Saturday, October 5, 2013

Rug Design Window in Stained Glass - Pattern and Glass Cutting

My husband Eric and I delivered the stained glass vegetable panel on Monday night and on Tuesday morning, I began the pattern making process for my next commission.  This is a 19" x 42" window with over 470 pieces of glass.  Below are photos and explanations of each step of the process:  (Click on any photo to enlarge).

Here's the window .. It has six rectangular panes separated by mullions.  I designed the pattern to work with the mullions.  

Inspiration for custom stained glass designs can come from any source.  In this case, my customer suggested using a rug in the room as a pattern.  Great idea!  I took several photos of different areas of the rug and prepared this preliminary computer rendition for her review.  The proposed pattern is on the left .. The rug is on the right. 
The top and bottom sections of the design got a thumbs up, but not the center.  My customer liked the "viney" lines, so I flipped the bottom left side upside down and created a mirror image on the right.  Then I flipped those two sides to create another mirror image above them.  For the top two segments, I created a mirror image of the left side on the right.  Here's the revised computer rendition using colors that are similar to the glass we chose.  After further consultation, we changed a couple of colors. 

Here is the pattern making process.  I've taped together side-by-side manila folders and covered them with a layer of carbon paper.  The top layer is the "cartoon" or pattern.  I will build the window on top of this pattern.  I traced the whole design onto the manila folders as shown below.

The outer border of the pattern gets cut with standard scissors.  The pattern itself must be cut with double-bladed stained glass shears.  As shown below, they cut a thin strip of paper between each piece of glass.  This is to allow for the space taken by the copper foil which follows after all the glass has been cut.

Each piece of glass on the pattern has been numbered.  Most pieces are labeled with codes to signify what type and color of glass will be cut with it.  This design has background glass of medium amber Artique glass.  The stems will be cut in dark brown cathedral.  The mullions will be made from dark amber and light amber streaky glass.  The flower shapes will be made from medium amber and white wispy glass.  And each panel will be accented with red and amber waterglass, as well as green and amber mystic glass.  All of the glass chosen has similar opacity and are in similar color families. 
Since this project is divided into six smaller windows, I'm cutting out patterns and glass for one smaller window at a time.  Below, I've cut the pattern pieces and organized them into individual junk mail envelopes.  As I cut each piece of glass, I draw an "X" to the pattern to be sure that none are re-cut.  I've placed the pattern pieces face-down because the front of the glass is slightly textured which may interfere with a good score line.

Now I've cut several pieces of the background glass - medium amber Artique - and I've laid them onto the pattern.  Notice that I've added an aluminum "fence" or "jig" around the pattern.  This is thumb-tacked into my work surface and will serve to keep all the glass within the boundaries of the pattern, without shifting.
Below is a photo of the entire pattern with the jig in place.  Taped to wall above is a full-color rendition of the pattern.  Even though each piece of glass has already been labeled by color, the pattern is an extra visual aid to assure that each piece is cut properly.  Stained glass work requires a great deal of organization, especially with a window of this size with a repetitive pattern.

Below, I'm cutting the glass.  I'm using an oil-filled pistol grip cutter at a 90 degree angle to the glass.  Applying even pressure, I press it against the edge of the ruler to get a straight line.  (I would be pressing down on the ruler with my other hand which is holding the camera for this photo).  Then I tap on the score line repeatedly with the brass end of the cutter.  In many cases, the tapping is enough to separate the glass.  In other cases, I use a pair of "running pliers" to snap the line apart.
After the glass is cut in a straight line near the outer border of the group of pieces, more cutting is done to get the shape needed.  "Grozier pliers" and "running pliers" are the two main tools for this task, after intial cuts are done with the pistol grip cutter.

This window is an abstract design with many curves.  Below is an illustration of one of the many curved pieces.  In order to cut a smooth curve, the glass is scored in rows, as shown below, and removed bit by bit.  If the curve is removed in one piece, the left and/or right points will probably snap.  Depending on its shape, each piece of glass requires different consideration.
Here I'm removing small chunks of glass with "grozier pliers".  Easy does it ..
The curve will be a bit chunky but the grinder will smooth that out.  Notice the small bits of glass on the work surface.  This is why I always wear an apron when I'm working .. The glass tends to fly in every direction.
Each piece of glass gets a trip to the grinder after its cut.  The purple sponge wicks water up from the reservoir beneath the cutting surface to keep the grinding bit wet.  I add "E-Z Grind Water Conditioner" to the water, to extend the life of the grinding bit.
After each piece is ground, it gets a quick rinse in the sink.  I try not to wash off the number that I've put on each piece of glass. I generally bring the pattern pieces back to the "cartoon" along with the piece of glass, to make it easier to find its place. 

I cut the majority of glass by hand.  Since many of the cuts in this pattern are rather complex, though, I'm also using my Gryphon Omni II Wire Saw.  Its a large, loud machine but it does a wonderful job with precise cuts.  In operates with a steady stream of water which covers the blade and the glass.  To prevent the markings from washing off, I cover them with a layer of lip balm.  Works like a charm.

And here is the first of six segments with all of the glass cut and put in place.  As I work, I'll be trimming the glass for a better fit .. Not too loose and not too snug.
Below, I've begun cutting the pattern for the second segment, adjacent to the one just completed.  This project will take a few weeks to complete, but I'll be back again soon as the work progresses.  Its going to be beautiful!

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!

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