When first diving into the world of copper foil, the styles and selection may be a bit intimidating, but I promise you, it won’t take long to feel comfortable about your choices.
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There are Two Main Choices to Consider
1. Backing Colour
Firstly, copper foil comes with different coloured backings. The adhesive side of the tape can be copper, black or silver. The purpose of this is to ensure a cohesive look to your project.
As we know, our solder starts silver. When our projects are first soldered, the solder remains silver however, we do have the choice to add patina. Patina is a specially formulated liquid that when it comes in contact with solder, a chemical reaction changes the colour. The two most common colours for patina for stained glass are black and copper.
Using patina gives you the choice of leaving the solder silver or tinting it black or copper. And this is precisely why there are three different coloured backings available for copper foil. Ideally, you’ll want to match the backing colour of the foil to the finished colour of the solder on every project.
This isn’t as important for projects with completely opaque glass, but transparent glass projects really benefit from this attention to detail.
The photo below shows the difference between what is visible with the transparent peach glass on the left and the copper backed foil on the opaque dusty-mauve. To make the peach appear properly finished, either a copper patina should be added to make the baking and the finish solder match or, a silver-backed foil should be used if the intention is to leave the finish silver.
Also, the poorly placed copper foil on the peach glass was done intentionally for this photo as it was a demonstration for another post which explains the importance of the placement of your copper foil. You can read that one here: Copper Foil Is The Foundation For Solder.
2. Foil Width
Copper foil comes in many widths:
5/32”, 3/16”, 7/32”, 5/16”, ¼”, ⅜”, ½”
Different widths are helpful depending on the nature of the glass. If the glass is thin, a narrower foil can be used. If the glass is a bit thicker or has some heavy texture, a wider foil might work better.
My personal preference which is also a commonly used width of foil is 7/32”. It provides a nice amount of coverage over the front and back of the glass to ensure the finished piece is solid and aesthetically, it gives a nice sized seam.
Feel free to experiment with whatever size you like. As long as the foil wraps around the glass and creates enough of a fold onto the front and back of the glass, the rest is left to personal preference.
Alternate Types of Foil
Beyond the basic everyday foils mentioned above, there are alternative foil options available. These are often used in your stained glass projects to enhance your work. New wave foil and sheet foil are two that come to mind.
New Wave Foil
New wave foil is a style of copper foil that is straight along one edge and the other edge is scalloped. Since solder will only stick to the copper and not the glass, this foil allows you to add details in your projects without needing to learn any fancy soldering techniques. Used sparingly and intentionally, new wave foil can add a beautiful flair to your designs.
Copper Foil Sheets
Another type of foil that can be used in your projects is sheet foil. Just as the name implies, this foil does not come on a roll. It is usually available in 12 inch by 12 inch pieces and is used to create imagery on top of the glass - a foil overlay. The foil I used for this purpose is 1.25 mm thick and made by Edco. It holds up really well to trimming with a craft knife and allows so much room for creativity and adding more details to pieces.
Learn How to Use Copper Foil Overlay
This Rose Key tutorial teaches how to use copper foil overlay techniques on the rose and the heart lock components of this detailed suncatcher design.
BONUS: Learn to reinforce projects by embedding wire around the whole piece with this tutorial as well!
Since there are many brands of copper foil available, you may be wondering what brands of foil work well. I’ve tried a few, and my personal favourite by a long shot is Edco.
Edco foil has great adhesion and is soft and flexible when wrapping it around the glass. This allows it to be placed and stretched as needed to lay flat on the glass with minimal to no tearing even on the tightest of inside curves.