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Leadlighting Tutorial Lesson 2: How to make a leadlight. Get started with a simple clear glass leadlight. Design choice.

Whenever you learn something new or start a hobby, it's always easier if you start with the simple stuff first - if you want to learn to swim, first you get in the pool but you get in at the shallow end, not at the deep end - if you want to learn to fly, you don't go solo for your first flight.................!

By making a simple, small leadlight in clear glass that will cost no more than a few dollars, you will learn everything you need to know to give you the confidence to continue.

Making a leadlight is a process that is done step by step - you move on to the next step only when you have completed the step you are working on. To most people this would be logical but you would be surprised how often I have seen people start assembly before they have finished cutting, even soldering before finishing both these steps.

Description of lead profiles.

Lead is produced by different companies, I use Castlead because it's easier to remember the actual size of the lead rather than a catalogue number.

The Castlead size is the distance across the face. 3.1 mm is the smallest face, 25 mm. is the largest face. All have 1 mm. hearts. (There is a slight variation but it is given as 1 mm for simplicity.) The channel where the glass sits varies in width as well. (I will never understand why.)

Lead profile chart: click for a clearer view.



Never use kinked or twisted lead. Don’t try to straighten the lead by stretching it, this alters the molecular structure and severely weakens the lead. There are some who will say that stretching lead makes it stronger – well I’d like to know how altering the molecular structure makes it stronger! By altering the molecular structure when you stretch it, microscopic fractures occur because you are pulling it apart, even just a little causes damage to the lead structure. Straighten with your hands on the bench or run a fid along the channel. (See photo at right.) If it can’t be straightened sufficiently, discard part or all. Make sure when you buy it that it is already straight, don't buy it if it's kinked or twisted. Also when you are transporting it home, try to keep it straight and don't crush it with other items. If you ask your supplier for an empty lead box I'm sure they will give you one and you can store your lead in that. By taking proper care of your lead in the first instance will ensure you never need to stretch it to straighten it.

A device for stretching lead can actually be bought, I don't have one and I don't advise buying something that isn't needed.

Note: Do not use a U lead on the outside of the leadlight as the largest width for these leads is 6 mm. and this generally would be covered by the beading when set into a frame.

U leads are used for other things – a panel hanging in a window. Using a H lead, there are 3 advantages.

1. It is a stronger lead than a U lead.

2. Aesthetically it is pleasing to see a 3 mm. lead margin around the frame, rather than glass disappearing into wood.

3. If you happen to make it slightly oversize, it can be trimmed to fit with a hand plane as lead planes very easily, but it is impossible with a U lead. If by some reason you have made it excessively oversize, usually through poor measuring, you can plane it right down to the heart, but after that you'll need a hammer and chisel to remove some wood from the frame. But it should never have got to this!

The very first process, after measuring to determine the actual size of the leadlight, is to draw the design for the leadlight which is a building plan containing all the relevant information pertaining to its' construction written upon it and it has a name:


A full size working pattern, or cut line drawing, on which the glass pieces are cut and later, assembled on.

GLAZING SIZE: (Or simply the fitting size.)

Is written on the bottom of the cartoon so that you can confirm the size before soldering, this is your last chance if it needs altering. Don't have it written only in your notebook, write it in plain sight on your cartoon, if it's written somewhere else, chances are you won't look it up when you need it most. It is written in millimetres only, never centre metres, (in some instances, centre metres can be confusing) and the HEIGHT is always the first measurement, which is a standard building practice. Reason being, suppose you were asked to make a leadlight and they supplied you with the measurements - 900 x 950 mm. But the height was really 950 mm and if you've assumed they gave you the sizes correctly with the height as the first measurement, it won't fit the way it's supposed to will it? Never trust another's measurements, the responsibility for this part of the operation lies with you. How to determine the size is covered in lesson 5.

(In some parts of the world, feet and inches are still used for measurements so the measurements given in these lessons being in millimetres, will need to be converted to your application of feet and inches.)

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So to begin, and there are other methods to do the following, but this is the easiest and best way.

Whatever the glazing size is, this is the first thing (or shape) that is drawn on the cartoon and it is ALWAYS in pencil only. It is called the outside line and if this line was in black ink you could easily inadvertently cut to this line, making the outside pieces too big. This outside line represents the external physical dimensions of the leadlight, which is the glazing size. (See exercise cartoon diagram further down.)

When using a 12.4 mm H lead on the perimeter of the leadlight; come in 6.5 mm from the outside line on each side for the cut line. The cut line is the second thing that is drawn on the cartoon. This line represents the heart of the outside lead where the glass fits to and is in black ink. (See also cartoon below and in Lesson 5.) Be aware that the pencil line for the outside line and the ink line for the cut line are two different things. The design is drawn in next - in pencil first. A 12.4 mm H lead is the most common lead used on the outside or perimeter of the leadlight in the more modern style of houses, which is a large flat lead having the appearance of the one in the diagram immediately below and also for the reasons mentioned above.

(Why do we come in 6.5 mm as mentioned and not 6 mm? Using a 12.4 H lead on the perimeter, let's forget the .4 for the moment and call it 12 mm. If we came in only 6 mm from the outside line for the cut line, that puts it in the middle of the heart - we have to add on that .5 mm (half the heart thickness) or we'll cut the glass a fraction too big. (In reality, using a 12.4 it is really 6.7 in from the pencil line for the cut line, and it's only .2 the difference, so 6.5 is easier to measure than 6.7.) If using a 10 mm H lead on the perimeter, we come in 5.5 mm for the cut line for the same reason. Timber windows usually have only two rebate sizes, hence the reason for the two outside leads described and it's the rebate size that determines which outside lead to use. More about this in Lesson 5.) Those in countries other than Australia, rebate sizes may differ as well as outside lead sizes - you will need to determine the size of the rebate to know what size lead to use.

