Friday, February 14, 2014

Christmas Wreath Repair

This gorgeous stained glass Christmas wreath came to me the other day in three pieces.  It was made by an older woman who told my customer that this would be one of the last wreaths she'd make, so it is a special piece.  Here's how I went about repairing it .. (Click on any photo to enlarge).

Here's a "before photo" ...

 My customer and I spent a few moments jigsawing the pieces together.  Then I taped them in place and transported them downstairs to my studio where I added dotted silver Sharpie lines to show where the pieces needed to be re-joined.

Since this is an older piece, some of the old copper foil and solder was loose enough to pull off by hand.  In order to secure a firm bond for the repair, all of the edges in question needed to be fully cleaned of old copper foil and solder.

For some areas, I used needle nose pliers.

In addition to the three larger pieces, there were two smaller pieces which were loose and needed to be re-attached.  Here's one of them.

Once I removed the old foil and solder, I cleaned off the old adhesive using Goo gone and a generic orange de-greaser.

Then I added new copper foil to the pieces and pressed it onto the glass using a flexible plastic wand, or "fid", as shown.
 At this point, two facing sides have been cleaned of old solder and foil, and re-foiled.  I taped them in place as shown and moved onto the remaining two pieces.

 Now all three pieces have been cleaned up, re-foiled and taped together flat on my work bench.

 I started on the first section by brushing the copper foil with liquid flux with an acid brush as shown.  The flux is an agent which enables the solder to flow freely and adhere properly to the foil.

Notice my protective equipment which I use whenever I'm soldering or using flux .. a carbon filter fan and a lead-abatement breathing mask.  Essential.

Here I've begun soldering one side of the foil.  I'll do the same to the other two joints, then turn the wreath over and solder the other side.

At this point, the wreath is in one piece again, but I want it to be more secure.  I also want to assure that the pieces will not separate again.  I decided to edge the inner border of the wreath with a heavy gauge wire as shown below.  I don't know the actual gauge .. I used a length from my inventory.  But it is very flexible.  I started by bending it around the edges of the glass and then taped it in place using strips of painters tape as shown.

Now about half of the inner ring has been "wired."  To assure its strength, I'm using a single length of wire.

This is a messy part of the process, but I'm going around the interior adding dots of solder to secure the wire to the foil.  I'm also "tinning" the wire as I go, meaning that I'm coating it with flux and adding a thin layer of solder to it.  This helps it adhere.
 In order to make the wire "invisible", I've stood the wreath up in a holder so that the edge that I'm soldering is perpendicular to the floor.  Here I'm applying more solder to the wire.  As I move around the border, the wire "sinks" into the solder and is barely noticeable.
 When I'm satisfied with the look of the solder, I use a spray flux remover on both sides and wipe it down so that the wreath is clean.

 Now I'm using a different acid brush to "paint" on the black patina which reacts instantly with the silver solder, turning it black.  The new patina is an exact match to the old and the repairs are not visible.  After the patina sets for a few minutes, I rinse it off and let the wreath dry.  Then I apply stained glass finishing compound to both sides of the wreath.  This is a light wax which protects the patina and shines up the glass.

And here is the repaired wreath!  Thank you, Lynn, for bringing you wreath to me so you can enjoy it for many Christmases to come!  Next, I'll be working on repairing your beautiful lamp.
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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