Monday, September 26, 2016

Stained Glass Window with Round Plates, Rondels, Jewels, and Marbles

Is it a bird?  Is it a plane?  No .. And its not a rhombus, a trapezoid, or a triangle.  My husband Eric calls the shape of this stained glass window a right triangle with a truncated side, or an elongated trapezoid.  Well, whatever the shape is called, it was a fun project!

This was on my work bench for a few months actually!  It's a one-of-a-kind piece made up of over 200 circular glass elements. These include plates, rondels, hand cut glass circles, decorative jewels, and small flat sided marbles.

The size is 70" at the bottom, 28" up the right side, 73" across the top, and 5.5" at the left side.

I collaborated on this project with my customer who is a creative jewelry designer.  She and I collected various round elements in the early phases.  She chose the color scheme.  With her input, I designed and created this amazing window.  Here's the process (and its a long one).

I'll start this posting at the end.  Here is the finished window which Eric installed this weekend.  He says it was his easiest installation yet!  He started with a paper template of the window and I built the design directly on a duplicate of the template.

Over a period of weeks, my customer Jaime and I collected these plates, rondels, and jewels and I hand cut a number of circles within the color palette she chose. 

Eric bought me this glass circle cutter for Christmas a few years ago. I finally had a reason to try it out.  It worked great!  

Here are some of the many circles I cut.  I got a little carried away, but I ended up using all of them.

As each circle was cut, I used the oil-filled pistol glass cutter to score straight lines along 4 sides of the circle, then I snapped off the glass using the (blue) "running pliers."

For a couple of the larger circles, I used my electric ring saw.  Fortunately I have many tools at my disposal to handle any kind of glass cutting.

After each circle was cut, I ground the edges with the electric grinder shown.

Here's Eric measuring the pattern from the template.

 Here's an early rendition of the placement of the circular elements.  I knew I'd have to create a border around the perimeter, so I allowed for a 1" strip.  This would be where the zinc frame would be attached.

 I sent photos to my customer of the layouts and when we had a "winner", I went to work preparing each of the 200+ circular elements.  Here I'm attaching copper foil to a small clear glass dish.  Notice the "fence" around the perimeter of the template/pattern.  This is to keep the glass contained as I work on it.

Here's one of the two small green plates, with the edge copper foiled.  I used 7/32" black backed copper foil for this project.

Many flat glass marbles were also part of the design.  The fastest way to burnish the foil onto a flat marble is to toss a few of them into a medication container and just shake them a few times.  They come out perfectly foiled as shown.

To add interest to the design, there are two circles which are cut in half and extend from one quadrant into the adjoining one.  This is a large, heavy piece.  Whenever a stained glass window is larger than 2' square, it's necessary to add reinforcement.  I decided to build this window in four quadrants, with vertical struts between each quadrant, to strengthen it further.
 I'm continuing to add copper foil to each circle.

Here I'm foiling marbles.

More and more of the circles have now been foiled, but there are a lot more to go.

Here are some of the smaller circles I cut.  I just eye-balled the sizes of each element and placed them on the template where the colors made the best impact.  
 For added strength, I ran strips of flat, braided copper reinforcement wire vertically and horizontally around the circles, as shown.

To prepare each small area for soldering, I apply liquid flux, as I'm doing here.  The flux acts as a catalyst to help the solder flow more evenly on the foil.  

Here's the quadrant on the far right, with all of the glass circles foiled, fluxed, and soldered to one another.  There are open spaces between the glass circles.  This cuts down on the weight of the window, and the ventilation prevents any moisture from forming behind it.  It also lets more light shine through.

After the glass circles were prepared in the middle two quadrants, I laid some white paper down and traced around the circles to create a pattern for the clear hammered glass which goes above and below the circles.  

Since the clear hammered glass was rather large, I decided to go back and use my electric ring saw to make the cuts.

Here I'm using a "fid" or flat flexible plastic wand to burnish the foil onto the glass.

At this point, the clear hammered glass has been cut and put in place below the circles as shown.  I'm in the process of brushing on liquid flux to the top edge of the clear glass, in preparation for soldering.

Soldering the foil.  Notice that there is a length of the flat braided reinforcement wire in between the circles and the clear glass, added for strength.

