Tuesday, 20 December 2016

Marking dark glass

I like to use strong colours in my work, such as black, dark blue, crimson and dark green to contrast with lighter colours or clear glass.

Way back on my NVQ course we were told to use permanent markers on glass, and I've never really thought much about it, coping with dark glass as best I could and then forgetting about the problems with it until faced with another piece of dark glass on the bench that has to be cut to shape. I've generally used a black 'Sharpie' pen to mark up glass, which are easily obtainable and leave a permanent line, but I've found it very difficult to see the line on some darker coloured glass.

I took an offcut of Wissmach Midnight Blue English Muffle into our local stationers - Howells of Biggleswade - earlier this week, and tried a couple of pens.

I found that ballpoint gel pens (available in gold, silver or white) work quite well - certainly clearly enough to see the line to cut, and the line left by the gold pen is narrower (perhaps 0.2mm) than that left by a slightly worn Sharpie (which could be upwards of 0.5mm). The gold line may not be quite so permanent as that left by a Sharpie but it's more than adequate for the temporary marking needed to cut a single piece.

The gold line stands out much better than the black on red water glass (the black line can just be seen, to the left of the gold one):

I think the gold gel pen cost £1.49 so didn't break the bank, and the shelf over my workbench now has one ready for when I need to mark some dark glass.

Monday, 14 November 2016

Winter offer

I was at the craft fair at The Weatherley Centre in Biggleswade yesterday, and had a number of queries about the care and maintenance of stained glass and leaded windows. During the winter months (November to March) I'll have time to give free advice to any householder or business in the Biggleswade area regarding the condition of their panels, and how best to clean and maintain them.

Key points that people seem to be unclear about seem to be:

  • Basic cleaning and polishing
  • Impact of ageing on lead, how to spot it, and how to slow it
  • Importance of cement in a panel and how it ages

Wednesday, 26 October 2016

My way of making Christmas Puddings

My grandmother used to make puddings for Christmas in February; I think that gave her time to add plenty of brandy!

I've a couple of craft fairs lined up for the next month or so and I thought of her when I was going through my offcuts shelf recently, for I found a piece of brown/multi colour (fairly) opaque glass that I think I used to represent stone on my image of Bingley church:

I got to thinking whether I could make up some passable Christmas Pudding suncatchers (or tree decorations). I had several offcuts of opaque white to represent sauce (or icing); after playing with a cardboard template for a while I cut out a couple of samples and edged them in copper foil.

Rather than edge the brown glass to mate with the white in a single plane, I've chosen to plate the white over the brown disc. One sample has copper edging all round; on the other I've just edged those edges I'm going to solder - the appearance of the final piece, without a solder edge between the white and brown, may be better than that with, at the possible expense of strength - I'm not sure how well the piece without the supportive soldering will hold together.

I tinned these pieces using my 80w iron (itself tinned using multicore solder - it seems to be more effective for tinning irons than normal 60/40 solder and separate flux). I use plumbers flux paste, so, after tinning, the pieces were washed thoroughly, dried lightly with a towel, and despatched to the airing cupboard to dry off thoroughly.

Note to the unwary: failing to dry off all water after washing and before the next step (more soldering) will, very quickly, teach you why you should wear safety glasses when soldering!

Once dry, I soldered the pieces together and added a 4mm diameter loop of 0.4mm silvered copper wire, bought from a craft stall at Hitchin market. I also found some plastic decorative holly, meant for cake decoration - the only challenge with that was how to fix it to the puddings.

I ended up soldering another length of 0.4mm wire beside the loop, trimmed the holly and made a hole with a hot needle, and secured the sprig to the pudding by threading the wire hrough the hile and around the berries.

The one without the bottom run of solder (left above) is as solid as the other one; so long as it isn't biffed too much, or allowed to get too wet, it should hold together fine.

I did also experiment with adhesives (epoxy resin and UHU) to secure the holly to the glass but neither stuck well to the flexible plastic holly; both puddings therefore have been decorated using the soldered-wire-through-the-hole fashion, and are ready for the punters at the craft fair in Biggleswade on November 13th, and I've enough materials to make another eight by then (not all in the brown colour though) !

