Last week I started to share my journey with a big stained glass repair that I’ve been working on FOR EVAH! In More Playing with Glass I promised to continue with the tear-down and rebuild, so let’s get started.
We finished off last week with the pattern rubbing. Pattern in hand, now it’s time to
number everything. In the photo below you might be able to make out the red numbers in some of the white spaces. Every individual space on the pattern must have a separate numeral. Once the pattern is numbered, corresponding numbers must be marked on each piece of glass. These panels each have over 165 pieces.
It is a tedious part of the process, but without those numbers, it becomes a real guessing game figuring out which piece of glass goes where.
Now that I had something to re-build the panels to, I carefully started taking the most mangled of the two windows apart. The trick here was to disentangle the jigsaw puzzle of lead and glass shapes without breaking any additional pieces. I bet you thought I was going to say that the tricky part was not getting cut. Nah, you handle glass long enough and getting nicked and sliced becomes second nature, an occupational hazard. Glass artists simply keep an ample supply of band-aids in their studios.
Below are photos of some of the glass elements that I successfully salvaged and the mangled lead remains. Notice the numbers on the glass.
I mentioned last week about the challenge of finding replacement glass for these old panels. Unfortunately, the triangles in the upper right corner of the box below became a casualty of this re-build.
I looked everywhere for weeks for a match for those triangles, unfortunately, I could not find that shade of amber with that same texture. The glass that I replaced it with is a bit more gold in color and has a different texture as seen in the center of the photo below (the old glass is on the right). Although the two were a close match and I could have chosen to only replace broken triangles with new glass, I thought that the new gold-amber would stand out too much and ruin the continuity of the border so I opted to re-build the entire border with the new gold-amber. I kind of like the result (below), don’t you?
With the sides squared up, it was time to assemble the border. I have always loved triangles, but they are not very forgiving when fitting them into a pattern. I spent a lot of time cutting, grozing, grinding, fitting, then more cutting, grozing, grinding and fitting.
Next, each piece of glass was bordered with lead came. No, that isn’t a typo, it really is spelled CAME. Came also comes in brass, copper, and zinc. Lead is softer and more flexible than brass, copper, and zinc making it a more suitable choice for detailed patterns and curves. Zinc is sometimes used along the outside border to give the panel some rigidity and strength.
Cutting, grinding, fitting, leading, cutting, grinding, fitting, leading.
Everything fitted together, it was finally time to solder. I was a little rusty with the soldering iron so these joints were a bit ugly. I didn’t want to keep the soldering iron heat near the glass for too long for fear that the glass would crack (and I would have cussed and cried and cussed some more), so I methodically soldered each joint from one end of the panel to the other, then I went back over the ugly ones and prettied them up.
Stained glass windows of this size or larger, three feet by two feet, need reinforcement to support the weight of the glass and the lead. In addition to the zinc came outer frame, I soldered a flat, rigid, steel reinforcement bar to the back side of the panel in two places.
There is a back side and a front side to a stained glass window? Yes. Art glass comes in smooth and a variety of textured surfaces. The texturing is always on just one side, so when you’re building your panel, it is customary to keep all the textured sides facing the same way, which will be your backside of the panel. Because that is where most of the dust collects.
Glass artist do their best to hide the reinforcement bars along some of the horizontal lines of the panel design so as not to disrupt the aesthetics of the piece.
One down, one to go!