Stained glass window restoration is a complex process that only highly skilled and experienced experts should do. Some windows may be fairly simple glass but others may be true “works of art” in stained glass. The team restoring your windows needs to be trained in dealing will all levels of artwork. In addition, the lead matrix as well as the stained glass itself, is a very intricate puzzle that needs full documentation before you even start.
Stained glass window restoration. Step 1 Documentation.
Before any work begins on your windows and even before the glass is removed from the frame at your church, proper documentation is needed. Our team of stained glass window repair experts start every project by extensive photo documentation of your stained glass windows. Close up photos of each section of glass to be worked on, in both natural light and with the camera flash, to create a road map of how the window needs to be re-installed.
After the on site photos are taken, we remove the sections of the stained glass that are due for repair, crate them and bring them to the shop. Upon unpacking them, the stained glass is photographed again. This creates a photographic guide so the artist can reassemble the glass with each piece in its proper place.
Stained glass window restoration. Step 2 creating “rubbings”.
Rubbings are simply tracings of the entire lead matrix of the window. Tracing paper is laid over the stained glass and then the artist will then trace the lead lines in the window. This will be done with 3 different rubbings ( 3 copies) to identify each piece of glass. Each section of glass is numbered to start to create a road map for re-assembly. Another step iwth the rubbings is to identify the thickness and types of lead used in the original design, so the new lead will match exactly and not alter the window design.
Stained glass window restoration. Step 3. Disassembly.
After every single piece of glass in the stained glass window has been cataloged and numbered, the window is dis-assembled. To protect our employees from inhaling “hazardous waste “, the old glazing cement that has become contaminated from the lead, we dis-assemble the window under water. All the old lead is removed and stored in a safe place for proper disposal. Next, the old glazing cement is cleaned off the edges of all pieces of glass.
We send all our old lead to an EPA licensed lead recycling firm to be certain it is handled safely and to help protect the environment.
Stained glass window restoration. Step 4. Repair broken glass or create new glass for missing pieces.
Broken glass is repaired using clear glass epoxy, applied to the 2 sides of the pieces to be joined. This process helps to almost eliminate any noticeable repair. If the glass is badly damaged, sometimes epoxy is not sufficient to properly hold. In this case or if glass was missing, our artist will recreate the piece and fire it in the kiln again. The artist will then “antique” the paint finish to help make it match the age of the other pieces.
Stained glass window restoration. Step 5. Re-assembly.
After all broken or missing glass has been repaired or re-created, the next step is to begin re-assembly of the window. The artist will use one of the rubbings done previously and use the photos of the window taken during documentation, to set all the pieces of glass in the correct alignment. The artist will check and re-check all sections before the new lead is installed.
Once the artist is confident all pieces of glass are correctly aligned, new lead came will be installed to match the original size and type. The pieces of glass are inserted into the “U” channel in the lead came and held in place with pins, until the next piece can be inserted. The entire window is re-assembled 1 piece at a time. All the lead joints, where any 2 pieces of lead meet, is then soldered. After all pieces are set into the new lead came and soldered, glazing cement is then rubbed into the edges of the lead/glass and allowed to harden.
Stained glass window restoration. Step 6. Re-attached support bars.
After the window is re-assembled and glazing cement applied, the next step is to re-attach any Re-inforcing bars”. They are set back into their original position and copper “ties” wrapped around the bars. The ties are then soldered to the lead came matrix to secure the glass to the re-inforcing bars.