Stained Glass Hinge Points

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Hinge Points and How They Affect Your Stained Glass Art

I’ve been seeing a lot of chatter lately about hinge points.

Far too often people don’t understand what they are, how to avoid them, or even how to reinforce them. Sadly, this sometimes includes people who are offering advice (eek!)

So let’s take a moment to identify what a hinge point is.

What is a Hinge Point​?

Once you’ve made plenty of free form suncatchers of various shapes and designs, you’ll probably be able to notice and figure out what a hinge point is, even if you couldn’t name it as such.

Let’s run through the typical scenario…

You took the time to make sure you had a good fit between your pieces, and you made certain that your foil was adhered really well. You even built up your solder seams to make sure there was enough metal to make everything super strong.

Then, when you were cleaning or polishing the piece, you noticed one section that would flex or bend.

What?

How did that happen?

Well, you see...you’ve discovered a hinge point!

Anywhere there is a straight, or fairly straight line from one edge of the piece to another, you have a hinge point. Because of the straight line, if any pressure is added to the front or back of the piece, it’s going to bend right along that seam.

Think of it as a door that swings open. With a straight line in your stained glass piece, the finished piece will “hinge” or swing open like a door. (Okay, that may seem a little dramatic, but you get the idea.) It will become loose and swing more and more as time goes on.

It doesn’t matter how well you cleaned the glass before foiling and it doesn’t mean you got a bad batch of foil and it’s not adhering well.

It’s simply, that structurally speaking, there is a weak point in the design.

Naturally, the weakest point is where things will begin to move and if the hinge bends far enough, the foil will break and the piece will separate entirely from the rest of the panel or suncatcher.

Here are some sample drawings to demonstrate ​hinge points.

A Straight Seam From One Edge to Another = Hinge Point

​How Are Hinges Addressed?

Well, you have 2 choices:

    1) Change the design

    2) Reinforce the piece

Ideally you’ll want to identify possible hinge points BEFORE you make a piece. This way you can factor in reinforcement or adapt the design before you even cut any glass.

​Changing the Design

Hinge points can (and should) be taken into consideration when creating a design. Now just because you have a hinge point, it doesn’t mean that the design needs to be re-done from the beginning.

Sometimes you can modify it to make it more stable.

Let’s use the following design as an example.

Notice in the image on the left how there is a hinge point right across the middle of this design? It’s right where the water and skyline meet.

If we alter the design by adding an additional element, like the boat in the one of the right, then we can break up that horizontal line and completely eliminate the hinge point altogether.

​Avoid Disappointment!

This should give you an idea of how to start identifying possible hinge points in your work and avoiding the disappointment of having a piece become unstable right after you’ve made it.

Sometimes tweaking the design is all you need.

But what if you love the design the way it is? What if you don’t want to change it?

I mentioned above, that there is an alternative to changing the design, and that is to reinforce the piece. This is an option for panels as well as suncatchers and it really isn’t hard to do.

So, next time, we’ll get into the nitty gritty of how to reinforce hinge points in your projects.

Recognize hinge points in your stained glass work and how to correct them BEFORE they become a problem.

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Leave a Reply 12 comments

Vilma Bouchard - April 19, 2018 Reply

Thank you, this helped me figure out what is wrong with a suncatcher I made of leaves. It has a huge hinge point.
Just have to wait for the next set of instructions to know how to correctly correct the problem.

    Samantha Calder - April 19, 2018 Reply

    I’m glad this helped to pin-point the problem for you. The next post I write will show you clearly how to remedy it with reinforcement and I’m sure you’ll be happy with how sturdy you can make it 😉

      Sylvie Mélançon - April 20, 2018 Reply

      I can not wait to learn how to reinforce.
      Merci pour ces beaux tutoriels, j’adore.

        Samantha Calder - April 20, 2018 Reply

        C’est mon plaisir.

Tara - April 19, 2018 Reply

Thank you!

Karen Christ - April 20, 2018 Reply

I have found your emails seem to always be aimed at me. Finally a name for a problem I fight a lot. The sailboat picture is great and offers a visual solution. So, back to the drawing board and a few redesign fixes. Thank you, thank you.

    Samantha Calder - April 20, 2018 Reply

    It’s my pleasure Karen. It’s great to hear that you can totally relate to what what I share and I’m so glad the drawings provided the clarity you needed to find the problems you’ve been experiencing.

Tania Pluzes - April 20, 2018 Reply

Looking forward to next installation

Paula - April 21, 2018 Reply

Can’t wait for the next step

    Samantha Calder - April 21, 2018 Reply

    Thank you for your interest in the article, Paula. The very next article I write will explain the solution. 🙂

Mary Jo Young - April 28, 2018 Reply

Well, part of my problem has been solved!

    Samantha Calder - April 28, 2018 Reply

    Great! Identifying what’s happening is key to the next step 🙂

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