A is the width across the face of the lead. B is the width of the channel. C is the width of the heart.

A is the width across the face of the lead. B is the width of the channel. C is the width of the heart.

Refer to diagram above and imagine a vertical center-line in the middle of the heart for a clearer understanding. Let's picture this diagram as the outside lead and the glass is going in the channel on the right hand side, so the measurement from the outside of the lead on the left hand side to where the glass fits to is .5 mm past the center-line in the heart. This should explain why 6.5 or 5.5 mm is the measurement or distance for the cut line (drawn on the cartoon) from the outside line, depending on which outside lead is being used.

The cut line also represents the design and surrounds the shape of each piece of glass that is contained in the leadlight and it is so important that this cut line is a certain size - see further down about using the right size pen.

Follow these directions for windows in a wooden frame, as well as a window in an aluminium frame, but more about aluminium windows in lessons 3 & 5.

Material for the cartoon and making a simple light box:

If using paper, try to get paper that is slightly heavier than newsprint, which is cheap but of a very low grade. Sometimes it's difficult to see the cartoon line if you have to cut some very dark coloured glass and a light box will illuminate the line using the right material. Never use cardboard because the light won't penetrate through cardboard. You'll find you only need the light box for the darker glasses. A simple way to make a light box is with two pieces of 4 x 2 timber, (100 x 50 mm) a square of 6 mm clear glass 600 x 500 on top and a lead light under with a 100-watt globe. A good idea but not totally necessary, if you have a drill with a sanding disc and with a heavy grade sandpaper, scour one side of the glass which helps to diffuse or disperse the light. You can also use some suitable clear textured glass such as Spotswood or even better, Satin Lite - that will do the trick, which is the glass that is normally in bathroom windows and can be bought in 6 mm thickness. Don't use Perspex as it will bend. The advantage of this simple structure for a light box is that it can easily be stored away so that it doesn't take up bench space.

Even with a light box some glasses can be so dense it’s almost impossible to see through them on the cartoon. Black glass, mirror, as well as some opals are impossible to see through. Cut a clear glass template as if it was going to be used in the job and when you are satisfied with it, trace around it with a fine marking pen and cut ON the line, you don’t want this piece to be smaller than the template. (Don't try to make a paper template, it's neither successful or accurate - it's much simpler and quicker to cut a clear glass template.) If you were making a mirror, making clear glass templates means you have them forever if you had to make another.

Keep your cartoon material 50-100 mm larger all round than the leadlight you are making, as a buffer against wear and tear. Draw the cartoon on one sheet, rather than two or three sheets stuck together, it’s not successful, nor professional. The very best material is a Mylar film which draughtsmen use and most art supply shops sell it or can get it for you. (Drafting film UF 2003 film, 75 microns. You can get it either on a roll or in sheet form.) It is very strong and not prone to swelling and shrinking as paper is with changes in the weather. You need to understand that paper will expand on absorbing moisture from the air when it's cool or wet and will shrink on expelling moisture when it's hot or dry. Some of the lower grades of paper can expand or shrink as much as 5 mm, which is a disaster when you are making a leadlight to fit with close tolerances. I will not use paper for this reason.

I remember a student was making a leadlight in her garage and her cartoon was of a low grade paper and the cartoon was on the bench ready for assembly as she had already cut the glass. That night there was heavy rain and there was a leak in the roof above her cartoon, which was destroyed. As you can imagine she was quite upset when she rang me and as it wasn't the first leadlight she had made, I suggested to forget the cartoon and trust her cutting, just assemble without it, but to keep it handy to refer to for direction and the lead sizes. Fortunately, all went well!

Leadlight Books:

For some people it can be agonising drawing the cartoon but most have the ability to copy and there are many different designs in leadlight books. Most leadlight shops carry a range of books that you can use and they are not very expensive. Leadlight books in leadlight shops start at around $20 - again I would recommend Amazon, they have a good selection and much cheaper than buying here, and their prices are delivered to your door. Libraries usually have a selection of design books, if they haven't got any on the shelf they can borrow them from other libraries for you. If you Google leadlight photos or free stained glass patterns or modern stained glass or traditional stained glass and similar sites on the net you may find some inspiration. Some of the things you find can be amazing but just remember, don't be too ambitious for your first project. My advice for your first project is to make a mirror, there are many very good designs for mirrors that you will like. If you feel an oval one is a little too much for a first project, there are equally good square or rectangular designs that would suit, this is what I did for my first project and it is still hanging on a wall in our home. Then I tackled the front door with confidence. The advantage of making a mirror is the anxiety of 'will it fit' is removed if you were to make a panel for a window or door - and believe me, no matter how long you make leadlights for, that anxiety will always be there in the back of your mind until after you install it! (There is more information on mirrors in Lesson 6.)

If you find something in a book of designs you will need to scale them up to fit your application and if you feel you can’t do this there are many photocopying shops everywhere. You take your design and give them the size you want it expanded to and they can do it for you and it's not too expensive. Some shops only have the ability to enlarge by multiplication, i.e. the drawing exactly enlarged. What this means is you may have to decide whether to have it the height you want and either add or subtract to the width or vice versa. However there are many shops that have the equipment to copy and expand a design from a certain size to a different finished size in both dimensions - height and width. You tell them the height and width you want and the machine does it for you. Bear in mind there will be some distortion to the design – imagine enlarging a square into a rectangle and vice versa, it will change the appearance somewhat. It works best when you enlarge an almost similar shape.

One more thing, the designs you see in most leadlight books, the cartoon cut line is almost the right size. Expanding the design 6 or 7 times does the same thing to the cut line making it way too large. They’ll ask what material you want to have it expanded on, tell them paper; you don’t need the expensive stuff. You will then need to trace the design to your cartoon material with the right pen mentioned below.

