Jeff Hitch e-mailed us from Mission Viejo in California with a question about silver stain:
Can you please give me some tips on how to paint with silver stains?
I have been using vinegar and brushes with no metal (since I understand there’s an active ingredient in the stain which corrodes the metal).
They paint OK but they just don’t flow as well as other types of paints.
Also, I can’t get them to gradate very well. Can you help?
Stain often causes problems, and maybe it’s caused you problems too:
Slight differences in temperature can produce dramatically different results.
Differences in glass tend to produce different results.
And, when glass has previously been fired, this can also produce different results.
Therefore it’s always important to run tests.
This is especially so because one tends to paint stain last of all, when everything else has been done to perfection.
So, even with what we’ll tell you now, you always need to advance with caution.
The majority view
Most people in this country mix stain with water.
I’ve asked around, and most people in the US seem to mix stain with either water or vinegar.
Here’s a run-down of the resultant problems:
Both media make it difficult to judge the density of the colour
Both media are difficult to apply to all and only the desired area
Neither media shades at all well
Both media, when dry, are messy and noxious to clean up
So a lot of problems.
It’s madness to tolerate problems like these, so Jeff is absolutely right to ask questions.
A Different Approach
We use oil, either oil or tar, sandalwood amyris mixed with a little bit of lavender.
Oil of tar is wonderful but carcinogenic, so we absolutely and unequivocally can’t recommend anyone gets into using it.
Sandalwood amyris and lavender work fine.
Sandalwood amyris is very thick: that’s why you can use it to make the basic paste, and then use lavender (which is thin):
Get your sandalwood amyris.
Follow similar directions to how we mix oil-based paint as explained in Part 3 of Glass Painting Techniques & Secrets from an English Stained Glass Studio.
You just need a one or two palette knife’s worth of stain.
Add the oil a little at a time.
Keep adding oil until you have a really thick paste.
Decant this into a tiny sealable jam jar, and leave it to settle.
The next day, put some of this paste on your palette, add some lavender and mix it with a palette knife until you have whatever consistency you want.
You obtain lighter colours by making a thinner dilution on your palette and by spreading it more thinly.
Being oil, this is far easier to achieve than with water or vinegar.
It’s also possible to blend the stain.
Problems solved – but you will always need to experiment!
No messy clean up – the only disadvantage is that it doesn’t dry as such, so you must handle the glass carefully until it’s fired.
We’ve found oil far more predictable and controllable than water.
It also keeps for ever in the jam jar, so it’s far more economical to use than with water. No waste.
Firing: we usually go to 220 Fahrenheit / 100 c. over 2 hours, rest there for 10 minutes, then go to 1040 F. / 560 c. over 2 hours, then let the kiln cool at its normal rate. But we aware that every case is different.
Enjoy the liberation from water and vinegar.
Silver Stain – How to Trace, Blend, Shade and Flood from a Reliable Batch that Works for Months
This is really important.
How much time and money are you wasting by not knowing the insider techniques which will take your staining to the professional level?
I mean, how comfortable are you with using stain to trace, blend, shade and flood?
And how would you like to go a long, long way to getting rid of that anxiety which most people feel when they come to check if their silver stain has actually worked?
Like, so it’s not all hit-and-miss?
I wrote a guide and filmed nine demonstrations. Interested – just click right here.