Friday, September 20, 2013

Dale Tiffany Waterlily Lamp Repair

Every broken lamp has a story and many of them involve children or pets.  In this case, my customer's two Maine Coon kittens had a go at the lamp and it came crashing to the floor, sustaining damage to both sides of the dome. 

Inside the dome was soldered a small brass tag with "Dale Tiffany Inc", shown below. Here's a quote from the Dale Tiffany Inc. website .. "More than thirty years ago Dale Tiffany began reproducing the work of Louis Comfort Tiffany. Our craftsmanship and attention to detail recreate these timeless heirlooms and make them available to the public. The opalescent colors in this hand-rolled art glass is exquisitely highlighted using ring-mottled glass."  It was a pleasure working on such a finely crafted lamp. Here's how I went about repairing it.  (Click on any photo to enlarge for a closer look).

The rectangular pieces of blue tape are marking all the cracked glass.  Here I'm using a flashlight to check the glass for opacity so that I can make a good match for the replacement glass.

And here's he other side of the lamp, which also sustained several cracked pieces.

From my inventory, I gathered together a palette of glass pieces for possible use on the repair.  Its always my goal to find the exact glass or something very close in terms of texture, opacity and color.

After I've assessed the damage, I'm starting the process by cracking out the glass and then picking out the shards with needle nose pliers as shown below.  The order of removal is important.  Two adjacent pieces generally shouldn't be removed at the same time.  It makes it more difficult to prepare a pattern, and it could affect the stability of the lamp.

Here I've cleaned out the borders of the cracked piece and slid a piece of manila folder under the dome.  I traced the manila folder to make a pattern for the new glass.

Here's the new piece of glass as traced by the pattern.  Since opalescent glass generally has different colors on each side, I've marked the pattern "inside" so I can be sure to get the best color match for the side which faces out.

Next, a trip to the grinder.  The sponge wicks up conditioned water from the reservoir beneath the grinding surface.  It keeps the grinding wheel wet and prevents it from wear.  I'm protecting my fingers with Staples rubber fingers, available in several sizes and essential when grinding sharp glass.

Here's a different section of the repair.  The green-blue piece has been copper foiled around the edges. I've also traced the oblong shape pattern to the left of it to prepare for the replacement of the next piece.

Though it may not look like it (which is good), seven pieces of glass have been replaced on this side.  There are two pieces remaining to fill this open segment.  Notice the wire across the top.  All stained glass windows are edged with this wire which serves to strengthen the edge of the lamp and add structure to it.  I always leave that wire in place.  I solder it to the edge piece to make it secure again, just as it was originally.

An oval shaped piece of opalescsent glass resting in place, ready for soldering.  I've taped it from behind with wide blue painter's tape.  The tape serves to keep the glass on the same plane as the rest of the dome.  It also catches any excess solder and makes for a cleaner interior.  At this point in the process, I've moved the lamp into a large box of packing peanuts so that the area to be soldered is facing up.

Below, I'm using a hot soldering iron to melt off the old solder and copper foil.  This will prepare the opening for the replacement pieces of glass. 

Here I've soldered some of the outer wire to the center of the border glass.  After its been fully soldered and patina-ed, it blends into the solder and can't be seen.

Now all of the cracked glass on both sides has been replaced.  I'm spraying the dome with Kwik-Clean Flux and Patina Remover.  It neutralizes the chemicals and prepares the solder for patina.

Below, I'm brushing on Novacan Black Patina which reacts instantly with the silver colored solder.  I let it set for several minutes.  Then I wash it off with the Kwik-Clean, towel dry and then let it dry thoroughly.  The final step is to towel off the entire lamp, inside and out, and apply Clarity Stained Glass Finishing Compound which is a light carnauba wax.  It serves to protect the patina and gives the glass a nice shine.  After the wax dries, I buff it out and then go into the corners of each piece of glass with Q-Tips to remove any excess wax.

This lamp is such a beauty, I wanted to show it from two sides.

Thank you John for bringing your beautiful Tiffany lamp to me for repairs.  It was a pleasure hearing that you could not tell which pieces had been repaired.  I wish you many more years of enjoyment with it!

Please visit my website to see my custom windows and repairs (click here).  And if you are on FaceBook, become a fan and I'll keep you up to date on all my stained glass projects.  Call me any time at 201-600-1616 or email with your questions. Thanks!


  1. Yes, isn't it, Irene? A pleasure to work on an American-made lamp. Construction, glass choice and durability .. all top notch.