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This is a fairly advanced project and there are many diverse steps to it, so weíll work through part of the project in this article and then the rest of the project will be completed in the article called Binding a Metal Book with a Coptic Stitch.

Find out how to bind your metal books with a Coptic stitch.

Soldered Glass and Metal Book

Difficulty Rating

What Youíll Need
Just think of it. You can take almost any image, paint a transfer medium onto it and then transfer that image to anything, even non-porous surfaces like metal and glass! Omni-Gel is one of my favorite transfer mediums. There are several uses for it but I adore it most for its ability to create durable image transfers. Inspired by classes Iíve taken from Beckah Krahula (Art and Soul) and Sandi Regina (Jackson, CA), Iíve been playing lately with soldering glass to metal and with Omni-Gel transfers.

The image that you use for this project can be almost anything, but one printed on a laser printer or a color copier, or torn from a magazine are the most reliable. Iíve had good luck with ink jet images but have been warned away from them by others. Give it a try. What do you have to lose? Youíll know before you transfer it to the glass if the ink will run. Remember that if your image has text or is direction specific, youíll need to reverse it before proceeding.


Trim your image so that it slightly larger that your finished design, then lay it face-up on your scrap-paper-protected work surface. Use a soft paintbrush to cover the entire image with Omni-Gel. Neatness counts. You want the Omni-Gel to be as smooth and thin as possible since it fairly aggressively shows any brush marks. I like to use a flexible plastic spatula for spreading the glue. Let it dry thoroughly and then apply another layer. Repeat one last time and again dry thoroughly. Itís important not to hurry the process along or youíll get a milky mess when you try to remove the paper backing later.

Preheat your tacking iron or heat transfer tool to about 250 degrees or so. Lay the image, Omni-Gel side down onto the clean glass. (See image 1) Heat the entire surface of the image (all youíll see is the paper backing at this point) and use the iron to push any air pockets from the center toward the edges. Be sure to heat the entire image. This process melts the Omni-Gel just enough to adhere it permanently to the glass. Donít miss any spots. This usually takes about 2 minutes or so for this 3Ē X 4Ē project.

Let the glass cool for a couple minutes and then immerse it in the dish of warm water (the temperature of the water isnít critical). Soak it for 5 minutes or so and then use your fingers to rub the backing paper off the image. (See image 2) The type of paper the image was printed on will make a difference in this process. Usually the paper will roll up and then fall off. The important thing is to keep the image wet while you work and to remove all of the paper. Any paper left on the image will show through and leave a white, fuzzy haze on the finished book cover. Be patient and donít tear the image. Once all the paper is removed, dry the glass and then carefully (without pulling) trim the image to the exact size of the glass. (See image 3) Either an X-Acto knife or a scalpel with a new blade are great for this job. (See image 4)

Lay the glass, image side down, onto metal with the glass and metal aligned at the fore edge of the book cover (a 1/4" strip of metal without glass will be at left/spine side). I like to use a piece of artistís or painterís tape (low-tack) to hold the glass and metal together while I begin putting the copper foil tape on. Just remember to remove it once the copper foil tape has been adhered around the edges enough to securely hold the metal and glass together. (See image 5)

Use 3/16Ē or 1/4Ē copper foil tape around the edges of the glass and metal. Be sure that the metal and glass are touching firmly or youíll make the process harder on yourself. I like to start with the end of the tape on the bottom of the book so that if the seam shows it will be less noticeable. The goal is to have an equal amount of copper foil tape showing on either side of the glass/metal sandwich.

Once the tape has been run all the way around the book cover (overlap it a little), cut it off and burnish it down. You can use a Teflon or bone folder (for bookbinding) or a wooden fid for this. You could even use the back of a spoon if you donít have one of the other tools. Personally, I like the Teflon folder because it doesnít drag on the tape and therefore doesnít remove the copper. Be particularly careful around the corners. You want these to look as neat and tidy as possible as the solder will not stick to the glass, so the tape will determine how the solder looks.

Now use a wider piece of copper foil tape (3/8Ē is a good choice) to cover the spine edge of the metal. (See image 6) All the metal on the front of the cover should be wrapped in tape and the transition from glass to metal at the spine edge of the book should also be covered. I try to make the spine edge of the glass have the same amount of copper foil tape as the other 3 edges of the glass for a consistent look. (See image 7) I also try to make all 4 edges of the back-side of the cover match, with the same amount of copper foil tape showing. Burnish all the tape down very well using the folder or fid. (See image 8)

Preheat your soldering iron. Place the book cover in a small vise to hold it steady while you work. Donít tighten it too far or youíll break the glass. (See image 9)

Use the flux brush or Q-Tip to brush a little flux all over the copper foil tape on the side youíre getting ready to solder (the top as it sits in the vise). Do not use too much flux! This is a common mistake and the flux will get under your copper foil tape and prevent it from sticking. A thin but thorough layer is what you need. Now touch the hot soldering iron to the end of the roll of solder and pick up some of the solder onto the tip. Transfer the solder to the fluxed book cover. Repeat until you have solder all along the top edge as well as the front and back edges of the copper foil tape. Now slowly run the iron along the length of the edge. (See image 10) If your temperature is set correctly, the iron will make the solder melt and flow evenly without any ripples or blobs. Turn the book cover in the vise so that another side is exposed and repeat until the head, tail and fore edge of the book are all soldered.

Now you will repeat this process on the spine edge of the book but its odd shape makes it a job best done with the cover lying down on the work surface, rather than standing in a vise. The object is to get a nice thin, consistent soldered bead all along the spine edge. If the bead is too thick youíll have to use longer eyelets and will have a higher probability of breaking the glass while setting them. Yes, that was the voice of experience.

Once the front of the book is soldered, turn it over and insure that the back edges are soldered too. You may have done some of it as you were soldering the front, but you are doing a last minute check.

For a consistent look, run copper foil tape around the back cover (no glass) and solder it too.

Now find out how to bind your metal book using the Coptic stitch.

If you donít have a transfer iron, you can simply make a Ďdecalí out of the image by painting it with Omni-Gel as normal. When the Omni-Gel is dry, place the image in warm water for a few minutes and then rub the paper off the back. At this point youíll have a transparent Ďdecalí with an image on it. Use Omni-Gel to glue this to the glass and let dry before proceeding. One of the great things about Omni-Gel transfers is that they are far more durable than those made from acrylic gel medium so they stand up to the abuse of rubbing the paper off.

Christine Cox teaches metalsmithing and bookbinding classes in our Studio in Volcano, CA.

Image 1: Tacking iron

Image 2: Rubbing paper off back

Image 3: Trimming image to size

Image 4: Never run the paper down your sink. It will clog it very quickly. Strain the used water through a paper towel set into a colander.

Image 5: Artist's tape holds everything in place while you tape the edges of the glass and metal together.

Image 6: Taping the spine edge of the book

Image 7: Miter the corners of the tape a little to make it relax into the corners.

Image 8: Burnish tape down well

Image 9: Place work in a miniature vise while you solder.

Image 10: Run bead of solder along every edge.


Issue # 16

Christine Cox was a regular contributor to ARTitude Zine. This article originally appeared there and is reprinted here with permission. Unfortunately, ARTitude is no longer published.