Saturday, March 31, 2012

Shamrock stained glass soldered, and piece repaired

After the separated pieces of green border glass were cleaned and re-foiled, I soldered them back onto the main piece. Then my husband Eric measured and cut a sturdy channel (zinc metal) frame which I soldered at each corner and at each lead line, as shown below.  Here you can also see the "fence" or metal bars which are thumb-tacked into the Homosote to square off the panel.  (Click on any photo to enlarge).
Now that the panel has been strengthened, the next task was to repair that cracked clear piece.  The clear glass is Spectrum Granite, which is smooth and flat on the back side, and textured on the front.  

The first step in replacing a cracked piece is to remove it by scoring it in several directions and then gently, yet firmly, tapping on it until chunks of glass break free.  There is a danger with doing this, as small bits of glass can unexpectedly fly out, so eye protection is necessary.

See below, the glass partially removed.  I wore rubber-fingered gardening gloves and used needle nose pliers to extricate the pieces.  I also used a small wisk broom to sweep away bits of glass which fell onto the Homosote.  I worked on the back side of the panel, on the smooth side of the glass, since it is not advisable to score the textured side.
Once the glass was removed, I melted some of the old solder and used the pliers to loosen and remove the foil around the inner edges.

I traced a pattern onto a manila folder, cut it out, and then made an identical pattern using corrugated cardboard.  I then traced the manila folder pattern onto the glass, cut the glass, ground the edges, and applied copper foil.  Here are the patterns and the glass (prior to foiling):

I positioned the corrugated pattern into the opening so that the new piece of glass would be on the same plane as the existing pieces.  Next, I applied liquid flux to the copper foil and soldered the new piece into the panel as shown.
The panel has come a long way!  The hinge issue has been corrected, the old foil has been removed, a sturdy metal frame has been added, and the cracked piece has been replaced.  What's next?  Cleaning it, applying patina and waxing.

Since this panel is obviously too large to fit in the sink, I placed it on small rubber mats on the tile floor of our finished basement.  I cleaned off the flux by using powdered cleanser and an old dish brush.  Then I rinsed it thoroughly using that big green sponge and fresh water. 
I allowed the panel to dry completely, then I applied patina to the newly soldered areas and to the metal channel frame.  The existing patina is a bronze-y color and it has aged a bit.  In order to make the repair virtually un-noticeable, I matched the existing patina by mixing copper with black and testing it on small pieces of tinned foil until I got the correct match.
After I applied the patina, I gave it time to settle, then rinsed it off using a damp sponge.  After it dried again, I waxed the whole side using Clarity brand stained glass finishing compound.  The wax protects the patina and adds a beautiful shine to the piece. I then turned the panel over, and repeated the process .. washing, rinsing, drying, applying patina, and finally, waxing.

Here is the panel, completely repaired and strengthened.  The "M" in the shamrock is the family's surname.
Check back soon to see my husband creating a custom wood frame and then installing it in my customer's home.  This panel will be inset into a wall and backlit.  Its going to look beautiful in its long-awaited space, a center piece for the room.

In the meantime, please visit and "like" my FaceBook page, click here. and visit my website ..  Thanks!

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Shamrock stained glass repair underway

As seen in the post below, this shamrock stained glass panel has a number of structural as well as construction flaws.  The first step is to un-do what's been done incorrectly.

At this point, the 28" x 40" panel is securely resting on a large piece of Homasote, which is a 1/2" thick sheet of soundproofing material using in home building.  Its a great surface for working with glass since it accepts pushpins well and it "gives" a bit when cutting glass.

