Types of Foil
When first diving into the world of copper foil, the styles and selection may be a bit intimidating, but I promise you, it won’t take long to feel comfortable about your choices.
Firstly, copper foil comes with different coloured backing. The adhesive side of the tape can be left copper, made black or made silver. The purpose of this is to ensure a cohesive look to your project.
We’ll get into the topic of patina on a deeper level later on, however, I’m going to touch on it briefly here so that you can understand what I’m about to explain about the foil backing colours.
All solder starts silver. When our projects are first soldered, the solder always appears silver. We do however have the choice to add patina. Patina is a specially formulated liquid that when it comes in contact with solder, there is a chemical reaction that changes the silver colour. The two most common colours for patina for stained glass are black or copper.
Using patina gives you the choice of leaving the solder silver or tinting it black or copper. And this is precisely why there are three different coloured backings available for copper foil. Ideally, you’ll want to match the backing colour of the foil to the finished colour of the solder on every project.
This isn’t as important for projects with opaque glass, but transparent glass projects really benefit from this attention to detail.
PHOTO - The peach glass on the left is transparent and shows a copper backed foil with a silver solder. To make it appear properly finished, either a copper patina should be added or a silver backed foil should be used.
Copper foil comes in many widths:
5/32”, 3/16”, 7/32”, 5/16”, ¼”, ⅜”, ½”
Different widths are helpful depending on the nature of the glass. If the glass is thin, a narrower foil can be used. If the glass is a bit thicker or has some heavy texture, a wider foil might work better.
My personal preference which is also a commonly used width of foil is 7/32”. It provides a nice amount of coverage over the front and back of the glass to ensure the finished piece is solid and aesthetically, it gives a nice sized seam.
Feel free to experiment with whatever size you like. As long as the foil wraps around the glass and creates enough of a fold onto the front and back of the glass, the rest is left to personal preference.
Alternate Types of Foil
Most copper foil that you’ll see comes as a narrow roll with straight sides. There are two others that come to mind that can be used with your projects. New wave foil and sheet foil.
"New wave" is a style of copper foil that can be used on the edges of glass to create a fancy effect. This foil is straight along one side and has a scalloped or wavy edge to the other side. Since solder will only stick to the copper, this foil allows you to add details in your projects without needing to learn any fancy solder techniques. Used sparingly, it can add a beautiful flare to your designs.
Another type of foil that can be used in your projects is sheet foil. Just as the name implies, this foil does not come on a spool. It is usually available in 12 inch by 12 inch pieces and is used to create imagery on top of the glass - a foil overlay. This is a more advanced technique and will not be covered in the Foil Basics Lessons.
Since there are many brands of copper foill available, you may be wondering what brands of foil work well. I’ve tried a few, and my personal favourite is Edco.
Edco foil has great adhesion and is soft and flexible when wrapping it around the glass. This allows it to be placed and stretched as needed to lay flat on the glass with minimal to no tearing.
There are other brands available and other artists may prefer different brands. You won’t know which one you like best until you give a few of them a try.