Thursday, 20 October 2016

Panel with lettering

One recent commission was a present for a ruby wedding anniversary. Made mostly from red water glass, it features initials cut from glass, and the dates applied with Letraset.

I used lettering designs from a book, but found that the 'D' was wider than the 'P'; having checked with an expert on fonts and design I revised them to be have the same width.

The panel is made using copper foil, rather than lead came - this is often more suited to detailed work, but does involve a lot of soldering.

I included loops at the top corners; nylon cord was used to hang it for the photo, but the plan is to use a silver or chrome plated chain for it in the long term.

The red water glass has a rather interesting effect - note the distortion of the street lamp behind the panel in the photo!

Monday, 12 September 2016

Storing Glass

One of the challenges faced by anyone who works with glass is storing it in a way that a) is safe, b) offers some protection to the glass, and c) allows it to be seen and selected fairly easily.

In the past I've kept mine in boxes under a workbench, or otherwise hidden away, and a consequence has been that I've ended up buying a piece of glass for a job for which I've already got something suitable, and I then end up with loads of quite expensive glass that I might not use.

I had an old bookcase in my garage which has come to the rescue. The bottom shelf is big enough to take an A4 file without any of it protruding; a coat of white paint and suddenly it started to look the part.

On the top two shelves there's plenty of space for tubs of cement, whiting, and containers of small offcuts of glass. The bottom shelf is ideal for the larger sheets, but I had a problem - how to keep them in a way that that allowed me to see what I had.

A visit to Wilko's solved that: these magazine files are available at £2.75 each, and have holes to allow them to be hooked onto a pair of screws - ideal to stop the file toppling over and breaking the glass.

I fitted screws to the back of the bookcase and, for the time being at least, I have enough storage for my glass! I bought five of the magazine files to start with, and have since got another three; there might be space for one more should I need it.

Wednesday, 24 August 2016

Some simple discs make a huge difference to garden table and chairs

We had an old metal garden table and chairs rusting in the corner of the garage. They had circular insets containing ceramic disc tiles that weren't terribly inspiring.

Removing the ceramic tiles wasn't a great challenge, and the table and chairs looked much better for a coat of white Hammerite.

To replace the ceramic tiles I made up two discs for each: one in plain mirror glass (sealed with varnish to keep the damp away from the silvering), and one in a coloured English Miffle pattern. The mirror reflects the light back through the muffle pattern, giving a sparkling finish that will stand out wherever the furniture is in the garden.

Thursday, 11 August 2016

Ornaments and suncatchers from leftover glass

One of the problems that I get after making up some panels is that I have a small amount of glass left over. It's a shame to chuck it, so in between major projects I make up some small pieces to sell at craft fairs. Angels (above) are quite popular, although I'm not wholly keen on the copper foil work needed to make 3D items - it uses a lot of solder and the fluxes used for copper can make light work of a soldering iron bit ...

Small leaded panels featuring crosses or other simple emblems are also popular, and there can be some seasonal specialities, like for Halloween ...


I personally quite like moons - crescent, or half, as shown here; if I have a suitable piece of mainly white glass, a full moon can look good too ...

I try to keep these simple, so they can be realistically priced at just a few pounds, or less, yet still enable me to justify the time making them and attending the show.

Tuesday, 2 August 2016

The importance of panels being properly supported, especially in doors or large openers

One of the main reasons that leaded panels fall apart is that they aren't properly supported ....

That is an obvious statement, but in the modern age few people actually understand how a panel is held together, and it's very tempting to take things out to provide clean lines in our homes. To prevent excessive movement, any leaded light panel with a dimension over three feet (or, in a door, over two feet) must be supported with saddle bars - as per the photo below.

Saddlebars are often removed in the desire for cleaner lines, but this is always a mistake. (It is possible to co-ordinate them with the decor - with a brass sleeve, or even white plastic; and I do now recommend fixing the panel to the bars with cable ties, rather than the traditional twisted wire - which will rip dusters to pieces when you clean your windows!).

Doors, window openers, and any panel that is exposed to strong winds are particularly at risk. When new, a panel will be rigid, the glass held in place firmly by cement; over time ( thirty - eighty years) that cement dries, loses it's adhesion on the glass, and the panel becomes weaker. Eventually pieces break and have to be replaced - at which point saddle bars should be put back, and new cement spread to hold it all together again. This is a job I've had to do on a number of occasions; the photo below is actually a time when this wasn't quite the case - the breakages were caused by a broken sash cord, but saddlebars had still been taken out!

