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How to Create a Butterfly for Your Garden

Yard are is a great gift!

Follow this step by step process to make you own butterfly garden stakes.  You can find patterns for three different butterflies available for download at my Etsy Shop: Red Dragon Glass

 

You'll need basic stained glass skills for this project.

1. Cut and fit your glass to the pattern and foil your glass with 7/32" copper backed foil.

 

2. Solder the wings the same as you would any flat stained glass panel. Make sure you tin the edges of the wings. "Tinning" means coating the edges with a thin layer of solder - not a bead, just a layer to cover the copper foil tape.

 

3. Reinforce the wings with by attaching 18 guage pre-tinned copper wire along the outside edge. Reinforcement will help your butterfly hold up to the elements outdoors.

 

4. Leave a 2 inche tail of wire at both ends of the outside edge. These tails will be attachment points for the copper tubing "body"

  • Add lengths of wire reinforcements in each of the solder seams. Lay a piece of wire on top of an existing solder line, add flux and resolder the line, embedding the wire.

 

5. Match up the solder lines of the second wing, trim the reinforcement wires from the inner lines only, not the outside edges, and embed them in the solder lines too. Now the wings are attached. If there is a slight gap between the wings that's OK.

 

6. From your local hardware store, in the plumbing section, pick up some 1/4" copper tubing, a lenght  (2 feet should be fine) of copper pipe - half inch, 5/8", 3/4", the size isn't critical - and one copper end cap in the same size.

  • Cut a length of copper tubing 12" to 18" long. When you cut the flexible copper tubing the end flattens out (as seen below) and that makes a great place to attach your butterfly's antenna.

 

7. Make your antenna from 14 guage wire. Start with a 3" piece and curl the ends. You can trim them shorter if you prefer. If you have bare copper wire handy, use that. Note: Pre-tinned wire doesn't patina well.

 

8. With a hammer and nail, punch a pilot hole in your copper end cap. Make sure you center the hole.

 

9. Using a 5/16" drill bit, drill a hole in the copper end cap.

 

 

10. Now you're ready to attach the wings to the body! Gently bend the wings to a 75° or 80° angle - enough to make your butterfly look like it's wings are flapping.

 

11. Turn the wings over and use something heat resistant to prop them up while you attach the copper tubing.

  • Note: Clean you copper with settl wool and turn up the heat on your soldering iron when working with copper to ensure the solder bonds with the solder. If you don't work hot enough your solder joins will fail.

Wrap the wire tails from the edge reinforcements around the copper tube and anchor them in place with solder. When the solder has cooled, test it to make sure it will hold.

 

12. Cut more lengths of 18 guage wire and embed them in the solder lines along the back of one wing, across the copper tube and in the solder lines of the other wing.

 

13. Cover the entire copper tube with solder to obscure the wires and create the illusion of a butterfly body

 

14. Turn the butterfly over and "build up" a solder body on the top of the butterfly.

 

15. Anchor the antenna together with glob of solder.

 

16. Carefully attach the antenna to the end of the copper tubing.

 

17. Add more solder to the back to make sure the antenna are solidly attached.

 

18. About an inch below the base of the wings, gently bend the copper tubing "down" creating another 75° angle. The copper cap will be attached just below this bend.

 

19. Slide the end cap over the other end of the copper tubing and solder it in place. Build up the solder all the way around. Wait until it cools and check that the attachement is solid.

 

20. Time to clean! It's important to clean all the residual flux off any project or you'll end up with a residue called "white mold". Use baking soda (to neutralize the acidic flux) and Dawn dish washing soap (to cut the grease) and gently, but thoroughly clean your butterfly. Gently dry it with a soft cloth.

 

21. Apply copper patina. If you want to make your own copper patina mix a solution of 1 Tablespoon of copper sulphate crystals with 1 Cup of warm water. Test the results - if you want a richer color, add more copper sulphate. Handle copper sulphate with care and take proper safety precautions.

 

22. After you've applied patina to the entire butterfly, rince it in cool water and gently dry it with a soft cloth.

 

23. Time to wax and polish! Wax will preserve the shine and slow the tarnishing process. If you don't have finishing compound you can use good quality car wax made from carnuba wax. Cover the entire butterfly and wait for the wax to dry - just like waxing your car. Then gently buff it with a soft cloth until all the wax is cleaned off. You can use a soft tooth brush to get the hard to buff corners and edges.

 

24. Your butterfly is complete! Shiny and beautiful and ready to go outside!

 

25. Your butterfly is easy to install - I used a 18" of rebar and hammered it into the ground. The 2" length of copper pipe slides over the rebar and the copper tubing slides down into the tube and is anchored in place by the copper end cap. 

Your butterfly will withstand most weather but I recommend bringing it inside if you experience harsh winters. Hard freezes aren't good for art glass.

Happy Glassing!
~Cheryl