Off The Road House Art Studio

THE MAKING OF A WINDOW

Not much has changed in the 900 years since a monk named Theopilus wrote a "how to" for glass craftsmen: "If you want to assemble simple windows, first mark out their dimensions of their length and breadth on a wooden board, then draw scrollwork or anything that pleases you, and then select their colors. Cut the glass and fit the pieces together with the grozing iron. Enclose them with lead came and solder on both sides. Surround it with a wooden frame and set it up in a place where you wish."

Every window starts as a full-size cartoon like sketch-drawing. I design my own, but commercial designs can also be used. Colored glass is then selected to conform to the concept, and cut to size with a glass cutter. Awkward curves can be ground off with an electric grinder and its diamond head or a pair of smooth-jawed pliers. In the lead came method, edges are left raw. The next step is to flux and solder just enough to tack the intersections of each piece.

By now you need to have put on protective gear: goggles for the glass pieces chipping off from grinding and soldering fumes, gloves to protect from the chemicals in glass flux and from the heat of the soldering iron. Special air filtering and a portable soldering fume absorber are also necessary. The price of these few tools of the trade is affordable, which makes Stained glass also a welcomed hobby by many.

The piece is turned over and tacked on the other side for temporary strength. The copper foil is then completely fluxed and solder is applied evenly to one entire side in a smooth, even motion. This is repeated on the other side. Then I add a bead, or rounded line of solder to all of the joints on both sides of the piece.

Applying solder leaves artistic room for pattern in the distribution and texture of the solder. If you are into sewing, you know how difficult it is to make three or four intersecting seams on a piece of clothing look good, which means to make several layers of fabric appear as one. When soldering, there is no such thing as seams piling up in layers. Instead, the solder will melt all intersecting seams into one. As soon as you lift the soldering iron, you're done. No waiting for the glue to dry, soldering is immediate!

Stained glass is a perfect art form for impatient personalities.

Next comes the framing: If the piece is a free-form panel, the edge is beaded and hanging rings and a chain are added. If the piece is framed in U-came, the came is added, along with any hanging rings. The piece is then washed in mild soapy water to remove any traces of flux. Flux will start eating the colors and layers of the glass and leave ugly rims, especially in mirror glass. If I want to add patina to give the came a copper or brass finish, now is the time, but don't forget to rewash and dry. To complete the piece, polishing with car wax has worked wonders in my glass production. It makes the lead seams shine and look like silver.

Windows are built onto a grid of lead came to give vertical and horizontal support. If the window is more than three feet high, the glass can also be supported by saddlebars, and the arrangement of these essential supports are incorporated into the original design.

The last step of course is to sign and number the piece.

As in every art-form and skilled craft, and even more general for all mastering, "a master doesn't fall from heaven", which means, you are not born a master, but a student. In order to master you have to practice a lot. Although the techniques of soldering and channeling are easily learned, you can tell the difference between a beginner and experienced craftsman by the roughness or sheer finish of a piece.
 

My creations of different glass products range from small angel broaches, to picture frames, mirrors, thermometers to larger window hangings and structural pieces, both traditional and/or contemporary in design and technique. You can find my work year round at:


 
I also appear each year at a few select art and craft events.
 
Or shop online right here on this website!