If you have a really smashing time when such a problem arises it may be better for the panel to be rebuilt with new leads - but, if only three or four lights are broken, in situ repairs may be easier.

The window in this second photo had clearly had the problem before - moct of the glass was English Muffle, but some water glass had been used as replacements (not such a good idea for a bathroom, which this was!)

Monday, 4 July 2016

Modern panels fixed to uPVC doors

Like it or not, uPVC windows and doors are used widely by the building trade. They aren't really 'maintenance free' and they don't last for ever (unlike a properly maintained leaded panel fitted in a wooden frame) - we've all suffered from misting when the seals go, and then the only answer is a new unit.

Worse, uPVC windows are ugly. Big chunky white frames blot out the light like a size 20 woman in a bikini. The sealed double glazed units let light through perfectly; sometimes, too perfectly - who wants a view of a twenty foot high brick wall at the bottom of the garden? And you don't want the whole patio door in frosted glass because, yes, you'd rather like to see your garden.

It was to solve this 'view of a twenty foot high wall' problem that I made these panels. Roughly 20 by 12 inches, the Wissmach glass refracts the glass into a rainbow effect, with the coloured lights giving some impact, fitting the top of a double glazed patio door unit.

The panels are edged with zinc came to provide rigidity.

Fitting something like these to a uPVC frame will always be a challenge; I've used 3M's 'Command' self-adhesive hooks, with large ones at the top (each rated at 3lb) at the top, taking the weight, and little 8oz ones at the bottom keeping the panel tight against the frame. For security, I've added 0.4mm silver plated wire loops up to the sash lifts (which I added for this purpose, to match those on the adjacent windows). These should hold the panel if one of the hooks does give way. The sticky pads for the hooks have been kept clear of the moulding that's used to retain the double glazed unit in the frame.

The panel can be lifted out of the hooks for cleaning.

With uPVC frames you have to be careful - you can't put screws in just anywhere! The 3M hooks can be removed completely, and shouldn't affect the integrity of the frame.

With the warm weather recently these doors have been open, a very different effect occurs with the morning sun catching the pattern in the Wissmach:


Monday, 20 June 2016

Glass thickness

I was at an old chapel recently which was converted to flats perhaps ten years ago. An accident had revealed something that anyone living in such a building might want to be aware of.

A window, some six feet off the ground, had been broken, and the owner had kept a piece of the blue glass which she would like me to replace.

I noticed it was very thin; in fact, it was one-sixteenth of an inch (about 1.5mm) thick. (The Methodists who built the chapel clearly didn't believe in spending any more on luxuries like glass than they really had to.) Being over 1500mm above the ground the building reg rules about thickness won't actually apply, but tapping some of the (unbroken) windows around the property we came to the view that there could be some glass of that thickness at a lower height elsewhere in the building.

The coloured glass I normally use is 3mm (one-eighth) thick; in some high rick places 4mm is preferred (or required, in Building Regs).

The thinner glass breaks very easily.

I have a suspicion that glass thickness had not been on the list of things that were thoroughly checked by Building Control when the conversion was done - it is difficult to tell glass thickness when it's in a window! The piece will have to be replaced with 3mm glass, it's almost impossible to get hold of anything thinner these days.

The problems of matching colours

I did the necessary work on the broken Victorian panel (see Feb 2016 post) recently. The glass we had ordered was indeed a close - but not perfect - match, the three replaced lights can be readily identified in the photos I took on my phone (which perhaps bring out the difference more than is apparent when actually looking at the panel).

Closer examination of the glass in question did lead me to wonder whether it was the same as the glass I had removed, or the matching pieces at the other end of the panel.

I have left the customer a piece of the yellow glass I used, just in case she wants to replace the bottom left light; however, when reviewing the photos I took in February, I noticed that that piece was slightly darker than those I had replaced anyway.

The glass will, of course, weather a little, and I was not able to polish the panel aggressively while the cement was still soft; once it has hardened some Mr Sheen and an old pair of tights will work wonders. I will still notice the difference in colours, but possibly others won't!