Since the green border pieces have broken away, the first thing to do is remove the existing foil, solder and residual adhesive from the copper foil.  Starting with a hot soldering iron, gently melt away enough of the solder to loosen the copper foil from the glass.  Then, using needle nose pliers, gently pry off the foil, taking the old solder with it.  Because this copper foil was old, it came off readily once I got it started. (Click on any photo to enlarge).
In order to correct the hinge issues, I re-arranged the placement of several of the green border pieces.  By doing this, I was able to correct three of the four hinges, thus strengthening the piece considerably.  Here, I'm removing one of the "good" border pieces so that I can use it elsewhere and eliminate a hinge in the process. (The end of the post will show the "before" and "after" shots regarding the hinges).
In order to prepare the glass for new foil, I removed all the old adhesive using cotton balls dipped in Goo Gone. Then I used an old credit card to scrape off the edges and sides and then washed and rinsed each piece of glass.
It was at this point that I realized that the edges of these pieces were still sharp!  They had never been ground and were therefore unsafe to handle.  I carefully removed as much of the old adhesive as possible without risking injury, and then I ran them through my grinder. This process not only smoothed the edges but took off the rest of the adhesive as well.  Its not the best thing for the grinding wheel, but, as seen with this panel, if each piece of glass is not cleaned and ground, the new foil will not adhere correctly and the glass will separate.

I also needed to remove the old adhesive from the clear glass edges which also had not been ground.  Since it is not possible, of course, to run the panel itself through the grinder, I used my hand-held Dremel tool with a grinding bit attachment and carefully went all around the edges of the clear glass to prepare it for new foil.
Now that all the surfaces were cleaned and ground, I applied 7/32" copper foil to the edges of each piece.  7/32" is the most commonly used width and is the same as used on the rest of the panel. You'll notice that I numbered each piece with a silver Sharpie after I re-arranged them. The white plastic wand is a "fid", used to firmly press the foil onto the glass.

The panel is now well on its way.  Below, I'm re-posting the photo of the window showing the original four hinges, or straight lead lines that go from one side of the piece to the other.  As mentioned, these weaken the panel and are to be avoided.  (Note orange lines).
And below is the panel after I eliminated three of the four hinges.  I did this by rearranging and trimming the existing pieces of green, and cutting one new piece.  The tan bars represent the edges of the glass after my changes. Notice the blue arrows which "dead end" before they reach the edge.  That's what you want .. no straight-across lead lines.
Also see that the one remaining hinge is at the top of the piece, circled in pink.  Rather than have to charge my customer to relocate more glass to eliminate this one hinge, I made a creative decision to "let it be".  With three hinges corrected, and the upcoming addition of a sturdy metal frame, this one will be less likely to create issues in the future.  I circled the crack in neon yellow.
Check back to see the next steps .. Soldering the front and back of the panel, adding the metal channel frame, and replacing the cracked piece.

In the meantime, please visit and "like" my FaceBook page, click here. and visit my website ..  Thanks!

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Shamrock stained glass .. Repairing a poorly constructed panel

Stained glass creation is both an art and a skill.  Cutting corners (instead of glass ... pardon the pun) will only result in disaster.  My current project, a large stained glass shamrock panel is a good example of "how not to build a stable, well designed stained glass panel".

Before I begin, I want to thank decorative painter Joan Ginty of Heaven on Walls for referring my new customer.  Please call her if you're interested in expert faux finishing and mural painting.  Click here to visit Joan's website.

This 28" x 40" shamrock panel below was custom made by someone for my customer less than three years ago, yet it has already collapsed. Let's take a close look at "why".  (Click on photo to enlarge). I added the orange and blue lines to illustrate several points discussed below.
First of all, stained glass must always be constructed with stability in mind.  To that end, straight lines which run from edge to edge in any piece are called "hinges" and are to be avoided.  Notice the four orange lines which follow the solder lines in this piece.  They run from one edge straight to the other side.  Each of these four hinges have already caused several border pieces to break away.

A second problem with this piece is that it appears that the green borders were attached to the clear glass with old copper foil that had degenerated adhesive.  Copper foil has a long life but only if it is stored in a cool, dry place. 

The third reason that the green border separated is that the edges were never run through a glass grinder.  In order for copper foil to adhere to glass, it is imperative that the edges be ground first.  I have no explanation as to why someone would neglect to grind the glass before applying copper foil, but here we have an example of what happens.  Instead of lasting for 100 years or more, this stained glass panel has fallen apart very quickly.

