Stained glass requires an artistic mastery to make. It has been beautifying churches and rich folk homes for centuries. Today, there are many designer homes that include a few pieces of stained glass, decorating either windows, exotic glass figurines, and more.
Here, the Fantastic Window Cleaning team is presenting you the interesting story of the past and future of stained glass windows.
History of Stained Glass
Glass has been made as early as 5000 years ago, and stained glass existed since the 4th century. Once Gothic cathedrals appeared in the 12th century, the business of making stained glass flourished.
In 1843, William Jay Bolton placed the beginning of the stained glass era in the USA, with his business producing stained glass windows for churches. However, the American movement for stained glass making started truly blossoming at the end of the 19th century, when American glass makers traveled to Europe to get inspired by the medieval stained glass architectures.
Today, over 90% of stained glass production is used in city architecture for windows, lamps, decorative ornaments, and other beautiful figurines, which passionate collectors would adore.
How Do Stained Glass Windows Work
Stained glass is still made the same way it was done in the Middle Ages – a lump of molten glass is caught up at one end of a blow pipe, is blown into a cylinder, and is then cut, flattened, and cooled. Today, large manufacturers mix everything together in one container.
- Each ingredient is carefully measured according to a specific formula to get the appropriate colour, shape, and form. Glass is primarily made by fusing together sand, soda, and lead oxide. The colour is determined by adding another metal oxide.
- The molten glass mixture is then ladled into thick sheets. Once this is done, it’s coloured with a pre-determined colour. Copper oxide can colour your end product in ruby, blue, or green hues, depending on the conditions. Cobalt can create all shades of blue. Chromium and Iron can also turn it green. Cadmium and titanium can make it gold or yellow.
- The glass is then packed into special pattern cases. The stained glass-making process is still mostly hand-crafted. After the design of the glass shape has been approved, the craftsperson measures the size and shape of the end product and makes a pattern. The pattern is then filled with glass.
- A full-sized black and white drawing is prepared. This is a careful, exact tracing of the lead lines on heavy paper. In other words, it’s a sketch on how the glass should be cut and will be later used as a guide when binding all pieces of glass together.
- The drawing is cut along the black lines with double-bladed scissors. The glass makers elect the desired coloured glass and cut the shape of the pattern.
- The craftsman might paint the glass in order to bright out the most desired shades of colours. While doing that, the glass is held up against the light for better judgement.
- Long strips of grooved lead are placed along the inside of the laths. The piece of glass is fitted into the grooves and more lead strips are added until each piece of glass is inserted into the leads, according to the outline drawing.
- Last inspection. The finished products are once again held against natural light to inspect the level of glassiness and and the play of colours when illuminated. If the desired result is there, it’s ready to be installed on a window frame.
The entire process is done by hand and can take between seven to ten weeks.
How to Make Stained Glass Windows at Home
To make stained glass, you would need not only artistic vision, but also the right tools and the right workspace. A glass worker’s studio needs to include enough natural sunlight, as well as a sturdy table, tools and, of course, a shelf supporting all glass creations.
- Gather your tools. The most important tool is the glass cutter. There are many varieties, so it’s your personal choice. For round cuts, you need a circle cutter. You will also need pliers, a grozing iron, brushes, and pattern shears.
- Cut the pieces of glass. Depending on the pattern you’d like to make, you can use all your tools to make a rough shape of your end product.
- Refine the edges. To make the cut edges smooth, use one or a few abrasive pieces of paper. Then, polish the edges with diamond sanding paper. Finally, brush the piece clean.
- Assemble your pieces like a puzzle. After you’ve cut all your forms and shapes, sanded and brushed all edges, it’s time to assemble all your pieces like a jigsaw puzzle. Use putty to keep the pieces from shifting.
- Install your window. Once your piece is done, it’s time to fit it on your window frame. A lot of people resolve to placing crossed bars on the window frame to keep the glass from sagging.
For more information on stained glass, other art forms and related topics, see the links laid out for you on the next page.