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.
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.
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.
Learn to reinforce your hinge points in this article: Reinforce Hinge Points in Stained Glass