A fourth illustration of how this panel was poorly constructed is that it was never bordered with channel.  Channel is a zinc metal frame that locks the pieces in place and strengthens the entire panel.  Without this reinforcement, you'll notice that the stress of moving the panel has caused one of the clear pieces to crack.  (Look closely where I made that blue line).  Framing with metal channel is essential with a piece of this size.

So my work is cut out for me!  Check back soon to see, step by step, how I resolve all of the issues with this stained glass panel.

In the meantime, please visit and "like" my FaceBook page, click here. and visit my website ..  Thanks!

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Chinese Stained Glass .. Beware

My next project is to repair a poorly constructed stained glass panel.  I'll be posting about that soon, but in the meantime, I'm sending out a caution regarding Chinese stained glass windows and panels, usually found online.  Beware!

Yes, the designs are intricate, the glass is beautiful, and the price is cheap .. but remember "you get what you pay for."  If any pieces of glass break, you are probably out of luck for a repair. Chinese manufacturers use glass which is available only in China .. and their construction methods and materials make state-side repair almost an impossibility.

A few months ago, a customer described a "sagging" stained glass lamp that was mounted to his ceiling.  He said no glass was cracked, but it was on the verge of falling down.  Here is his photo ..
Beautiful, right?  Yes .. But this Chinese lamp is not what it appears to be. The black lines between the glass are not solder but black silicone caulk~!!  Silicone caulk is very soft and flexible and entirely inappropriate for stained glass lamp construction. To repair it using caulk would not improve the piece, it would only "sag" again within a short period of time. 

Here's another example.  A few weeks ago, someone brought me this gorgeous, but cracked, fire screen:
My potential customer bought this online, from a long-forgotten website, for $350 about 2 years ago.  It was the perfect size for their fireplace, they loved it, but then it fell.  Nine pieces of glass broke, in non-symmetrical places.  My goal is always to make a stained glass piece appear as if it had never been broken.  So the first step for me is to match the glass.

I took samples of the glass and mailed them to my expert glass supplier who can get me just about any color or texture, assuming it is still made, and by a U.S. manufacturer.  He called to say he's seen this glass before, but its unfortunately made only in China and virtually impossible to get. 

The alternate route was to replace the 9 broken pieces, and then intentionally break 5 more, to make the missing pieces symmetrical (and therefore less noticeable) by using different, yet somewhat close, glass.  When I added up the cost of materials and labor, it was simply not worth doing the repair.  

Also, when I attempted to melt some of the solder to remove a full piece, it created a plume of dangerous-looking white smoke!  China does not have an Occupational Health & Safety Administration .. There is no way to know what the composition of their solder is, and even though I always use a lead-safe protective breathing mask, I was not comfortable continuing.

And one more caution, this one from my mentor, a semi-retired stained glass artist in Kentucky .. "Now that China is in the game selling incredibly intricate panels for less than a dollar a square foot, people are coming to glass companies with broken pieces and are having to pay way more than what a panel cost just to replace one piece. Our friend in Louisville showed us a gorgeous panel that a customer had brought in that was about 2' x 3 1/2' that he'd paid $60 for. It had two broken pieces and they were charging him $100 to replace them."

So, if you are a stained glass artist doing a repair, be sure and look for suspicious construction methods, and always ask about the age and history of the piece, including where it was purchased. 

If you are looking for a quality, custom made piece, please consider us.  Take a look at the wide variety of styles on my website .. and then call 201-600-1616.  I'm always happy to answer your questions.  Thank you.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Chipmunk Stained Glass ready for gifting

The personalized housewarming chipmunk is ready!  My customer chose  to have the panel personalized with "Chateau Denise, August, 2011" in the Lucida Calligraphy font.  My husband, Eric, an expert airplane model builder, created and applied the decal.  Here he is, at work:
Here's the original computer rendition of the completed design:
And here is the actual stained glass panel, 7-3/4" x 6", in the metal display stand, ready for gift giving.  How many stained glass French chipmunks are out there announcing a new home?  I'm betting this is the only one.  I also bet that my customer's friend will be thrilled at the thoughtfulness of my customer to have this unique, one-of-a-kind gift made especially for her.
Do you have a special occasion that you'd like to mark with a personalized gift?  Give me a call with your ideas .. 201-600-1616 or send an email.

