Windows For The Soul
Assembly or "Leading-up" the Window

Assembly or "Leading-up" the Window

Now the fabrication craftsperson takes over to assemble the stained glass window. The glass components are placed on the assembly bench and arranged on the working drawing according to the pattern lines.

The fabricator starts in one corner of the window and begins the leading process by stretching an "H" channel of lead came and placing one strip on the drawing along the bottom and another strip along one side of the window. The first glass piece (usually a corner piece) is placed in this perimeter channel and temporarily held with a tack nail. Another piece of H lead is cut to size with a sharp lead knife or diagonal nipper pliers (called dykes) and shaped to fit around the exposed edge of the first glass piece.

A second, adjoining glass piece is placed in the perimeter channel and another lead strip is cut and placed along the exposed glass edge of that piece. This process continues along, placing glass, cutting and fitting lead strips, until every component is in place. The final step in the leading process is to solder the lead strips together at each joint creating one continuous metal matrix to hold the stained glass window together. The window is then turned over and soldered on the backside. Depending on the size of the window and the skill of the fabricator, the leading and soldering process could take hours or even days to complete.

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Modern lead came is extruded from a lead alloy which uses additives to enhance the tensile strength. Older lead came (and some still available) was made from pure lead through a milling process that stresses the came and shortens its life expectancy.

Left: A fabricator cuts H lead came to size with a lead knife and above Llona Wagner shapes the came to fit around the exposed edge of the glass pieces which are temporarily held in place with a push pin.

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