When buying glass from your supplier, always take your cartoon with you. That way you don't make mistakes by estimating your needs and not buying too much, nor too little. Wherever you buy your supplies, the owner of the shop should be able to help you in making your decisions and give you advice so don't be afraid to ask for help first before you buy. If the owner of the shop is not interested in giving you help, shop somewhere else until you find someone who will give you help. If they want your business and return custom, they should be only too glad to help you.

Having been on both sides of the fence, I can understand why some shop owners are reluctant to help, simply because it's not like going to the super-market where you already know what you want and you're in and out in a moment, but selecting glass is decisions, decisions, there are so many choices and it's time consuming. The shop owner, unless he knows you, and he will be summing you up, may be thinking I'm a little rushed and behind time right now and you're probably only going to spend $10 and I'm going to use up a couple of hours helping you - not much in it for me. So sometimes a little diplomacy on both sides will help this situation. If you say to him, I can see that you're busy, can I just browse for a while and look at your glass to get some ideas for what I'm making and then perhaps you could help me - I'll take up the least of your time when you come to help me. I'm sure, unless he is so busy that he simply hasn't the time today, he may apologise and ask if you could come back tomorrow or another time, or he will happily agree to your request.


The cut line is in black ink, NO wider than .8 mm, NO less than .6 mm, .7 mm is perfect.

THIS IS SO IMPORTANT. As the heart of each piece of lead is approx. 1 mm thick, if you used a pen with a thicker tip than what is suggested you will cut the glass way too small.

I have seen some cartoons when people have bought glass from me, an Artline 70 texta was used to draw the cut line in their cartoons, which has a thick, pointed tip and draws a line between 2 and 3 mm thick and I knew instantly the problems this was going to cause. So how to address what seems a common problem, knowing that redrawing or tracing the design again with the right size pen was needed. After about half an hour of careful and tactful explanation as to the reason why the pen they were using wouldn't work, I gained their trust and return business. I'm only hoping to gain your confidence. If the person teaching you is telling you to use an Artline 70 or similar pen, don't put your hand up and say, but I've read . . . , please just ignore it and save yourself the heartache and think about what you're going to read next. (This will all fall into place as you read on for the next four paragraphs, just bear with me for the moment.)

Make sure you buy a marking pen that has a parallel tip of the sizes mentioned above so it remains constant; a pointed tip gets thicker as it wears down making it absolutely useless. (Ignore the photo below of the pen with a .5 mm tip, I've included it just so you can see the difference in the tips of the 2 pens.) The Artline Drawing System makes parallel tip marking pens, most newsagents or art supply shops sell them. Finepoint is another.


When cutting, cut just inside the line on the cartoon of the piece being cut, (which is the piece you want) meaning as close as possible, but do not cut on the line. An easy method is as per diagram below. By using the correct pen and cutting the glass a fraction off the line, when leading up the glass pieces will fit correctly. After cutting the shape, check it by placing it on the cartoon, it must be just slightly smaller all round. (No more than .5 mm all round in total.) If the glass is cut too small it can cause problems during assembly, but there is a simple remedy for this problem in Lesson 3.



By lining up the inside edge of the wheel housing on the very edge of the cartoon line, (as in the diagram above) the point of the wheel will be the correct distance away from the cartoon line. As a help to achieve this method, paint the face of the cutter WHITE and it will be so much easier. The black cartoon line and the dull silver/grey metal of the cutter are very close in colour, by painting the cutter white, your accuracy will greatly improve. (See photo of my glass cutter Lesson 1.)

If anyone is considering buying the Mac-Innes glass cutter as discussed in Lesson 1, you can still paint the face of this cutter white, as mentioned above.

Knowing the hearts of the lead are approx. 1 mm thick, you could use a 1 mm thick pen to draw the cartoon and cut on the edge of the cartoon line, but trying to line up the point of the wheel to cut on the edge of the line and keep it there is not as easy as it sounds. By using the method described you will find it so much easier to line up the edge of the wheel housing on the edge of the line, rather than trying to cut on the edge of the line. By using a black pen with a smaller tip than the thickness of the lead heart, I'm sure you can now understand the reason why you cut a fraction OFF the cartoon line.

(Not knowing the heart sizes of various leads in different countries, although I'm sure these sizes would be very close to a standard size, you may need to determine the heart sizes of leads in your country and make allowances as to which size pen to draw the cut line. Once you know the heart size, it's just a matter of selecting the right pen for the job, i.e. a pen that draws a line about 2/3 - 3/4 the size of the heart.)

There is another method of cutting glass from a cartoon, which involves making two cartoons. One is kept for assembly; the other is a carbon copy of the original and is used to cut around each individual shape with pattern shears then using these shapes to trace around onto the glass or even gluing it to the glass before it is cut. (If you adopt this method - and I strongly suggest that you don't, you have to be absolutely sure of the design as any mistakes in the design will be transferred to your carbon copy.) In my opinion it is a total waste of extra time and offers no advantage. I'm surprised to find some are still being taught this way and if you have been taught to use this time wasting method, give it the boot - the method I've suggested is far quicker and so much easier. I guarantee you won't go back!

There are some who still use this antiquated method for copper foil projects, which again is not necessary. It really comes down to accurate glass cutting in every instance and cutting around a paper template does not ensure that. All it does is waste time. I understand that a lot of copper foil projects use opals, which in some cases are very dense, making it difficult to see the cartoon line even with a good light box. A simple fix for this problem is to cut a clear glass template and when you are satisfied with it, trace around it and cut on the line. Cutting a clear glass template is a lot faster and more accurate than using paper templates. It's only the really dense opals that will need a glass template, most you can still see the line over a good light box.

