Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Stained Glass Vintage 1955 Thunderbird Auto

My  husband Eric and I own a vintage car and we meet some fun people at weekly "cruise ins" and car shows. Our friend Paul has a gorgeous black and chrome 1955 Thunderbird.  I had the pleasure of creating it in stained glass for him.  Here's the process ..

Below is a (slightly out of focus) photo of the 1955 Thunderbird.  My computer rendition design of the car is beneath it. Its 23" wide by 10" high.
Here I'm starting the process by making the pattern.  I've placed the "cartoon" or full size paper design on top of carbon paper which is laid on top of manila folders which have been taped together, edge to edge.  Then I trace all the markings including the numbers and colors for each piece of glass.

The outer border of the pattern is cut using regular scissors.  The pattern pieces are cut with stained glass pattern shears.  These are double-bladed scissors which cut a small area between the pieces.  This will be taken up by the copper foil which will be applied later.  After all of the pattern pieces have been cut, I organize them by color into separate recycled envelopes.  I cut all of the same color at once and place them onto the cartoon after each piece has been ground and rinsed off.

Although I do most of my glass cutting by hand, some pieces have sharp angles or curves which must be cut by my Gryphon Omni saw.  Here, I've marked black glass pieces for cutting by using a silver Sharpie.  The saw is a wet saw .. It drips water onto the glass to keep the saw blade cool.  I coat each of the Sharpie lines with lip balm to prevent them from washing off during the cutting process.  

Below, I'm back at the saw, cutting the curves in the sky glass.

An amazing cut by the Omni saw, not possible to do by hand.

 The chrome on this car is especially beautiful so I wanted to capture that by using Silver Coats glass.  It is a mirror glass with a waterglass texture.  Its highly reflective and looks just like chrome.
This glass requires some special care to ensure that the blue mirror finish on the back does not flake off over time.  Below, I'm coating the backs of each Silver Coat piece with clear nail enamel.  If any scratches appear, a good tip is to use a silver Sharpie pen to cover the scratch and re-coat with the clear enamel.

 Now all of the glass has been cut.  Notice the metal border around the panel.  This is a "fence" or "jig" which prevents the glass from shifting. The shiny chrome brightens up the panel and shows up this important feature of this classic car.

Here I'm applying 7/32" adhesive copper foil to the center of the edge of each of the 93 pieces of glass in the panel.  The copper foil is pressed onto the glass, on all sides, using a "fid" or flexible plastic wand.  This is to prevent any chemicals or cleaning agents from getting under the foil.

After the foiling is complete, I use a metal acid brush to apply Blu-Glass Liquid Flux to all the copper foil lines as shown.

Next, I "tack-solder" the pieces together.  I affix a dot of solder to the intersections of the glass and random places to assure that when I remove the jig, the pieces stay together in place without shifting. In between some of the pieces, I also add some braided reinforcement wire to strengthen the panel.
 I sign each of my custom designs.  Here I'm using an (upside down) Dremel Tool to engrave my name, the month, and the year, into the lower right hand piece.  After I rinse off the black guide lines, the signature is barely visible.

Now that the panel has been signed and tack-soldered, I remove the jig and slide out the paper pattern.  This will protect it from the chemicals which follow.

Now I've soldered the entire front of the panel.

My husband Eric custom cut a metal frame for the piece.  Then he put the jig back on so that I can solder the frame to the panel. After I've soldered the frame, I remove the jig, turn the panel over and solder the back.

With the frame soldered to the piece, I'm now adding two hanging hooks to the top corners.  I do this by "tinning" the hook, which means I flux it and add solder to the entire surface, front and back.  Then I add a bit of solder below the corner where the hook will be affixed.  By pressing the hot soldering iron onto the hook, the solder will eventually melt and I can place the hook in the proper position.  I use needle nose pliers to position the hook while the solder is melting.

Next, I apply Novacan Black Patina to the solder lines.  It reacts instantly with the solder.

Each step requires a thorough cleaning.  Here I'm spraying Kwik-Clean Flux and Patina Remover onto the back of the panel.  Then I wipe the piece down with a towel.

The panel is now almost complete.

I coat each panel with Liva Stained Glass Polish.  Its a light wax which protects the patina and gives the glass a nice shine.  No further maintenance will be needed for the panel other than a light dusting now and then.

Below are three photos of the finished 1955 Thunderbird, photographed in different lighting conditions. I'm very pleased with the final results.

This was such a fun project, Paul .. Thanks so much for the opportunity! See you soon at the next cruise-in!

Do you own a classic car? Please contact me if you'd like to see it rendered in stained glass!

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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