Creating Stained Glass Windows - An Overview
The first step in creating a stained glass window is to determine the desire of the church congregation, usually through consultation with an art window committee. It is the designers task to interpret the clients desire for expression of faith, history, or aspirations within the chosen artistic style. They will set aside sufficient time to discuss the project in detail, exchanging ideas using photographs, drawings, and sketches until a concept is revealed. The designer will then prepare a color proposal rendering for presentation, after which refinements will be made until a final design is agreed upon.
One of the most significant stages in the creation of a stained glass window is glass selection. There are literally thousands of different colors, textures and densities of glass available today. The designer will propose a selection of glass for the various areas of the window coinciding with the final color rendering and together with the client, make the final decisions for the colors and textures from actual glass samples.
Not all stained glass windows have painted details. Depending on the design style chosen, a window may require painting to define border and/or background details. If the design is figurative, painting will be necessary to add realistic details to the faces, hands, and clothing. After the glass has been cut and shaped into the various component pieces, the artist applies the paint, using traditional glass "stains", mat blending colors, and colored enamels. This process of "staining" the glass is where the term "stained glass" comes from.
Assembly and Fabrication
After every glass component has been cut, shaped, and painted it is time to assemble or "lead up" the stained glass window. Usually the designer will make one final inspection of the window arranged on a light table or glass easel to view it exactly as it will be assembled. Once satisfied, the fabricator begins the leading process by stretching an "H" channel strip of lead (called a "came") then place it on the assembly drawing along one outside edge of the window. The first glass piece is positioned and temporarily held with a tack nail. Another lead strip is cut, shaped and positioned then the second, adjoining glass piece is arranged into the assembly. This operation continues until every component is in place. The final step in the assembly process is to solder the lead strips together at each joint, to hold the stained glass window together.
Cementing and Cleaning
This important process will stiffen and strengthen the leaded panels, making them weather tight. The cement or putty is pushed into the space between the flanges of the lead came and the glass, on both sides of the window. Then the excess is cleaned off with a special compound called "whiting", leaving the glass unsoiled and imparting an aesthetically pleasing dark "patina" on the surface of the lead came.
When the window is complete, the client will be contacted to set an appointment for installation of the new stained glass window. This is a crucial final step and it must be performed by qualified installers who understand the requirements for reinforcing. If exterior protective glazing was specified for the window, it should be installed at this time as well.