Further steps:

Draw your cartoon line in pencil first and when satisfied, ink it in with the correct pen.

After drawing your cartoon, and numbering each piece, (with your black pen) include the lead sizes, glass colours etc for every piece of glass and lead size. Never commit these things to memory and include anything else that is relevant. You may not realise the importance of this until you make a mistake! Most traditional work is usually a mirror image down the centre line, and if you were using a 7.7 lead to go around a certain part on one half, the same size lead should also be used for the same line on the other half. It may surprise you but I have seen where a 4.6 was used on one side instead of a 7.7 on both sides by a lazy professional, (lazy in the sense that it was committed to memory) so don't think this mistake can't happen to you. I've also seen wrong coloured glass and texture in this same instance, which obviously wasn't picked up during assembly, or even worse, they just didn't care. Some other mistakes I've quite often seen is leadlights installed wrong way round, i.e. texture on the outside when it should be on the inside, but the most surprising mistake I've seen and I only ever saw it once, was a leadlight in a front door panel installed upside down! I was called to do a repair on the panel in the sidelight next to it and I didn't notice it at first, but it eventually dawned on me and I said to the house owner, do you know this panel is upside down? He was quite surprised but what surprised me even more was after I offered to put it right for him at no charge, he said I've been looking at it this way for 40 odd years, there's no point in changing it now. Even after I said it will be like having a new panel, he was happy the way it was. Oh well...! I don't expect this to happen to you but it is a lesson for all of us.


The cartoon shown below is an easy exercise consisting of three straight lines at angles and two curved lines. (Don't draw the curved lines too much like a true S shape for your first panel - draw them to look like a very 'stretched out' S as in the diagram.) This simple panel is what all my students make as their first exercise and I strongly urge anyone new to leadlighting reading these pages, to make this before tackling anything more complex. (Remember you're getting in the pool at the shallow end.) There will be some who will think this is kid's stuff, but I promise you there will be enough drama in it to make you glad you did it! Use clear glass as it is cheap and it is also the softest glass to cut before spending money on stained glass. It will give you the confidence to continue, you will also learn to assemble and solder on this panel and it makes a nice frame to hang on a wall to put photos in. Cut photos a little larger than the shape after you solder it. Don’t putty, but do polish it for a nice effect. Some students even made 2 or 3, friends and family wanted one as well!

200 x 400mm. (Glazing size.)

200 x 400mm. (Glazing size.)

After cutting the glass – say piece No.1, number the glass you've cut correspondingly and place a tick next to the number on the cartoon with a red Artline70 texta. This is so you won’t cut the same piece twice, but there can be times when you may be making more than one leadlight from the same cartoon. In this instance you would put a second, or more ticks for however many you may be making on that number. I remember a time when I had to make 8 new leadlights of the same design in a church that had suffered hail damage to all their windows. In this case there had to be 8 ticks next to every number on the cartoon - I seemed to be cutting forever!

(Just a few words of caution: if there are 2 or 3, or more leadlights to be made using the same design, make sure that you ascertain that the frames are all the same size - you may have to alter one or some of the finished sizes of your leadlights by adding or subtracting to the design so that they will ALL fit as they should.)

Continue cutting until all the pieces have been cut, numbered and the cartoon ticked. When finished, go over the cartoon and carefully check that all numbers have been ticked – using a red texta it’s easier to spot a missed piece. It is very annoying during assembly to find you have missed cutting a piece because you have to partly disassemble to put a piece of glass on the cartoon to cut the piece you've missed. We are all human and this has happened to me too.

It's a lot easier if you store your cut pieces in a foam box as you cut them until you are ready for assembly. That way they are all together in one place and you won't lose any. You can usually get a foam box free from the vegetable section of your supermarket. Some people like to lay the pieces out on a board to see what the finished article will look like - I don't advise that as you need extra space and they can get broken or lost. The only advantage in doing this, is that you can see what a particular colour or texture will look like before assembly, but you should be able to determine this during the cutting.

There are two methods of cutting from a large sheet to minimise wastage.

Range cutting technique:

Which is cutting a strip from one end and using this strip to cut from. You can reduce this strip even further by cutting it slightly larger than the piece being cut. (See the smallest piece in the photo.) Try to have this strip 10-15 mm wider all round on curved shapes.


Cut and leave technique:

The harder and riskier of the two methods and is generally used when cutting background shapes, when textures or patterns, or opal type colours need to flow uninterrupted from one piece to the next. Suppose you had a design that has two or more pieces of one type of opal glass side by side. By combining the range cutting technique first up to remove these pieces from a large sheet lessens the risk of breakage to the full sheet. Now you have just enough glass to cut however many pieces are needed. By separating one piece on the cut line that divides the shapes, you now have two pieces of glass that fit as you want them; it only remains to complete the cutting of each piece.


If using a textured glass for the background and the texture is directional, decide whether to have it vertical or horizontal (the latter usually preferred) and be careful to keep it all the same way, or it will be noticed. (Except in modern designs where it is a nice effect.) Mark the cartoon with a double ended arrow to alert you.

Waterglass is a particularly directional glass and even some Cathedral glasses, which are regarded as non - directional, but is slightly directional if you mix it up.

As you will use many different glass types in your leadlight, at all times cut the largest piece of one particular glass first. Reason is if you are unsuccessful in cutting the largest piece, you can use the rejected piece to cut a smaller of the same, so it is not altogether wasted.


After drawing your cartoon in pencil first, pin it up and stand back and have a good look at it. If you feel that it may be too lead dominant by reasons of complexity, consider what lines could be deleted or changed. It is surprising to see how many lines can be deleted and still retain the theme. More often than not it is usually improved. Only when you are completely satisfied that nothing more could be done to improve it, then it can be inked in. As mentioned before, many people can agonise over drawing the cartoon, there are many free learn to draw sites on the net, just Google Free Drawing Tutorials and there are lots of places where you can learn to draw free which may be a help.