In this photo, notice the strips of cut Manila folders which I placed between the quadrants.  This is to assure that the quadrants do not become inadvertently attached as I'm working.  Later, I'll be replacing the Manila folder strips with thin channel, or metal strips.  I call them vertical struts.

An aerial view of the panel which shows all four quadrants and the 3 dividers.

Here I'm working on the clear hammered glass on top of the glass circles.  I'm adding more flat reinforcement wire between the pieces.
 After the round elements are in place and soldered, and the clear hammered glass is in place, its time to prepare the border.  Here I've cut several lengths of 1" clear rainwater texture glass.

Here I'm tapping on the score to "loosen" the glass.  With repeated tapping on both sides, the score eventually splits and I got perfectly straight strips.

After I ran the strips through the electric grinder, I added copper foil to one side of the strips.  Since the other side will be under the zinc metal framing, there's no need to foil it.

Here's a view of the cut glass and the Manila folder strips separating the quadrants.

For added security, I ran strips of the flat braided reinforcement wire between the border pieces and the circles.  The goal is to prevent any of the glass from cracking due to stress.

Here's a good view of the texture of the clear hammered glass.  I just finished applying copper foil to the edge.

Here's the quadrant on the far right, with all of the circular elements soldered.  This is the heaviest quadrant.  It hasn't yet been framed with the zinc channel, so its rather fragile. 

Here I'm soldering the edges of the circles.  My goal is to coat all of the copper foil with solder. After each area is fluxed and soldered, it receives a thorough cleaning.  

I had to take  a sneak peak at the panel .. Here it is under my studio lights, just to get an idea of how brilliant the colors will be in the natural sunlight.

Here I'm brushing on liquid patina which turns the solder black.

After the solder sets for a while, I spray it with a flux and patina remover again, and wipe it down carefully.

AT this point, the front side of each panel has been soldered and patina-ed. Love the colors!

This is a very messy job.  The chemicals are caustic and dangerous to breathe in, so I wear a lead-protectant mask most of the time.  Here I have one of the panels illuminated on my light table.  I'm in the process of picking off small bits of solder and then spray cleaning it with a couple of different products which are designed to neutralize flux and patina.  After each panel is thoroughly clean and dry, then I dab on stained glass finishing compound.  This is a light wax which protects the patina and gives the glass a nice shine.

Here's the panel on the far right, lit by the camera flash in front of a white board.  

And here's another of the panels ..

Panel close up ..

Soon after I took the photos, Eric custom cut and put in place the heavy zinc channel for the border.  Here I've attached the zinc channel at the corners.  I've also connected the solder to the lead lines in the design.  This will be done on the front and the back.  As soon as the frame is attached, the entire panel becomes noticeably more stable and stronger.

After the zinc frame is soldered, I clean off the flux.  Then I lightly steel wool the zinc and brush on the liquid patina as shown. Once it sets, I wash off the excess and wax each side.  Before we pronounced it finished, we checked to be sure the quadrants were an exact fit to the template.  As with most projects, I made a few adjustments.  It was a perfect fit.

Installation day!  Here Eric is up on a ladder, placing the final quadrant into place.  I soldered the first three quadrants together.  We left the last one on its own.  Eric used a thin metal strip in between the zinc channel up top in order to join the third quadrant to the fourth.  It worked like a charm.

Here he's drilling a few holes into the wood to add black nails to secure the window.  He also  used pressure-sensitive adhesive strips to secure the window as a secondary attachment.  Our customers will be able to remove the window if they ever relocate.  (All of our windows are made to be removed).

And here is a view of the room with the window in place!

A close up ..
Thank you Jaime!  You were the model customer, so easy to work with!  It was truly fun collaborating with you on this.  I hope you and your family and friends will enjoy this window for many years to come!
For more information on my other projects, please click here to visit my website.

If you're on FaceBook, please click here to "like" my BoehmStained Glass Studio page to keep up with all the latest projects.  Thank you!


  1. Wow! This is my favorite that I've seen on your blog so far. I've been collecting plates and such for my hubby to do something for me.

    Love your work.

    1. Thank you JR! I just saw your lovely note, or I would've responded sooner. Yes, this was one of my more ambitious projects and I love the results. I'd like to see what your husband does with plates .. They are really fun to work with!

  2. Replies
    1. Thanks, Sal, I appreciate your taking the time to post! Glad you like this one!