The creation of a new stained glass window is an extensive process that begins with a quality design. Very little of this process has changed in nearly one thousand years.
We work closely with our clients to establish the design concept and factor in the influence of the window’s environment, such as lighting, architecture and visibility. A small color maquette, or illustration, is produced and submitted for approval. Once the design is finalized, production can be initiated.
The small maquette is used to guide the layout process where an actual full-scale cartoon, or drawing, of the window is produced. This cartoon is duplicated and the copy is cut apart with the use of pattern shears that extract the correct allowance for the heart of the lead came. Each pattern is numbered and marked with a color designation. From this stage, the patterns are used to cut each piece of glass.
Some glass requires painting and firing. This is a time consuming process where each piece of glass is hand painted with an oxide or finely ground glass and fired in a kiln at 1225 degrees then slowly cooled to fuse the paint into the glass. This process is permanent and enables the capturing of detail. Examples are faces, hands, clothing texture, etc…
The prepared glass is now ready for assembly. Using lead came, each piece of glass is assembled on top of the cartoon. After assembly, the lead is soldered at each intersection on both sides.
The next phase of the process is quite critical. The window is cemented using a compound manufactured specifically for the task. A blend of sash putty, boiled linseed oil, calcium carbonate and turpentine, all in the correct balance of proportion, is applied to the areas between the glass and the lead. Excess cement is scrubbed away and the window is polished afterward resulting in the lead becoming a dark gray patina. This acts as a weatherproofing agent as well as a provision of some rigidity in the panel. It takes several weeks for each side to cure properly. The quality of this part of the process will greatly influence the lifespan of the window.
The final phase of fabrication is the application of reinforcement bars. These are flat or round, treated steel bars that are soldered directly or wire-tied to the interior of the stained glass window. They span the window horizontally and provide structural support to combat deflection and general fatigue.
Stained glass can be installed in numerous fashions. It can be retrofitted into existing openings using a variety of materials. For the strongest, maintenance-free arrangement, we recommend using a custom built aluminum frame designed specifically for stained glass. Regardless of the type of installation, protective covering on the exterior (such as plate glass, safety-laminated or tempered glass) is a sure way to prolong the life of a stained glass window.