If the design is traditional, it is usually symmetrical - or a mirror image on the centre line so that the design looks the same when viewed from both sides, Art Nouveau being an exception. But remember that if you are making a modern design, or a design that depicts a picture as in a land or seascape and you want it to appear a certain way or direction when viewed from inside, you must draw the cartoon in reverse if you are using paper, so that when you install it, it will appear the way you want it to. (This is so the glass texture is on the inside – more about that later.) Using draughtsman type material as mentioned above under cartoon material, will eliminate this sometimes awkward process, simply draw it as you want to “see” it after you install it, then number, cut and assemble on the reverse side. This is the easiest way to ensure the texture ends up on the inside. (*See also lesson 5.)

A further hint for drawing symmetrical designs accurately is first to draw a centre line and then draw half the design in pencil first on one side of the centre line and when you are happy with it, ink that half in. Next fold it in half on the centre line and if you are using draughtsman material, you will be able to see the line through it to trace, but if it's paper you may need to use a light box to see the line. Just make sure to fold it the right way i.e. the drawn side down, if you fold it the wrong way you end up with one half drawn on one side and the other half drawn on the wrong side. This is an easy mistake to do so just be aware when you make the fold. After completing the design on one half, then un-fold it and ink in the remaining half.

NOTE: If you have a front entry with sidelights on either side of the door, there are certain things you need to remember, particularly with designs that are not mirror images within themselves. Make sure that when you make the second sidelight, you reverse the cartoon and cut on the other side, so that when you install them the texture in BOTH sidelights will be on the inside because the design is reversed on each side.) Forgetting to reverse the cartoon and cut on the other side will mean one will have the texture on the inside, the other will have the texture on the outside and maybe no-one will notice this, but you will - every time you look at it. (It isn't necessary to do this IF the design in each panel is a mirror image in itself.) The last photo shown on the right is an example where the two sidelight panels are not a mirror image in themselves, i.e. they are not symmetrical in themselves on the centre line.

The same thing applies to a door that has 2 panels in it. Nothing looks worse than two leadlights of the same design, but each one NOT of a mirror image in themselves, side by side and looking identical when they would look much better as a mirror image in the door if you had reversed the cartoon. (Again in this instance it isn't necessary to reverse the cartoon if the design in each panel is a mirror image in themselves.) This last paragraph may seem a little confusing, you may need to read it through a few times to get your mind around it. If you have a look at the 5th leadlight photo down from the top in this lesson, which is an Art Nouveau style, you will have a better understanding of what I'm saying. In that instance there are 4 leadlights, but only 2 cartoons were needed. Perhaps an easier way to explain this paragraph is in the same photo, imagine there is only the two centre leadlights. They are a mirror image aren't they. But if you turned one around they are then identical and if you wanted them identical you would have made them both on one side of the cartoon, which means the textures in both are the same, or the same on both sides. But because we want them to be a mirror image in the door which would look so much better, we must reverse the cartoon so that when installed, both have the texture on one side.

This instance doesn't just apply to Art Nouveau designs only, if you look at the 6th photo from the bottom in Lesson 1, there is a photo of leaves in a narrow panel. If that panel was in a door that had two openings and you were making two leadlights of this same design, I think you would agree that they would look better as a mirror image in the door rather than identically side by side.


Designs for leadlights basically fall under 3 categories, traditional, modern and contemporary with sub-categories under each of those. Traditional is broken down into time era's, Victorian, Edwardian, Art Nouveau, Art Deco, etc. Victorian is usually very geometric in design and mostly all colour. Edwardian introduced a lot of clears into the design and is a softer style away from geometric and is probably what most would call traditional today. Art Nouveau was only for a short period in history just before Art Deco and the designs were usually flowery with sinuous curved lines in long whiplashes. Art Deco was more geometric in style but with more clear textures and little colour. Modern designs can encompass squares, rectangles, triangles, circles, straight lines and curved lines that depict a certain theme or nothing at all. Good artistic ability is very handy in designing these modern styles and they can look spectacular in the right place. Again I will stress that good design content is an absolute MUST for modern work to captivate and hold the interest of those viewing it. Contemporary works embrace so many different designs from country scenes, birds, sailing boats and the like, being too numerous to list.

In some of the older houses sometimes a particular design was carried throughout the house and from room to room. You may have a similar situation where there are windows of identical size in 2 or more separate rooms. It's a good idea when the design is repeated throughout the house, rather than making them all the same colour, change the colours in each window. By changing the colours completely in each leadlight, it's not so repetitive and makes you look twice to see what changes were made and creates more interest - so much so that they look like completely different leadlights.

As mentioned in a response to a comment in Lesson 1, once there was only traditional works, but modern abstract designs have now evolved to rival the popularity of the traditional designs and I believe, with the modern style of houses being built today, the modern abstract design that has good design content will eventually be the dominant theme. We are on the verge of seeing what is possible with modern work, it's just a matter of time and we will all be astounded with what is coming. Google 'starburst infinity' and have a look at a very impressive leadlight - this is just the beginning of an exciting era. The starburst isn't all that technically difficult but it has many pieces, which adds to complexity as well as time.

If you are new to leadlighting and looking at leadlight designs, don't be too quick to jump in with the first design that takes your fancy, particularly modern designs, because as you become more familiar with leadlighting, your appreciation of what is good design will grow as well. What may seem fantastic now may be so-so in a few weeks or a month, so give yourself a little time to acquire the appreciation so that you are happy with your final choice.

