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Stained Glass Patina Directions

By Linda Ehlers - August 1, 2016

My students are always asking me to remind them how to clean their project.  "Is it Windex or alcohol first?" they ask.  So I've decided to publish my patina directions, which also covers cleaning your stained glass read on for the answer.
   These instructions cover how to clean, store, and patina your stained glass copper foil or stained glass leaded projects.  If you are not going to patina, you can still follow the Windex, Alcohol & Polish instructions to clean your project.
   In order to apply patina, solder must be free of oxidation.  Oxidation is caused by light, heat, and humidity. This means that solder must be cleaned thoroughly and patina should be applied ASAP (within 1 week of soldering for copper patina and 2 weeks for black patina).  If patina is not applied immediately after soldering, your stained glass piece must be cleaned and stored properly.
Take the following steps once you finish soldering:
1. Clean solder at least twice with lots of Windex and paper towels.  This neutralizes the flux.  (Note:  Do NOT leave flux on overnight.)
2. Then clean with 91% isopropyl (skin antiseptic) alcohol and cotton balls. Use only one cotton ball at a time and make sure to scrub the solder joints as well as clean the glass.  The solder should look shiny.  (Note:  70% rubbing alcohol does not work as well, but greater than 91% is OK.)  The alcohol neutralizes the Windex that can corrode the solder, causing white crud build up on the solder.
3. If you don’t plan to patina right away, take the following steps:
a. Store the soldered stained glass piece in a dark, room temperature place (under a bed or in a closet) covered with a towel. Do NOT store longer than one week for copper patina, two weeks for black patina.  Do NOT store wrapped in newspaper.
b. Just before applying patina, repeat step #2.
c. Then follow the rest of the steps below.
4. Cover your workbench with enough newspaper so that the patina will not seep through to the workbench.  If you are using copper patina, also cover the newspaper with white paper and patina on the white paper.  The copper patina touching the newspaper print can darken the patina.
5. Wear old clothes or protect your clothes. Patina can put holes in your clothing.
6. Put on disposable rubber gloves and safety glasses.  Copper patina can cause liver damage if it gets into your blood stream, and the selenium in black patina is poisonous if absorbed through your skin.
7. Ventilate room. Copper patina fumes can cause possible copper poisoning.
8. Apply patina to the solder with a cotton balls, scrubbing in patina.  Once the cotton ball you are using no longer turns the solder the patina color, throw it out and use a new cotton ball.  Do not double dip the dirty cotton ball into the patina bottle, because it can contaminate the whole bottle and make it unusable.
9. Wipe off excess patina with paper towels.
10. Clean off patina with 91% alcohol and cotton balls.
11. Clean & shine the entire project with Clarity Stained Glass Finishing Compound (polish).  Glass finishing compound is similar to car polish and is made with carnauba wax. This polish not only cleans and shines the glass but will coat the solder and help prevent corrosion.   Shake the glass finishing compound in its bottle (2 minutes for a new bottle, and 10 seconds after it’s been opened).  Pour onto the glass. It should come out of the bottle a milky white color.  If it comes out lumpy looking like soured milk, then shake it some more.  Then use two soft cloths or towels (not paper towels) to clean the glass.  Using the first towel, spread the polish so it covers everything (glass and solder seams).  Then use the second cleaner/dryer towel in a fast light rubbing motion to buff the glass.  Buff in different directions (up and down, side to side, and in circles) to clean the polish off the glass.  Rotate the cloth so that you are always using a clean/dry section of the cloth.  Note that if you rub slowly and try to scrub the finishing compound, it will make streaks that will take more time and work to clean off the glass.  Also, do NOT let the polish dry onto the glass before cleaning it off.
12. If you have bevels in your project, you’ll need to spend a little extra time cleaning the front outside of each bevel (where the bevel is angled and meets the solder).  The polish can get stuck in these areas.  Put your second dryer towel over a sharpened dowel or pencil/pen point and rub it back and forth in these joints to get the polish off.
13. Hold your project up to natural light to see if there are any areas that still have polish left on them, and wipe those areas with your clean/dry cloth.  I also use a flat head X-Acto knife at this point to remove any unwanted solder.
14. Dispose of dirty cotton balls, paper towels, newspaper, and rubber gloves.  (If doing this in stained glass class, dispose of these materials in the patina trash bucket.) Do not attempt to reuse these items, because they can cause holes to items they come in contact with, and can rust tools you store with the dirty items.  The dirty rubber gloves will eventually get holes in them from the patina, and if you then try and reuse them, you can get patina on your skin.  So it is best just to throw those out.  You should dispose of these items in a closed container, so that the patina fumes don’t contaminate the air.   You can wash and reuse the soft cloths/towels you used to put on the finishing compound.
NOTE:  Patina is very dangerous. Follow the directions on the patina bottle if patina gets on your skin, or in your eyes.
***Also note that this procedure does not work well for copper patina after using Classic 100 Gel Flux.
W index
A lcohol
P atina
A lcohol
P olish