To see more of my work, please visit my website, now also smart phone friendly for Android, iPhone and Blackberry .. Click here.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Chipmunk Stained Glass soldered and framed

Well, except for waxing and the addition of the personalized decal (font and wording still to be decided), the chipmunk is done!  Here are the final steps ..
I applied liquid flux to the copper foil, tack-soldered the pieces, and then removed the metal fence ("jig") and slid out the paper pattern ("cartoon"). Using a Dremel etching tool, I signed my name and the date unobtrusively in the lower right corner.

I soldered it, front and back, then brought it to the sink and gently scrubbed it using powdered cleanser and a dish brush.  After it dried, I applied black patina to the solder.  Then, my husband Eric cut the metal frame (or "channel") and I soldered that securely to the panel which fits perfectly into a display stand.

The next steps are for my customer to choose the personalization he prefers, and then Eric will transfer it to a clear decal and apply it to the scroll.  The "big reveal" of this lovely housewarming gift in its display stand is coming soon .. Stay tuned.

For more of my work, please visit my website .. Click here.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Chipmunk Stained Glass

My current commission is a small adorable chipmunk panel, a personalized house-warming gift from my customer to his friend.  We worked together to come up with this very unique gift.

His initial idea was to have two chipmunks holding a scroll with the personalization on the scroll.  Since he requested the piece to be small, about 7-1/2" x 6", we had to cut back to one chipmunk ..Two would have made the glass pieces too tiny.  But this one chipmunk has a lot of personality! 

Here's where we started .. This is the original chipmunk pattern as drawn by Canadian artist Chantal Pare, whose designs I've used often.
I then flipped the chipmunk to face the left and added the scroll. It was my customer's request to add the little red beret.  This is what makes my work so much fun! Here's the full-color computer rendition of what the finished piece will look like:
As soon as this design got the "thumbs up", I ordered a wrought iron display stand for the piece.  I had to wait for the stand to arrive so that I could precisely measure the opening and make the panel the correct size. My software enables me to size stained glass panels to within a fraction of an inch.

Here is the pattern after I traced it onto a manila folder.  My software not only generates the pattern in exact dimensions but it numbers each piece as well.  This panel has 41 pieces of glass. I cut out each pattern piece, traced each one onto the glass, cut each piece of glass, and laid them on the paper pattern. 
Some of the pieces are very small .. What could be smaller than a chipmunk's nose?  So, I used some glass from my "shards" drawer, a collection of many kinds, colors, and textures of glass.
Notice that this panel has several curvy cuts .. Here's a quick illustration of how to cut an inside curve of glass.  It has to be scored in arcs, bit by bit, and the glass broken out carefully with grozier pliers. You can see the scores I've made beneath the curve, below.  (Click on any photo to enlarge). 
And here he is, with the glass all cut.  I call this the "ugly duckling" phase.  Without the light shining through, you won't see the true colors of the piece, but I know it will be beautiful when its taken off the work surface. When making stained glass renditions of animals, its always a good idea to use cathedral (clear colored) glass for the eyes, as I've done here.  It will give the chipmunk that spark of life.
The next step will be to add copper foil to the edges of each piece of glass.  Then I'll solder the piece, clean it, and frame it with metal channel.  My husband Eric will prepare a personalized clear decal, in my customer's font of choice, which will fit on the scroll.  Stay tuned for these steps .. This little guy will be completed soon.

To see more of my work, visit Boehm Stained Glass Studio website by clicking here.   Thank you!