Reinforcement for Stained Glass Hinge Points

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Reinforcement for Stained Glass Hinge Points

​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?

Red = Hinge, Blue = Reinforcement

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?

Red = Hinge, Blue = Reinforcement

You betcha!

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:

  1. We can’t really attach the reinforcement to the glass (and we’re not ​going to use glue to do this!)
  2. Who wants an extra line across the glass taking away from the beauty of the piece?

So how about the next arrangement? ​

Red = Hinge, Blue = Reinforcement

​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?

red= Hinge, Blue = Reinforcement

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 .

Red = Hinge Point, Blue = Reinforcement

​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

The application is as simple as making the frame for a panel or soldering wire or ball chain all the way around the edge of a piece.

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.

Red = Hinges, Blue = Reinforcement

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.

Red = Hinge Point

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…

Red = Hinge Point, Blue= Reinforcement

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, and framed in zinc to hold them steady before being ​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.

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About the Author

Samantha's a passionate creative with varied artistic interests which she loves to incorporate into her glasswork. Working in both stained glass and fused glass, her goal is to help you be creative and think outside the box while teaching skills to make glass crafting easier.

Samantha Calder

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  1. Help! Cannot download free soldering video. Accepts name and email then flips back to blog article.

    1. I’m sorry you’re having difficulties. You’ll receive the link to the video by email and I’ve checked to make sure your email was added to the list, and everything looks good on this end. You should receive it without issue. Keep and eye on your inbox and if you don’t see it there, maybe double check your spam or junk folder just in case.

    1. Hi Diane, Thanks for letting me know you’re experiencing difficulties too. I’ve checked everything on this end and it shows that the video was sent to your email right after you signed up. Did you by chance check your junk folder? I’d love to get to the bottom of this as I want it to be easy for everyone to access the video. If you wouldn’t mind letting me know, that would be wonderful.

  2. i wish i had been taught this or even a mention of it at the 2 $100 lessons i had and having been dealing with this problems for weeks and like you said feeling there was something wrong with the cleaning, foil and solder which i went out and bought more of because i thought it was something i had done. As a beginner i had only made sun catchers which did not have this problem, but when i started on a panel and it started bending as i had a LOT of straight lines i was about to give up after all the work of designing, cutting, picking pieces, foiling and then the bending, then after taking the old foil with solder off and trying again and of course failing – thank you for saving me – though i am not really confident in trying these solutions, i feel better about myself

    1. You’re not alone in your past frustrations, Helen! This happens to so many crafters, and I’m glad you found this blog post and know now that there was something else at play. Unfortunately, when we all first start out, there is just so much to learn about techniques and processes that hinge points are usually one of those things we learn about as we go.

  3. putting zinc around the door windows is redundant as the door moldings that hold the window in place will give the exact same perimeter support

    1. I understand where you’re coming from with support from the wood framing inside the door, however considering the size of these windows, that they are nothing but hinge points and the fact that they needed to be transported before being installed by the builders, they needed reinforcement to prevent damage to them before they made it into the door frames.

  4. Wow! I love your teaching style. I’ve been creating stained glass pieces for about five years now and have never been taught this! I’ve even stopped out of frustration. I really want to produce pieces that will last so I’ve been reinforcing each one with copper wire all.the.way.around!! I mainly make birds so that is a lot of work. Your explanation of hinges and how to reinforce them makes so much sense. I’ve been wasting soooooo much time!!!!! Thank you. Guess I better keep reading!!

    1. Thank you for your compliments, Penny! It was a delight to see. That’s so sad that you stopped creating out of frustration, unfortunately this happens often. 🙁 Sometimes the only (or best) solution is to put wire all the way around a piece, but it can be SO time consuming. Glad this article gave you some solutions and it sounds like you’re excited to get back to it. Good luck, and feel free to keep me updated.

  5. Thank you for this in-depth article on reinforcing hinge spots. Very good reading!

  6. My husband has a cross that has triangles/hinge points at the ends and they’re weak. He is afraid it’s all going to come apart. Is there a way I can reinforce them now and save it?

    1. Hello Laura, Something that is as delicate as what you’re describing might best be reinforced using wire embedded into the solder around the outer edges.

  7. These two posts about recognizing and reinforcing hinge points are great. Thorough and helpful. Thank you,! I’m trying to figure out how to reinforce a free form sun/mood piece (half sun and half moon) Should I consider the individual sun rays as hinges where they attach to the round sun face? You’ve got me thinking!

    1. That really would depend on the design. Since receiving your email with the photo, I would suggest the same method I use when I make large free form pieces. Bury wire into the solder along the whole outer edge. It’s much easier to lay down a length of wire tight around the irregular shaped edges than restrip, and will provide enough support for a piece this size. A 16 gauge copper or pre-tinned wire is all you should need. Fussing with zinc for only part of the project would be a lot more headache than using wire, and for me personally, I would find that with zinc on one half and not the other, it would create an unbalanced look…but that’s just a personal thing. 😉

  8. Thank you for this helpful information. Your illustrations help simplify my understanding of this topic. Since the doors in the photo do not have any straight lines going across, I am supposing the wire/restrip is supposed to be bent around the other smaller pieces and continued to the other side?

  9. Thank you so much for this! I did a little bit of stained glass about 20 years ago and am just starting back into it and never heard of hinge points! I have had some old projects crash and now I know why! Love all of the info you provide.

  10. Thank you for the really good instructional articles you provide. Are you using the Butterfly just as an example of a hinge point or do you recommend we strengthen small suncatchers as in your example. I am a novice at stain glass and am learning every day. Very very steep learning curve.

    Thanks, Ken

    1. Thank you, Ken. It really depends on the situation, for me. If I’m making something really small (just a couple of inches in size) I probably wouldn’t bother with reinforcing it. But once the piece gets around 4-5 inches large, I would use reinforcement. In my opinion it’s always better to reinforce than not, as it can be heartbreaking to have a piece hinge while washing it up right after soldering. Once the concepts of reinforcement are understood, how and where to reinforce become second nature. But you are absolutely right, there does seem to be a very steep learning curve with glass.

  11. Thanks so much Samantha – very informative for a newbie like me!

  12. These were two great articles on Hinge Points…something that was never taught to me correctly. The examples you included help clarify what you meant, Ironically, I have put off soldering my large project, worrying about how to reinforce it. Now I know and thanks!

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