Thursday, 22 April 2010

The last project I got to work on was St Cross, a church in Oxfordshire just outside Newberry. It had been a practising church but it was now a storage centre for a college, full of paperwork. Once the windows are repaired the containers will go back in and nothing else can be fixed. It's a bit sad not to be able to see that glass once it's all made good but I guess it won't be a storage facility for ever. Among the windows being fixed are James Powell and Hardman windows. Hardman are the company who made the one's I was personally able to restore.

The first job I had to do regarding this was to take rubbings. I spent about a week doing rubbings alone of all the windows. First, when taking a rubbing, I lay the piece of glass face up on a light box. I then use a brush and a hoover to remove loose debris on the surface. Once this had been cleared I cut two sheets of tracing paper to size, to fit over panel with extra room for annotation. I tape down the edges so the paper is taut and secure. The first rubbing I do is the glazing copy, that's the good copy. On this all the lead sizes are to be me marked on, the height and width. This is done with heel ball, a black stick purpose made for blacking out the heels of scuffed shoes. The company called it Ball, Astral, Stick Wax and it really is better than anything else is to make these rubbing's, although a little hard to get a hold of these days. The lines on the inside and outside of the lead are to be scored on, so the lead lines themselves stand out clear. The purpose of this is that when you take the panel apart you know exactly how to put it back together again. The second rubbing is made with linseed

(Fig 20. Taking rubbings of St. Cross window 11)

oil and lamp black mixed together. This is then rubbed on with a sponge wrapped in a pair of tights. This is quicker but less accurate. It is the conservation copy that the glass will be laid out on and then leaded up on, so it will get more damage.

Once the rubbings were completed I was given a whole widow to restore. This included two large windows and two traceries. This was a very exciting project for me because I've never worked on anything this big and it's great to know that what I do will actually be put back in the church. I work on window eleven for the last few weeks I am at chapel. First I take apart the traceries. I use side cutters, which really look like wire cutters, to pull the lead away from the glass before snipping it. I work through the whole thing removing all the glass and laying it out on the conservation copy.

All the glass is then cleaned with de-ionised water, tissue and cotton buds. Some of the paint work is quite faded so I have to be careful not to remove any paint. I cut replacements for some of the border pieces that cannot be savaged, paint and fire them. I then copper foil the broken pieces, making the joins as slim as possible by trimming the foil with a scalpel. These are soldered and both (Fig 21. Image of one of two St. Cross Traceries ready for leading) traceries are set to one side.

The next challenge is to repeat this process on the large windows. My table is quite small so it is tricky to negotiate the space to de-construct the window. Once both large windows are taken apart and repaired, they too are laid to one side. These big windows took are really long time to fix up. About two and a half days to take apart and clean, then maybe a day to copper foil and solder, so more than a week to do both of them.

I then returned to the traceries to lead them up first. I was using 3/16th and ¼ inch leads with ½ inch border and a ½ inch lead at the bottom with an extra large flange on the outside so it can slip over another window. I had a bit of a false start to begin with because I was left to get on with it myself and didn't really know what I was doing. I found it quite hard to work out where each lead

(Fig 22. Leading one of the traceries)

line went, started and finished. I guess this is something you just get to know the more you do it. After I got some guidance and took most of it apart again it looked better. I put in lots of long curved leads rather than breaking it up into different joints and it made the piece flow better. The glass was not cut that well, and the panel had gaps in places. The gaps can be disgusted and filled with putty, but Laura my mentor thought the reason they needed to be replaced so soon in the first place was because the gaps were there. She said having gaps like this where the glass isn't supported by the lead puts more pressure on the putty which makes it crumble and go sooner than it would otherwise.

The outside lead is Stillmans and it is very soft, getting lots of kinks in the ½ inch when you try to bend it. These can be flattened out again with an oyster knife, but you can still see it's a little uneven. Another brand is Heeps which, so I am told, makes the same lead only it is stronger getting less bent, the

(Fig 23. Both traceries completed)

downside being it is harder to cut. Bending the lead around the border of the tracery was hard and took a long time. There were very tight curves so I made joints and did it in sections. Once complete I soldered, making sure not to go over the heart on the border leads, so they can later be cut down or bent without difficulty during instillation. In some corners that had bad gaps I dribbled solder over to mask. After the first tracery was complete it was much easier to do the second one. They were the exact same so I could just follow the pattern the lead followed from the first. I did it much quicker and also felt I learnt lessons from the first one that I could implement in the next.

When I had completed the traceries to a good standard I was let loose on one of the big windows. It was a real challenge doing such a big piece but lots of fun and a really interesting

(Fig 24. Leading up large St. Cross window)

process. I worked from the bottom left upwards, making sure all the glass stayed within the lines. In places the glass was too thick and wide heart lead was used. To make the other lead meet this for soldering would be tricky because there was quite a step up. The lead adjoined to it was cut along the heart so the top flange could be peeled open this was angled to touch the wide heart lead so there wasn't such a drop for the solder. I used long strips of continuous lead in the window, so it flowed together better, and as a general rule I was told to also lead faces and hands with their own individual lead to frame them. It took me three days to finish. That is probably a really long time for a professional, but as this was my first time I was very happy with that. It was now very close to the end of my placement so I got to lead and finish of that first big window but not the second. It was still thrilling to have been able to do as much as I did.

So as a final note on Chapel Studio I found it to be one of the friendliest places I have so far been to. The staff were all very kind and welcoming and the work was very geared towards my personal learning and what would be good for me, rather than just getting me to do the grunt work, or be a part of whatever was going on at the time in the studio regardless of its educational merit. I think because it was such

(Fig 25. St. Cross window restored)

a big studio and big operation it was more able to cater to me, I never felt rushed or hassled into anything so I really only have good things to say about them. Urban Glass had a very different vibe and was a very different set up but I still felt very welcomed there and I enjoyed the work. These two placements therefore have been wonderful, the experiences were some of my best and I feel I have used the time well and come away knowing much more than what I went with.


  1. That sounds very positive!! Hotboy

  2. Hello! Your writings on stained glass are very informative, even a complete novice like myself might be able to make something! Also its very concisely and well written :)

  3. Hi! Astral wax is highly praised but is so hard to find. Do you have any info that you can share (about suppliers)? Let me know if you want to try some Ajax wax from 1943. (ariton_cristi [at]