For the best effect, try to choose a design that suits or compliments your home. Perhaps your surroundings can help you decide - do you live in a rural area, leafy with birds, by the sea or town or city? There are so many things that can influence your ideas. Traditional and contemporary designs can work in any home, but modern work is more suited to a modern style home, it doesn't sit to well in an older heritage style home.

In drawing a leadlight design, always have a regard for glass limitations, knowing what is possible and impossible to cut makes life easier, but if you have a grinder most things are possible. Avoid long thin pieces of glass in your design because they are easily broken, a short thin piece is OK within reason, but long ones - no.

I've already mentioned that not everyone has natural artistic ability, if you have, well and good and probably the best advice I can give is to look at as many leadlights as possible before converting your ideas on to paper. In particular, take note of the design and how the artist achieved the end result with break lines eg. from the tips of leaves and similar situations. Try to minimise any break lines and also make them as small as possible - break lines are necessary but the less there are the better the leadlight will look, which is why I suggest to pin it up and have a good look at it before inking it in.

Wherever possible, and it may not always be possible, vary the lead sizes rather than leading up completely in one size. The leadlight is more interesting to look at using a mix of fine to heavy leads. Let the design dictate the size leads to use, eg. a sailing boat would have a thick lead for the mast, thin leads for the rigging. For landscape designs, use thicker leads for the foreground, thinner leads for the background - this will give depth of scale. In most cases, never use glass for a flower stem as the glass is usually too narrow and at risk of breaking, use a thicker lead. Even most traditional designs lend themselves to varying lead sizes, from small 3.2 leads to large 9.5 leads - all in the one leadlight. In two photos this lesson above, which are traditional leadlights, there are 4 lead sizes in each, 9.5, 5.9, 4.6 and 3.2. These are the main leads that I use all the time as there is enough definition between them to be noticeable when looking at them. There is also two photos of the third last one showing how changing the colours give a different effect. The one above uses pinks and violets, the one in Lesson 7 with the same design uses yellows and ambers.

If your design has a leafy theme, try to have the tips of the leaves on or near or over another design part, even on or over themselves, which reduces long break lines from the tips of the leaves. A simple method of drawing leaves is first to draw about 4 leaf shapes with slightly different shapes on a separate cartoon and by using these 'master shapes' trace them to your working cartoon where you want them. You can vary the position of the leaves by mixing them up and also reversing them to get the desired effect. Others will never know you've only used 4 or 5 basic leaf shapes even though there could be quite a few more leaves in the design. If you look at the photos that have leaves in them - the one above with 2 Rosellas and a similar one in Lesson 1, you'll see what I mean. This is part of good design and it only requires thinking about it beforehand.

Birds are often used in a leafy theme and making an eye can be a little difficult, particularly when trying for realism. Rather than cutting a very small circle of black glass and adding to the design complexity of leading it up, there is an easier, more realistic way. Melt 2 blobs of solder onto the bench about the size of the bird's eye, then after puttying both sides glue the eye onto the glass with Araldite, or a suitable glue in the right position on both sides. When the glue has fully cured, patina and polish the leadlight including the eye as described in Lesson 7. After this you can paint the eye with a gloss black paint and no matter where you stand, the eye appears to be looking at you. You can do the same thing for an eye on a fish.

If you like roses, which are very traditional, you can find an easy design for a rose in the last photo in Lesson 6. You'll see this rose quite a lot in other photos of mine but it's clearer in this photo. You will find roses in leadlight books as well but they are usually too lead dominant with too many pieces where the artist has tried to make the rose look realistic, which isn't necessary and sometimes spoils the effect. This rose has only 9 pieces and in my opinion, looks so much better than a rose that is over complicated. If you like this rose you can print the pages and take the relevant page to a photo copier shop and get it blown up to whatever size you like, then trace it to your cartoon material. Just make sure you set the print to as large as possible to make it easier for yourself.

I have seen some very nice rural landscape and rocky coastal headland type designs where the clever use of a picture or painting has been used as the basis for the design. You just need to simplify the design as much as possible - don't try to over complicate it with too much detail, which in some cases can become too lead dominant. If you like rural with rolling hills and a little old cottage on top of a distant hill, have some shrubs graduated in height either side and sloping up to the top of the house to eliminate square edges which need a break line. (If you can find a way to reduce or eliminate break lines as much as possible, the design will look so much better.) The shrubs are circular or oval in shape and if you have them overlapping each other, rather than side by side, the background shape is easier to cut out. In most instances, the background shapes are usually the hardest shapes to cut because they often contain internal curves, which are the harder cuts. A streaky, dark brown glass known as 'tree trunk granite' will look just like a rusted tin roof on the old cottage. If you have a chimney at the side of the house, having smoke rising from it in curved, twisting lines will eliminate break lines as well. Wispy grey opal looks nice for smoke. Try to use as many different shades of green in the hills as possible, medium to darker greens in the foreground, lighter in the background. Introducing heavier textures in the foreground greens such as dark green granite and putting it vertically will look like grass. In the middle ground use a medium texture and a lighter texture in the background for best effect. You can find many pictures in magazines that would be suitable to convert to a leadlight design. Start by having a picture or a theme in your mind and start looking, you might look at hundreds of pictures, paintings or photos until you find the one you are looking for. There is another benefit in this if you choose to go this way and that is your design is an original, the likelihood of someone else making the same thing is very remote. This also makes your leadlight much more 'valued' and admired by others.

Just a word of advice - if you have the ability to draw a design from your own thoughts, make sure you pin it up and continue looking at it for a week or so before you ink it in because you may want to make some subtle changes or improvements to the design but once you've made it, it's too late. I've made the mistake of jumping in too early and not that the design was wrong, if I had allowed the design to 'grow' in my mind, it could have been just that much better. You always see things in hindsight!

