I was absolutely delighted and instantly inspired when my friend asked me if I could make a Dark Side of the Moon® sun catcher for him. Absolutely, was my reply! (have you noticed my shirt on my home page?)
Very small is this little panel, at only 6″x9″. The colored rays of light are made from clear cathedral glass and are really delicate and incredibly beautiful. Who among us hasn’t at some point admired this stunning light-prism icon from 1976 Pink Floyd. They have been my music idols for over 40 years (sigh), and while totally enthralled about reproducing this art, I’m also learning something new about working with thin strips of glass (see more below). It’s a great new challenge for me and a real pleasure to make this lovely suncatcher for my friend, Nicholas Guitard from Fredericton; photographer, artist, writer, author of Waterfalls of New Brunswick (2 versions) and The Lost Wilderness, and man with very good taste in music.
Making the pattern was easy as this logo is so familiar. Sizing it to 6×9 meant just a little cropping but taking care not to stretch and distort the prism, setting the transparency way up to fade out the black background, printing 1 copy, drawing on the solder lines and numbering the pieces, scanning and printing 1 more copy for cutting up, and pattern phase was done. I totally loved that!
Cutting out the tracing pieces with pattern shears revealed just how narrow the light rays would really need to be… and this caused concern for breakage. If not during cutting then possibly on the grinder or during heat soldering. So I Googled how to handle thin strips of glass and learned something new… that 1/4″ is the narrowest you can safely cut glass strips (twice the thickness of glass) without the crack running across the glass in the wrong direction. Therefore, I anticipated a lot of grinding to get the strips as narrow as they needed to be. As a lark which turned out very useful, I stopped into Kent’s and bought a ceramic tile breaker thinking it might work on stained glass as well as ceramic tiles. Yes it did! It was perhaps a bit clumsy compared to real running pliers but I was able to snap apart 1/4″ (and less) strips of glass with it like a breeze. What a great tool and I’ll be using that again many times in the future.
I also cut duplicates of every piece since I decided early on to make two panels at the same time … for a couple of reasons: 1. As insurance in case one of the light rays broke during soldering, I’d have a back up. (However, if both panels develop breaks, I’m screwed) 2. I would need the first one for practice so I’d know what to expect for the second one. 3) Bonus! I get to keep one for myself 🙂
With only 18 pieces per panel (x2 panels), grinding was a soothing chore but not as quick as the low number of pieces would suggest. The black parts were easy but I knew the thin strips for the prism and light rays were at high risk of breakage and therefore would need more time. To help secure them, I lay the strips along a small block of wood and slid the block with glass back and forth against the diamond grinder until it was narrowed down to desired width.
Foiling was an intense study in perfect alignment and placement of the sticky copper foil. Long straight edges are not very forgiving of wavy uneven foil application. I was happy with my accuracy. Foiling didn’t take long (maybe a quarter of the grinding time).
With soldering jig frame pinned in place, it was time to solder. A little panel like this should be quick and easy. Why then was I so nervous when I turned on my soldering iron? Perhaps excitement was presenting itself as nervousness. I’d like to think so, but it also raised my fears of breakage along with my hopes of steady hand and good luck. Hope always puts up a great fight.
And thankfully, a successful soldering without breaking any of the light rays. Whew! A final washing, patina application and a polishing and it was finished and in a window for a viewing…. Ahhh, so lovely. Total time on this project was about 8 hours including pattern creation. Next time would be less. I really enjoyed making this and learned some new tricks along the way.