Did you know that you can find stained glass deals if you look hard enough? There are a number of places to buy stained glass – let’s look at a few of them.
The easiest and least risky way to buy glass is in a kit. You can purchase kits online: simply search for “stained glass kits” and you’ll see dozens of online suppliers. Or you can buy kits at Michael’s Arts and Crafts, Ben Franklin, or your local craft store. Many smaller craft stores may not stock kits, but they will be glad to order what you want.
The kit will only include glass you need for the project; you don’t have to worry about leftovers. If you’re new to the hobby, start with a kit or two – that way you won’t invest in glass inventory you may find you don’t need.
If you decide to buy glass in bulk, the first place to look is your local glass shop or craft shop. There are advantages and disadvantages to dealing with your local store. The advantages are clear: you can build up a business relationship with the store, you can inspect the glass before you purchase it, and you can ask questions and get advice from a knowledgeable source. The disadvantage is their selection may be limited and their prices may be higher than you can get from wholesale or discount glass companies. Of course, your local shop can order glass, but you lose the advantage of pre-inspecting the glass, and the price will probably be a little higher since the store will need to mark the glass up in order to make a profit.
If your store orders glass for you, ask if you can inspect it before you actually make the purchase. The color or texture in the catalog may not be the same as the color or texture you eventually receive.
There are a number of glass suppliers that can be found online. Simply search for “stained glass supplies” or “stained glass” and you’ll see hundreds of possibilities. If you decide to try an online supplier, make a small purchase the first time so you can evaluate their quality, professionalism, and service. When you’re comparing price with your local shop, make sure you take into account shipping charges; the raw glass may be cheaper, but when combined with shipping costs the total transaction may cost more.
Some glass manufacturers sell “sample sets.” These are exactly what they sound like: packages with a variety of glass types and colors enclosed. Many smaller sample sets cost less than $15 or $20 at online supply stores. Typically larger craft stores like Ben Franklin carry very few glass sample sets; if they do, their selection will be limited, but if you check they may have just what you need. In general the sheets of glass are smaller than what you’d normally buy, so you’re not stuck with a lot of glass you may never use. If you’re new to the hobby, aren’t sure what you want to make, and are interested in experimenting, a sample set can be an inexpensive way to try out different colors and techniques.
If you stay alert you may find great deals from local artisans or hobbyists. For instance, many hobbyists will sell glass if they’re preparing to move – glass is hard to pack up and move, and many people won’t want to bother. You may not find an opportunity like that often, but if you do, you can usually pay twenty-five percent or less for glass compared to what you would have paid retail.
Sometimes glass shops will also sell partial sheets at a large discount. If the partial sheet is large enough for your intended use, great! (Buying partial sheets is like buying carpet remnants.) Glass shops often also have “For Sale” bulletin boards for hobbyists to use to advertise leftover glass they want to sell – keep an eye out for pieces you can use.
You can also find supplies and tools at yard sales – make sure you have a wish list of tools with you and you may find exactly what you’re looking for. You can also buy used tools on “For Sale” bulletin boards at glass shops; if a local craftsperson has upgraded to a more expensive grinder, for instance, they may be more than willing to sell you their used grinder for a fraction of its original cost.
There is much more to this story than written here. Stained glass can be incredibly interesting once you learn all about it...