In so many of the leadlights that my students had made in the photos they had given me, and it never ceased to amaze me, the standard and creativity of the designs were truly beautiful. I don't believe this was a reflection of my teaching - that was just the mechanics of the craft, it was their own ability to produce outstanding designs. Yes, in some cases there was natural design ability, but most were able to see something from a picture and convert it to a fantastic design and reproduce it in a leadlight - and most of these didn't have exceptional drawing ability. I can imagine the comments from visitors to these houses and what I am saying here is that if others with little or no natural ability can create wonderful works, so can you.

The most usual place for a leadlight is in or beside the front door, but there are many other places in a home that are enhanced with a leadlight as well. If a kitchen has a window that is situated on an outside wall, it is an ideal spot for a leadlight because you spend a lot of time in a kitchen, so why not enjoy a view through a leadlight rather than plain glass? If the window faces into the back yard, the best design would be a traditional design that has a frieze or a border of colour around the edges that contain a flowery theme with squares or rectangles of clear glass in the centre, so that you can still see into the yard and there are many different designs that reflect this. But if it's on a side of the house, it really doesn't matter too much what design you choose because it's probably not too important to be able to see through unless you have a nice view in that direction.

Even a simple Art Deco style consisting of a double or triple border around the perimeter with clear rectangles in the centre is nice. (Not diamonds, it will look too busy with a triple border.) If you think the height of the window isn't high enough to accommodate a triple border, go with either a double or even a single border - it will need to look right. Design the rectangles vertically and about 75 mm wide for best aesthetics. When working out how many rectangles to use across, simply divide the area where they will be by 75 to calculate it up to see if they fit equally. If it doesn't fit equally, change the width of the rectangles and try again until they fit equally, you may end up with rectangles slightly larger or smaller than 75 mm to get equal sizes. Now to complete the picture, draw an oval horizontally in the middle of the area where the rectangles are about 2/3 - 3/4 the size of this area which will look like a viewing portal of clear glass. (How to draw an oval is described in Lesson 6.) Rub out the rectangles in the oval so that it looks like a 'lattice' behind the oval. This would be a classic kitchen window in a 'Queenslander' style home and is ideally suited to a rectangular window. You can draw a rough diagram to see if you like it. You'll probably want at least 3 rectangles high, perhaps even 4, depending how high the window is, so divide the height by at least 3 to get more of a lattice effect - particularly on the ends of the oval, 2 isn't enough. This sort of design is enhanced by the careful selection of the types of glass that you put in the borders and it doesn't have to be colours, clear textures is a very classic look. You can also combine clear textures with colour, which is my favourite and if you make the coloured border quite narrow (12-15 mm) it will look spectacular. If you like the idea of one border in colour and two in clear textures, it looks best with the colour in the inside border, next to the internal rectangles with the clear textures on the outside, so that the border containing colour separates the internal plain clear from the textured clears of the external borders and looks as if it is suspended. This looks far better than colour on the outside border. Try to avoid using a different colour in the corners of the border as it tends to look 'circusy'. Keep that border all one colour as well, alternate colors isn't good design. If you like this theme, vary the width of each border slightly and draw the border design so that each row is staggered like a brick wall. This will give added strength to the panel, have a look at some of my photos, you'll get the idea. Again, as in all designs, have a good look at it while it is still in pencil in case you want to tweak it a little before you ink it in.

It may be that you have a kitchen window that is similar to the photo with the Bluebells and Honeyeaters above, which is a timber window with one slightly larger than the other. In instances like these you have to be very careful how you draw the design so that the design 'ranges or flows' with the other one and with continuity. In that particular design there are curves flowing from one side to the other, and also straight lines which need to line up with each other, so when drawing the cartoon, remember to measure the distance between the 2 windows as well as getting the 2 heights right in relation to each other. A curved line needs to look like it continues into the other as if it was an unbroken line and this will only happen if you measure correctly and design accordingly.

Windows are either wooden or aluminium framed and can be in the form of double hung, sliding or fixed and also combinations of these. (There is more about installing leadlights in aluminium frames in Lesson 5.) A wooden double hung window can either be putty glazed or with beads and the lower window is the harder to measure and install. On the lower window it will usually have rebates only on 3 sides. On the top sash of the lower window, there will be a 3-4 mm slot extending the length of the frame on the inside that the glass fits into and the glass is either putty glazed into the remaining 3 rebates or with beads. The reason for this slot is because when the window is closed, the top sash of the lower window is hidden behind the lower sash of the top window, which makes it difficult to putty the top of the lower sash. So in this instance fold down the top of the outside lead with your fid so that it forms a h to fit into the slot. Just make sure you put the 'top' outside lead all the way across the entire width of the leadlight. I.E. The 2 side leads butt under this top outside lead - that way you can form the h. When measuring the lower frame of a double hung timber window, measure the distance that the slot extends into the frame and consider it as if it was a rebate i.e. measure the height to include the depth of the slot, which is usually about 5-6 mm - that way the leadlight will fit properly after you form the h on the outside lead. Another thing to be aware of is when you chisel out the putty to remove the glass, there will either be push points or small tacks initially put in to hold the glass while the putty cures. Just be aware they will be there. Remember that if you make the leadlight slightly oversize it can easily be trimmed with a plane to fit.

