Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Stained Glass Koi Fish and Cherry Blossom Window

I designed this koi fish and cherry blossom window based on a fabric hanging owned by my customer.  I will be doing four more of these windows for her, with each one in a different orientation. 
We worked together to come up with the colors and the glass.  For the water, we chose Spectrum aqua and blue Water Glass and also wispy blue and white, which was a nice complement to it.  To provide a realistic effect, the glass colors that we chose for the fish and flower are a mix of opal, streaky, Cathedral, and granite.  The window is approximately 33" wide and 24" tall.  We sized it to exactly fit in the window.

Here's the process:  (Click on any photo to enlarge for a closer look)

Here's my "work" image .. The fabric wall hanging from which I designed the fish and the flower.

 I prepared and submitted four different designs to my customer, all in two different color schemes.  Here's the winner!

 To make the glass cutting pattern, I use a 3-layer process.  On the bottom are side-by-side file folders taped at the edges, then a layer of carbon paper, then the "cartoon" or paper pattern.

 Here I'm tracing the pattern onto the file folders below, using the color computer rendition as my guide for marking the colors.

 These stained glass pattern shears cut a small channel of paper between each pattern piece.  This allows space for the adhesive copper foil which will follow.  Shown here are several of the cut pattern pieces.

 I organize the pattern pieces by color.  They are sorted into recycled junk mail envelopes.  Here I'm tracing the patterns onto the glass using a silver Sharpie pen.  I generally cut all of one color at a time,

Using a pistol-grip oil filled glass cutter to score the glass along the line.

Tapping the metal end of the cutter onto the score line to "loosen" the glass and have it crack,

 Sometimes I'll use these "running pliers" to snap a score.
 Here's a large sheet of glass .. I wanted to fit as many pieces as I could onto it, so I jigsawed the pattern pieces together as shown.  Then I ran a score across the center.  This enabled me to get access to all the pieces which facilitates the subsequent cuts.

After each piece of glass is cut, I run it through my electric grinder.  The grinding bit is wet to reduce glass dust and keep it from overheating.  Notice that I'm wearing rubber fingers, available at any office supply store.

Some cuts can't be done by hand.  Here I'm using my Omni Gryphon electric saw to make a few difficult cuts.  This is also a wet saw.  Tip:  Cover the outlines with inexpensive lip balm so that the water does not wash the lines off.
 Now the glass for the water has been cut.
 Onto the fish!  This piece also needed to be cut by machine.  Here I'm wearing gloves to protect my fingers.
 I painted on the fishes' eyes using Pebeo 160 Vitrea glass paint.  It is dried overnight and then baked in the oven, then cooled.  Once this paint is baked on, its permanent.
 Now I'm cutting all the orange pieces.  I've traced a line of pieces along the edge of this glass.  Then I ran a score along the bottom edge.  Here I'm using the metal end of the cutter to tap on both sides of the score to loosen and then snap the glass.

Now all the glass has been cut.  After cutting, it is always necessary to spend time trimming glass so that the pieces fit well.  They should not be too tight or too loose.   Notice that the window is surrounded by a "fence" or metal frame.  This prevents the glass from shifting and keeps it "square" for the metal frame which follows later.  The fence is "nailed" to the porous work surface below it with push pins.
 Just by coincidence, I noticed that one of the glass pieces resembles a fish tail!
 And another piece resembles a fish!  Totally by chance, not planned.
 Since all of the glass has been cut, I'm now etching my name, the month and the year into the bottom right corner of the piece.  To do this neatly, I first draw guidelines with a silver Sharpie and a ruler.  I etch my name using a Dremel tool.  And yes, I hold the Dremel upside down .. Its more comfortable for my small hand.  After I wash off the guidelines, the signature is barely visible.
 Stained glass windows which are larger than 2' square should be reinforced for longevity.  For this window, I chose to insert tinned braided flat wire in between the pieces of glass as shown.  A piece of the braided wire is laying on top of the glass, and I've threaded a long length of it in between the glass.  Click on the photo to enlarge, if its not obvious. When I solder those copper foil lines, the molten metal will work its way into the braiding to create a very strong bond.  I used almost 10' of braided reinforcement in this window.

After the braiding is in place, I "tack solder" the pieces.  This means I apply liquid flux to all the copper foil.  Flux is a liquid which promotes the even flow of the solder.  Once the entire front of the window is fluxed, I go back and add a dot of solder at random intersections all over the piece.  This locks the glass in place.
 Since the glass is now tack soldered, I can safely remove the "fence" which has held all the pieces in.  Then I carefully slide out the "cartoon" or paper pattern.  This will protect it from the chemicals and cleaning processes which will follow.
 When the cartoon has been removed, then I solder the entire front of the window using 60/40 lead/tin solder.  Then I clean off the flux and excess solder with Kwik-Clean Spray as shown.
 Here's the front of the window completely soldered and cleaned.
 Now my husband Eric takes over.  He makes a custom-fit sturdy zinc metal frame for the window.
 After he installs the frame around the window, he replaces the fence so that I can do more soldering.

With the fence in place, I soldered the corners of the window.  I also added a drop of solder to the end of the lead line, attaching it to the frame on both sides.  This stabilizes and strengthens the window.  After I've soldered all four corners of the front and attached all the lead lines, I carefully release the fence and turn the window over.  Then I do the same on the opposite side.  After each soldering session, I clean it all again with Kwik-Clean Spray.  The chemicals used in this process are highly toxic. I wear a mask and use a ventilating fan and I wash my hands with a special soap which removes any traces of lead.

After the window is clean and dry, I apply Novacan Black Patina to the solder using a metal acid brush.  I take the patina from the bottle cap as shown, so as not to contaminate the bottle.  When the front is patina-ed, I turn it over the patina the back.  I use the same patina for the zinc frame.
 When the patina has set for a bit, I wash the entire window, both sides, with Kwik-Clean.
 Then I sprinkle on Livia Stained Glass Finishing Polish.  Its a light wax which protects the patina and gives the glass a nice shine.
 And here's the finished window!
 Another view with different lighting.
 And here it is, outdoors against a white fence.  I'm looking forward to having Marie see this in person!  Thank you Marie, for the opportunity of turning your new back room into a koi fish retreat .. Its going to be even more gorgeous when the other windows are completed!

UPDATE: September 12, 2015
This morning, we had the pleasure of installing the koi fish window in Marie's renovated porch.  Here are a few photos of my husband Eric at work ... Enjoy!

Here's the koi fish window, wrapped in a beach towel as Eric prepares for the installation.

Here he's applying clear silicone caulk to the side borders of the panel.

And here's the window, installed in the room ..
 Depending on the lighting and the time of year, the koi fish window will look different as the months pass. We're very happy that Marie and her family will enjoy this custom piece every time they relax in their newly renovated porch.

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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