I make my own molds using Balsa wood.
First of all you need to decide the size and shape of the mold. Draw a cross section of the mold you would like to make in a full scale. (Photo Mold1.gif) Then, split it into the layers of 20mm each and measure the actual distance (x) of each layer because the thickness of balsa sheets I use is 20mm. I use balsa sheets of 20mm thick x 80mm wide x 600mm long which you can purchase easily. (Photo Mold2.jpg) Stick a necessary number of balsa sheets together with bond and clamps. (Photo Mold3.jpg) Then, draw paper templates with which you can transfer each layer on the balsa sheets. I use 3-split mold, that is 120 degrees. However, make an allowance of 10 degrees on each side to make 150 degrees paper templates. (Photo Mold4.jpg) If you are not used to making balsa mold, I recommend to make and cut full paper templates for each layer and mark them on the balsa sheets. Mark the cut-out lines and bonding lines of next layer. Try to make templates so that you can save balsa wood since it is fairly expensive (well, it is expensive here in Japan). (Photo Mold5.jpg) Cut each marked layer from balsa sheets. I use a power fret saw now, but, I used to cut them with a hand fret saw. (Photo Mold6.jpg) These are the cut-out layers of balsa sheets to be bonded together. (Photo Mold7.jpg) Note the shape of each layer to save balsa. Stick them together in sections first with bond. (Photo Mold8.jpg) Then, stick them all together. (Photo Mold9.jpg) You can see the back side of bonded layers. (Photo Mold10.jpg) Cut the edges of bonded layers of mold to make is as smooth as possible with a cutter knife. Try to make it as close as to the final shape with the cutter knife. Use a very sharp cutter knife. (Photo Mold11.jpg) You can see the back side of cut-out mold with a cutter knife. (Photo Mold12.jpg) Then, smoothen down still further with sand paper. I recommend to carry out this work outside unless your work place is well ventilated. (Photo Mold13.jpg) The mold is very smooth and ready to be coated with clear lacquer. (Photo Mold14.jpg) But, before you coat your mold, put a supporting leg for stability and sign your signature and date. (Photo Mold15.jpg) This is the coated and finished balsa mold ready for making your stained glass lamps. (Photo Mold16.jpg) This is a 3-split (120 degrees) mold and you need to make 3 segments which need to be assembled together for a complete lamp.
This is the lamp I made for the first time on this mold.
48cm dia. x 65cm high
These are the tools I use to make stained glass lamps.
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There is a big difference between a stained glass panel and a lamp. Yes, we all know it ...... most of lamp needs to be designed in three dimensional patterns. And, this creates many problems. There are many products on the market for making lamps. Some of them are very good and some are not. Well, let me explain MY method of making lamps. I make my own wooden (balsa wood) molds as explained above. I put a piece of paper (fairly thick drawing paper which will be suitable for cutting paper patterns) on the mold. How? Well, didn't you make a (terrestrial) globe in geography class back in school? You cut out strips of paper (shaped like bamboo leaves) with a segment of world atlas on each and stick them around a plastic ball. No? Well, I did. I use the same method in my lamp system. There are many shapes of lamps (molds). The most simple one is a conical or cylindrical lamp. If it is a pure cone or a cylinder, you do not have to worry about this three dimensional thing. You just make designs on flat papers and stick them on the mold. But, if the lamp shape is more complicated, you have to make a way to convert a 3D design into a 2D. Let's look at my first mold. (Photo) It has a conical shape at top and rounded at the bottom. The second mold (Photo) has more rounding at the bottom. You think you can figure out how to make paper templates for these two? Well, good. Let's have a look on the third mold. (Photo) It is a half globe at the top which connects to a cylinder at the bottom. The fourth mold is a glove cut out at the bottom. (Photo) The curve or radius of the surface is constant all over. The fifth mold has somewhat irregular shape. The curve or radius of the surface changes. I call it a cow-bell shape. (Photo) How do I make paper templates for these? Well, it is 100% mathematics. You can calculate all necessary data from the cross section of the mold (refer to the method of making mold, above). If you can not calculate necessary data, well ......., please ask your math teacher.
I use the second mold to explain my method. Set a piece of paper which was cut out using the paper template on the mold. Use drawing pins and Scotch mending tape (or any other tapes on which you can write or stick papers) to set the paper on the mold. (Photo) Make your design on this paper. You can make a cone lamp using the top part of this mold (straight portion). But, I used a little bit of rounding at the bottom. Finish your design and number each piece of paper patterns to be cut out later. Remove the design paper from the mold and cut out the tape on each slit at the bottom to make it flat. Make a copy of it. If it is too large, copy in tiles and stick them together. Cut out the copied design and set it on the mold in the same way as before. Then, cover the entire surface with vinyl tape. It is IMPORTANT. Otherwise, your mold will not last to make 3 splits of designs. Cut out the paper patterns from the original paper. (Photo) Then, cut and tape each glass piece and place it on the mold with pins. (Photo) Cut and tape all glass pieces and solder them together from outside. Remove the soldered pieces from the mold and FINISH the back side. Repeat this three times (in case of 3-split system). Now, you have 3 sides and you need to stick them together. I use solder-coated copper wires to assemble them temporarily. (Photo) Assemble them using these solder-coated copper wires. Use about 12 of them on a small lamp. (Photo) It is fairly solid and strong (Photo) so that you can pick it up with a hand. (Photo) Now, you have to make paper patterns to fill these gaps between 3 sections. Place a piece of paper (drawing paper from which paper patterns can be cut out) inside the lamp and fix them with 4 clips so that it can not move. (Photo) Then, trace the opening onto the paper (it is recommended to use a pencil, but here, a red marker is used to be seen more clearly). (Photo) Cut out paper patterns and make sure to place each paper pattern in the opening to check that it is not too large or small. (Photo) Repeat this process to make all the paper patterns. (Photo) Cut and tape all pieces of glass according to the paper patterns. (Photo) And, set them in the openings by spot-soldering. (Photo)
Solder them properly and, NOW, you can remove the solder-coated auxiliary copper wires. Do not pull them off. Melt the spot-soldered points with a soldering iron. Do not rush and take time to remove them. Now, comes the process which I personally think very very important. Run a brass wire along the bottom edge of the lamp. (Photo) And, finish it by applying just correct amount of solder to make it look neat; this process is not easy and you may have to practice a lot before getting it just right (use a small capacity soldering iron; 40w or 60w) (Photo) Why do I do this? Well, you will see later. Carry out final build-up of solder lines inside and outside. (Photo) It is now ready to put a cap. Drill 6 small holes on the cap and solder brass wires from inside. (Photo) Set it on the top of lamp. This is the view from inside before soldering. (Photo) Solder these wires on the back of lamp. This is the inside view of lamp. (Photo) This is the view from outside right after soldering. (Photo) Cut out excess wires and clean the cap with copper brush. (Photo) Now, the lamp is finished to be cleaned and patinaed. (Photo) I use paint thinner (organic solvent) and brush to clean it. (Photo) Then, I use cleansing powder, detergent, and brush to wash it thoroughly. This process is most important in order to get a good final patina finish. Then, prepare the solution (refer to Technical-1 for details). (Photo) Apply patina with a nylon hard sponge. (Photo) Then, I usually leave it in a bath of water + plenty of detergent to get rid of remaining patina which may produce white powder later. (Photo) Now, the lamp is completed. (Photo) See the difference of BEFORE & AFTER applying patina. (Photo) See the bottom edge of lamp. The edge is reinforced by the brass wire so that the tape will not peel off when rubbed by a nail and, most of all, the bottom edge line is blended naturally from the rest of the lead lines. (Photo)
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