Sunday, 12 June 2016

Lettering on glass

I've been working on a piece ( a gift - photos of it will follow once the recipient has it) incorporating some lettering.

Large letters - 2 inches high or more - I tend to cut in glass, using copper foil to solder them into the panel. There are some in the piece.

In this case it's was also necessary to use smaller lettering, using paint or similar to add the required text onto the glass. Traditionally, this would be done in enamel and fused into the glass with heat; modern technology does provide alternatives, one of which I've been experimenting with.

Many of us have used Letraset lettering on paper in the past (younger readers may not be so familiar with it, now that Microsoft Word and the like are used to produce reports).

The photo below shows two tests of black Letraset, applied using a burnishing tool onto white glass.

In both cases the lettering didn't quite go down perfectly, but did give an acceptable effect; however, I needed to protect the delicate lettering with varnish. For that on the left I tried a squirt of gloss polyurethane, on the right I brushed on some clear nail varnish. Both varnishes did soften the lettering enough to cause slight runs, but the final effect of the spray was more than acceptable - that's what I'll be using to protect the text on the final piece (which is complete, apart from the text - I will apply the letraset now the panel has been fully soldered). The nail varnish can be returned to the bathroom shelf!

Thursday, 19 May 2016

Update on mirror and restored panel

I've now finished work on the mirror, and it's now installed on an external wall, reducing the amount of visible brickwork in the garden and reflecting light onto a lemon tree. It's mounted on a wooden frame, with the mirror itself being held away from the wall; previously, a plastic mirror was in this spot and failed quickly due to the silvering not coping with moisture that sometimes runs down the face of the wall in heavy rain.

There's another plastic one to the left (visible in the first photo, giving rise to the 'bent' reflection). The glass mirror I've made reflects light 'straight', whereas the plastic mirrors didn't sit 'flat', giving a reflection not wholly unlike the hall of mirrors in a funfair! (If using them again I would mount them on very solid board, to try to stop them bending.)

In low light the colour plating picks up the light from the sky; who says you can't have colour in your garden all year round?

The plan is to make another similar mirror to fit the wall to the left, turning a corner of the garden into a mini-light box.

I've also completed the soldering and recementing work on the panel I picked up at a reclamation yard: this would ideal to add a bit of decoration to a uPVC window or conservatory. I'm putting it on sale, initially in newspapers and on the internet.

Thursday, 5 May 2016

Transporting and moving leaded panels

There's a programme on TV this week (Channel 4, 5.30pm) which is a sort of competition for the transportation industry. One of the things that had to be transported was a set of seven Victorian leaded stained glass panels.

The commentator kept describing them as 'irreplaceable' - actually, the glass was mostly pastel English Muffle, available from Decorative Glass (http://www.decorativeglasssupplies.co.uk/). Maybe this was to wind up the contestants a bit, who seemed very, very nervous about trying to move them.

Actually, it's easy. Each panel must be on a firm board (12mm MDF is best), ideally with two sides edged with 2 x 1 timber. It should be kept on it right until it is fitted into the frame: here's a photo of my garden mirror panel, on its board, prior to fitting:

The board can be leant at an angle, and the timber edges keep the panel on it. For transportation, I cover the panel with either hardboard or stiff cardboard, and tie the whole thing up with strong tape, before putting the board into the car or van, ideally on its long edge with the timber support at the bottom, and secured in place, padded out with old curtains or something soft. They'll survive anything encountered in normal driving if protected like this.
#Stainedglass #Transportation

Monday, 18 April 2016

Inspiration from Amsterdam

I've just got back from a short visit to Amsterdam.

