a larger project, for example something that is 2 feet x 3 feet, then these methods may help, but depending on the design, each solution on its own may be insufficient to stabilize the hinges. So...there is no harm in using both solutions together.
Using reinforcement around a project in tandem with reinforcement within the design, will make certain that hinge points don’t bend.
The photo below shows a project that used zinc framing and restrip within the panel. See all those hinge points?
With these windows in a door that would constantly be opened and closed, and the windows being over 5 feet tall, sufficient reinforcement was an absolute must.
These windows were reinforced with restrip within the panels themselves to prevent them from bowing outward along the hinge points, framed in zinc and then fixed into the wooden door frames.
Be Ready For Hinge Points
If you've read the previous article, Hinge Points And How They Affect Your Stained Glass Art, along with this post you're reading now, you'll know how to:
- Identify hinge points.
- Change designs to eliminate them.
- How to reinforce hinge points.
- What to use as reinforcement.
Chances are that you have at least one project that has a weak spot caused by a hinge point.
Well, now you can fix it and move forward knowing how to address any new ones you come across in the future.
No more bendable projects for you!
Please Note: Since my readers are usually hobbyists, I didn't address rebar. Chances are you aren’t taking on full size church windows that require structural reinforcement which would include it. Structural reinforcement using rebar is a separate beast altogether and not one that I am prepared to address. This article is aimed at hinge points that hobbyists may encounter frequently in their projects.