Silver Stain

A video demonstration

Now our client had approved the 16 designs he’d asked for, and so it was back to us to secure his agreement on the painted glass itself – on what it must look like when it’s finished.

His insistence was, his skylights must look ancient.

And that is why we spent these last few weeks establishing and refining the necessary techniques to make the glass look very old.

Today the client’s architect called in to see the samples we had made.

The meeting went as well as you could wish.

So now we can reveal for the first time how the ancient-looking glass was stained – including a short video for you.

Silver stain and oil

Hit play and turn on the volume. You’ll soon see how quick and pleasurable it is to silver stain with oil.

And at the end you’ll catch sight of some sample fragments which made the client’s architect sigh with pleasure:

Now do you see how direct and immediate it is with oil?

It also lasts for ages once you’ve made a batch. A wonderful improvement on water.

When you want to learn more, you’ll find lots of valuable information in Part 3 of Glass Painting Techniques & Secrets from an English Stained Glass Studio – download it here.

All the best with your staining!

14 thoughts on “Silver Stain

  1. How wonderful! I never saw anyone else use stain with oil. This is the ticket. I am going to use it for an acrobat in a circus, small panel next.

    Thank you!

    • Hi Joan,

      The epiphany of oil and stain! Yes, I experience it each time I think back to those long, dark days when I did what I was told and just used stain and water or stain and vinegar

      You make the base paste with stain and sandalwood amyris, then use spike lavender as a thinner. And always do tests, lots of them – even with oil, no one avoids testing!


  2. Thanks as always for showing us your work! How do you keep the silver stain from moving when you do the badger blending? Mine slides over the lines every time., and cleanup is a disaster. Usually makes it worse, by smearing.

    I would imagine you are doing it very lightly, perhaps, and my strokes are a bit too heavy. But if I go light, nothing blends. Sigh.

    I do love the oil with silver stain, though. So much easier to handle–and it smells so nice!!

    • Hi July,

      Good question. It’s partly down to the thickness of the mixture which you apply (which means not too runny: not too much lavender). And it’s partly down to the blending: the blender just pushes the very top surface of the oil, which means the oil which is underneath the top surface itself clings to the top surface and “retards” it from moving in the way you would think it would move.

      As I say, really good question. I hope at least some of the answer makes sense and we will be sure to make or dig out some film clips which will help here.


  3. Hi David and Stephen,
    Just watched your video … thanks again for taking the time to show us … just a few questions if that’s OK?

    It looks to me as if you have primed, traced, flooded and highlighted the front as usual, but that you have speckled with a toothbrush the back of the glass. Am I right in thinking you are then applying the oil & stain over the top of the speckled surface on the back?

    When you do this can you fire it all once or do you fire before you apply the silver stain?

    If you are doing it all in one firing, do you place the oil-stained side face-down in the whiting tray … or the painted side face-down?

    Does the whiting stick to the oil?

    How long do you leave the silver stain to dry before firing?


    • Hi Sue,

      Glad you like the video! David’s in a meeting right now so it’s me coming back to you with various answers (and yes of course it’s great for you to ask questions because they help everyone).

      Yes, we are indeed applying oil-based silver stain to the reverse of a piece of glass that we’d painted as you state (though with several more layers front and back).

      Now because there was oil-based glass paint on the front – this is before we come to silver staining – the glass had to be fired face-up i.e. as a separate firing.

      It is perfectly possible to combine glass paint and silver stain in a single firing. (You must simply run various tests to be sure you get a compatible schedule.) But whenever you use oil, you must fire that side face-up. Which means you cannot use oil-based techniques on both sides of a piece of glass and combine them in a single firing.

      Well, that’s our experience – as always, everyone should experiment in their own way!

      So if we were in a situation where we wanted or needed to combine stain and glass paint in a single firing, we’d first decide where we had to use the oil: in the glass paint on the front, or in the silver stain on the back. Then we’d take things from there.

      And yes it is our experience that the oil doesn’t “dry”, so we’d expect whiting or fibre paper to stick to it were we to fire it face-down.

      But hey – there must be a medium somewhere which overcomes this problem! It’s purely a matter of chemistry.

      When we paint with stain and oil, it’s fine to fire the glass immediately. (Indeed, if you don’t fire it immediately, you must make sure to protect it from airborne dust and grime.) But we ourselves use a slower firing schedule – one which allows the glass to soak and the fumes to burn off for maybe 30 minutes at around 100 Celsius / 210 Fahrenheit. Hard to state firm rules here because maybe it also depends on the oil you’re using (in the video, it’s oil of Tar) and also the quantity of glass you’re firing.

      I hope this helps.

      Good questions!


  4. I was reading a book by J. Kenneth Leap on firing silver stain (it’s on the internet on Blurp) – and the firing time of holding the temperature for really long periods of time puzzled me. Do you hold your stain firing for 25 minutes or gasp 6 hours?

    • Hi Joan,

      I know Ken has done a whole series of astonishing and meticulous experiments, and documented everything for others to learn from.

      I have every reason to believe in the thoroughness and integrity of his research; and when you consider the amazing silver stain work that people did in bygone centuries, it’s clear it’s a field in its own right.

      When we use stain, we’re normally after an effect that maybe is not as particular as would usually require us to take special pains. So the majority of our effects can be achieved with oil plus a very rough and ready firing schedule – though this schedule will always depend to some extent on the particular glass we’re using. So we would normally soak for 15 minutes at 100 C. / 210 F. on the way up, then go to top temperature in 2 hours, then come down without a soak.

      As I say, rough and ready is mostly fine for our work. But there will be circumstances when we will need help from all the research that Ken has done.

      I hope this helps.

      All the best,

    • Yes certainly, though like you and other glass painters we too must make a living; and problems will happen where a client thinks it’s possible to ‘cut corners’ or maybe simply doesn’t have the money to get the job done properly. Where either of these conditions apply, our own view is it’s probably better not to accept the commission in the first place, since a botched job pleases no one.


  5. Stephen: greetings!

    I’m having some trouble with a residue around the edges of the stain. The middle is great: a beautiful yellow. But the edge has this thick opague reddish color. I’m using oil.

    Any thoughts?

    • Hello John,

      In order to find the true cause, we must eliminate the false ones. Right now, who knows where the cause lies? Is it the brand of stain, the oil, the mix of stain and oil, your blending technique, brush-contamination, the firing schedule, the glass, or even something on the glass (e.g. from an earlier firing)?

      Right now, who knows?

      So what I suggest is: do a simple test concerning the glass.

      So, changing nothing else (if possible) from before – i.e. same batch of stain, same brush, same firing schedule etc. – cut yourself two (or three) pieces of glass: same sizes as the one(s) you had the problem with, but different types/kinds of glass.

      Then apply the stain just like you did before, blend it (or whatever), and fire it.

      The question is: does the stain react like this with all three pieces?

      That’s my suggestion. I know it means more work for you but I don’t see any other way to find an answer than to test things steadily until you get there. Please do involve me as much as you wish: I am very interested to know what happens.

      All the best,

      • Stephen,

        Thanks so much. I’m still testing but I think I hadn’t blended well enough.

        With better blending all 3 different pieces of glass came out a lot better.


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