There's much more use of stained glass ('Glas in Lood' as they call it) over there than in the UK, with even modern buildings and shops using some coloured glass to soften the light coming in, and to give some colour to light going out (at night).
One bar we found - 't Lommertje on Bos en Lommerweg - has large panels in all the outer windows, with the leaded panels encapsulated in double glazed units (partly for insulation, and partly, no doubt, for security - the panels would be very vulnerable to damage). Somehow this has rather more style than the sterile uPVC units you see in shop and café windows in the UK:
Most of the designs we saw made maximum use of straight lines - straight cuts being much easier to get right than curves, greatly reducing the labour cost of each panel. Here are a few examples:

In at least one case I saw a leaded panel fitted behind a conventional uPVC window (rather than bei9ng encapsulated within it). I've been planning to try that for some time, and it will be one of my next projects.
One glass-related observation I did make - in the otherwise wonderful Rembrandtshuis museum, the leaded windows of the 17th century building have obviously been restored, with new leads, and some glass lights being replaced. Unfortunately, it's clear which lights have been replaced - they have used modern 3mm glass (optically perfect) whereas the old 17th century stuff had a few ripples in it. I did wonder whether they could get something like clear water glass, which would work better; I've used red and pastel water glass in the past but I wasn't sure if clear is available. Later that day we went to the 't Lommertje, where some of the lights are clear water glass! I will be reviewing Rembrandshuis for Tripadvisor soon, I'm not sure whether everyone will feel it a fair criticism but, in fact, the glass in the windows would have had a significant impact on the light available to the artist - so it should really be right.

Friday, 1 April 2016

I’ve now found some amber glass that’s suitable for the panel in the Victorian house. It’s ‘Wissmach Light Amber Seville’, code W112. I’ve shown a sample to the client and she is happy with the match, next step is to order some more and then plan in the job, probably for some time in early May.

I’ve moved forward on the other two pieces previously mentioned. For the mirror, I have selected some coloured glass to plate in front of some parts of the mirror: the English Muffle green and red pick up the light well, and will look good in the planned garden setting.

Work on the small panel I picked up in Cambridgeshire has started. Both top and bottom leads will need replacing, and the side ones will need some work to clean them up satisfactorily. I’ve soldered some of the broken joints and am trimming the side leads to allow a new top lead to be fitted.

I’ve also had a couple of other projects worth mentioning. The first, albeit not at all time consuming, involves a window which I repaired four years ago in ‘The Cock’ in Hitchin, (on a July day, in pouring rain, with a bagpipe player fifteen yards away..!)  
Areas of the lead that I had worked had become oxidised over the last couple of years, and I popped by and polished them with a little boiled linseed oil. This should keep them looking good for at least a few years. The ‘before’ and ‘after’ photos below don’t really show how much better the lead looks now but I can wholly recommend this treatment for any leads that are looking a bit pale.

(Befiore: )


Finally, I had a request to help save a copper foil panel from disintegration. The foil had weakened at the edges and broken resulting in a small piece of glass coming away:

This often happens with copper foil work; the solution I’ve used in the past has been to frame the whole piece in some C-section lead. Having done this, the piece now looks fit for another few years on a windowsill:

Saturday, 27 February 2016

Work ongoing at the end of February

I’ve been working with stained glass for over ten years. I started out of necessity: I owned a big Victorian house in Yorkshire which had some panels that badly needed work.

I’m now based in Bedfordshire, and I make mirrors, panels, ornaments and decorations as a hobby and an occasional source of income. I also do the odd repair if the work involved is within my capabilities (removing entire panels from churches most definitely isn’t!).  I’m going to keep this blog as a record of what I’m doing, what works well, and what doesn’t.

I’ve currently got three pieces on the go.The first involves a panel that I picked up in Cambridgeshire.

DSCF1020 - Copy.JPG

The top lead is broken half way across:

There’s a broken lead at the top left of the green light:

… and also the bottom lead is quite corroded - it’s been subject to the elements for many years, and probably not dressed with linseed oil since it was produced perhaps eighty years ago.

On this piece I’m going to replace the top and bottom leads, clean it all up, and recement it. I haven't got anywhere in mind for it, it might end up in the 'for sale' column of the local paper. 

My next piece of work is a mirror that I plan to hang in the garden - if it works it will be the first of many to help lighten a small, rather enclosed outdoor space:

The silvering has all been thoroughly sealed, in the same way that I did some test pieces that have been out all winter and are showing no sign of failing. This panel needs some colour adding (rather in the style of Rennie Mackintosh); originally I was thinking of a sunflower design but I am now erring towards something simpler. 

The third project is a repair - three broken lights in an elegant panel in a Victorian house. The damage arose from a resident playing with a basketball:

For this one I’ve first got to source matching yellow glass - which is often not as difficult as people think. I'll update this blog when I have found some!