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How to Save 5+ Hours a Week in the Stained Glass Shop

Saving time does not mean compromising the quality of your work. As a matter of fact, if you can save time assembling your projects, you can devote more time to creating new designs.

Here are 9 tips to make your glass studio flow more effective. Any craftsperson probably follows many of these time-saving principles. What do you do?

4 min read

  1. Efficient Workspace Organization
  2. Project Planning
  3. Batch Processing
  4. Minimize Distractions
  5. Gather Materials and Tools Before You Start Working
  6. Streamline Processes
  7. Invest in Tools
  8. Set Up Good Lighting
  9. Regularly Maintain Equipment and Tools

Efficient Workspace Organization

Think about what makes the most sense for your workflow. Place the grinder near where you plan to put your project together so you can quickly grind fine adjustments by simply turning your body.

Keep a soldering station near an outlet, and attach a surge protector to the edge of your worktable.

Have your safety equipment stored in one place to find what you seek quickly. For example, if you plan to use powders in painting, NIOSH-approved P100 or N95 respirators for filtering particulates.

Use ventilation when working with dust in the room, and have band-aids handy if you cut yourself. This happens less than you would think in a glass shop, but it does happen.

Think ergonomically. This will keep your body working optimally.

Project Planning

If you are working a 9-5, plan your free time after work so you can finish a project by the end of the week. Or plan a weekend in blocks of time to complete a project by Sunday evening.

If you are using a kiln for any of your processes, such as for painting, there will be times when you are waiting for a piece to cool. With microwave kilns, at around $40 each on Amazon, you can get 2 or 3 to keep multiple projects moving.

Batch Processing

Cut all the pieces to a panel first, grind, foil, solder, clean, patina, and wax. If you are improvising, you will cut and grind each piece and assemble.

Remember to clean and patina the same day you solder.

Use batch processing in your project planning.

Minimize Distractions

Enough said. Listen to music, a podcast, or an audiobook if you want, but try to keep other distractions at bay.

Gather Materials and Tools Before You Start Working

Take a cue from French cooking. Gather everything you will need before starting.

Unless you are lucky to have a dedicated workspace for stained glass, you will need to get everything together to complete each task. For example, have the cutting station ready with a glass cutter, cutting oil, a bench brush, a small trash can, and a small box for usable scraps. You then only need to bring your pattern pieces, your cartoon, and the glass you intend to cut for the work.

Streamline Processes

The term used in business is “process improvement.” Imagine your studio as a factory. There is inevitably a process that could be redesigned. As you work, identify the problems on sticky notes and commit to minor changes to improve the process. Experiment with the change a few times to see if it helped.

For example, I started noticing my three microwave kilns might be giving different results, so I numbered each one and took note of the test pieces which kiln I had used.

Invest in Tools

Evaluate if there are tools to make tasks quicker and easier. I started with the cheapest tools I could get and still use some of them. A pistol-grip glass cutter is worth the money if you have delicate hands like mine.

A glass-cutting system is a definite plus if you make a lot of strips and geometric shapes such as diamonds, squares, hexagons, or pentagons. But in the beginning, you can use a template.

Research before you buy for the best prices, or see if someone is selling their shop. Many people retire from stained glass every year. And many people get started in it every year.

Good Lighting

You want to ensure you can see what you are doing, especially when cutting and grinding.

A lightbox is optional for beginners who are not painting but a must-have for painting on glass.

Regular Maintenance of Equipment and Tools

Oil for the glass cutter, cleaning the grinder, and keeping enough water in the grinder. Use a grinder coolant.

Keeping plastic bottles out of the sun in a cabinet. The plastic will degrade.

Keeping chain and foil in bags to prevent rusting

Tinning the tips of soldering irons

Changing cutter heads as needed

Always use a rheostat for your soldering iron.

Even if you are not a stained glass craftsperson, how can you implement these actions to save yourself 5+ hours a week?

You probably already have a few timesavers.

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