If you are making a leadlight to fit in a China Cabinet that has bowed doors you will need to measure the curve very carefully if there isn't a leadlight installed. An easy way to measure for the curve is to bend a piece of flat lead to the curvature, cutting it a few millimetres smaller and when you are satisfied, flatten it out and this length is the size to make your panel. Take care in removing the curved beading. Sometimes cane is used for the beads, which is easy to form to the curve. In the case of one or both of the panels being damaged beyond repair, at least you can use it to measure from. After removing it you flatten it out on the bench to get the sizes. The design in these types of doors will have a lot of vertical lines fairly close together (50 - 60 mm) so that the panel can easily be slowly bent to fit the curve of the door. If you are only making one new one, make sure you measure and copy it identically and use the same leads. If both panels are too far gone you may wish to choose another design, just remember the new design must have vertical lines so that the panel can be bent to fit the door. (You can also incorporate a design in the panels, but remember the vertical lines must project through it.) After making your new panel/s, putty it before bending it to install as it will be difficult to putty it last. I would suggest leaving the panel for a few days after puttying so the putty will begin to set, which will make it easier to do the final clean up after you bend and install the panel. Begin bending the panel from one side working towards the middle, then from the other side. If the panels within the leadlight panel are only 50/60 mm wide, bending will be easy.

After making a few leadlight panels, most people eventually want to try making a copper foil lampshade, which is a natural progression. Some teachers teach copper foiling first before leadlighting, which I think is a very bad mistake simply because a higher degree of accurate glass cutting is required for copper foiling and beginners just haven't yet acquired that skill. Consequently I know of a lot of beginners who had given up until they learnt leadlighting first. In leadlighting, lead covers the glass which hides any poor cutting and one would never know, but copper foiling accentuates poor cutting because any gaps between each piece of glass is filled in with solder and is very noticeable even to the uninitiated. Having said that lead covers poor cutting, that's not to excuse it, you should strive for accuracy in both mediums - assembly of both mediums will then be much more enjoyable. I don't intend to go into the construction techniques of copper foiling for sun-catchers, lampshades and the like of which there are quite a few books of designs for copper foiling and most have clear instructions on how to go about it contained in them. Copper foiling was never my favourite medium to work in, lead was my favourite, so I'll leave it to the experts in that field to dispense the knowledge, but I will say this. Never use a copper foil panel in a window or door that will at some stage suffer wind pressure, it simply isn't strong enough for that. For those who want to know about soldering a copper foil project, I have briefly covered it in Lesson 4.

A final word on drawing the cartoon, good design IS EVERYTHING. You can have the very best manufacture, but with poor or bad design it won't get a second look. Good design, even with poor manufacture will always get a second look, because most people don't know what quality manufacture is anyway. Having said that and you are one of the lucky ones with drawing ability, good design will be second nature to you. However most don't have this ability but all have some idea what they like and there are so many designs in leadlight books which can be copied directly or combined from other designs to achieve what you want - so this really isn't anything to stress over. You'll be surprised what you can find when you start looking. If you are enlisting the aid of a family member or friend with drawing ability, but that person knows nothing of leadlighting procedures, it will be best if you can oversee it happening so that you can advise on what is needed to ensure that no impossible cuts are 'designed in' and also in regard to lead dominance. If this isn't possible, ask them to draw and leave it in pencil in case you need to alter it. Complexity doesn't always translate to good design and complexity breaks down into two things - complexity as in difficulty, or complexity as in the amount of pieces. Try to avoid difficulty.

When buying lead you may find it cheaper to buy a 15 kg mixed box of lead containing a mix of outside leads and internal leads of your choice from your leadlight supplier and most have this service available to customers. You would make a few leadlights from one box. (See chart above.)

One last thing about lead, the only precaution you need to really exercise is to wash your hands thoroughly before eating or smoking and you must be strict in self-enforcing. Most lead poisoning occurs by ingestion through the mouth, a little is absorbed through your skin but again washing your hands will take care of that. I’ve given up having a lead count any more at the doctors, it never shows above normal and I’m handling it all the time, but that's not to say it's not dangerous for others, particularly those with poor hygiene.

Never allow children, especially toddlers into your work area unsupervised, simply because they can pick up a small piece of lead from anywhere, which invariably ends up in their mouth. It has been said that pregnant women should postpone leadlighting until after having the child - it may be best to make your own inquiries as to whether there is a significant risk even with adequate hygiene.

Even during the soldering process a mask isn't necessary because you have to boil the lead to produce dangerous fumes. You will never get to this situation in soldering, the only fumes you will get during soldering will be from stearine flux, which isn't dangerous but be aware liquid flux can produce a toxic fume.


Leadlighting Tutorial Lesson 1: Cutting Glass for Stained Glass Leadlights the Right Way

Leadlighting Tutorial Lesson 2: How to make a leadlight. Get started with a simple clear glass leadlight. Design choice.

Leadlighting Tutorial Lesson 3: Assembly of a Leadlight and helpful hints.

Leadlighting Tutorial Lesson 4: Soldering a leadlight and using the right flux. Making a tinning pot.

Leadlighting Tutorial Lesson 5: Measuring and other things you need to know.

Leadlighting Tutorial Lesson 6: Advanced Glass Cutting - methods for difficult shapes.

Leadlighting Tutorial Lesson 7: Puttying and how to repair a broken leadlight

Leadlighting Tutorial Lesson 8: Reinforcing - how, when, where and why.

Plastic fid

Plastic fid

This door panel was made using different clear textures, which is a classical look.

This door panel was made using different clear textures, which is a classical look.



John Jackson (author) from Australia on April 27, 2013:


Thank you for your comment and if you found me by accident, I'm happy about that too. I hope you enjoy leadlighting as much as I do.

Best regards,


ChooxiaCah on April 11, 2013:

Good day! I could have sworn I've been to this blog before but after browsing through some of the post I realized it's new to me. Anyhow, I'm definitely delighted I found it and I'll be book-marking and checking back often! make your computer run like brand new

John Jackson (author) from Australia on March 25, 2013:

Again my thanks Vector Design Team,

I hope you find the next 6 lessons equally useful.

Best regards,


Saim from California on March 24, 2013:

Nice tutorial, This lesson is also useful as usual.i like your idea. thanks.

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