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Completed Lunette Stained Glass Panel

Click for larger image of finished panel


"Save Your Eyes"
Works Progress Administration Poster































"Protect Your Hands!"
Works Progress Administration Poster circa. 1930s


Completed Stained Glass Panel

Click for larger image of finished panel

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Lunette Stained Glass Panel

In early 2005 I built a leaded glass panel and custom wooden frame in the shape of a half circle - a lunette in glass terms - as a wedding gift for my sister-in-law.  The design was developed from a section of an historical example. The panel was custom sized to fit an existing window opening in her bedroom that was glazed with clear glass. This was strictly a hand tool project, aside from a bit of glass grinding.  I originally chronicled the process, along with photographs, for the OldTools List. 

Click on any of the thumbnail photographs below to see a larger image

Designing the Panel

After my wife and I decided that I would build a  custom art glass panel for her sister's wedding present, I began looking through my books and searching the internet for something suitable.  After emailing a few samples, she decided on a pattern and colors.  The advent of email and digital images on the internet made this part of the process relatively simple. 

Another aspect of the process that's been made easier by the ubiquitousness of the  computer is development of a software programs that assist in drawing the cartoon -- the full-scale line drawing of the piece.  I used Dragonfly Software's Glass Eye 2000 program to draw the color version of the panel and produce the two cartoons need to cut and build the piece.  This is all so much easier than when I was more active in glass back in the early 1980s.  Back then it was draw by hand and copy on a photocopier or trace on tracing paper.  Glass Eye 2000 is actually a CAD program that's been modified to deal with the idiosyncrasies of curvilinear glass shapes, glass colors & textures, and the various shapes and sizes of lead came -  and it does all of this very well.  

Building the Panel

Stained Glass Cutting Set UpWith an April deadline, I began the project in February.  Since it was a bit cold in the shop, I set moved into the bright and warm Breakfast Room. As the weather improved I moved to the shop to perform the messier jobs of grinding, soldering, and puttying.

The cutting surface I used was low-nap indoor/outdoor carpet glued to a sheet of 1/4" Masonite hardboard.  This provided a soft, yet firm, surface for cutting glass and it also allowed glass shards to drop into the nap and out of the way until vacuumed off.  I clamped this surface to the breakfast room table, which is actually a maple work table 8from Williams Sonoma. 

The work surface is a sheet of plywood with two ledger strips attached at a right-angles to one another.  As you can see, this is clamped to the Workmate in the corner of the room.  For a normal square or rectangular, panel you start building from from the intersection of the ledger strips and work outwards. For this project, I referenced the bottom of the glass panel off of the lower ledger strip.  Note the paper "cartoon," on the building surface.  This cartoon is a duplicate of the one cut up and used as a pattern for cutting the glass.  The cartoon on the work surface serves as a guide to keep the pattern from "growing on you."

Piecing Together the Glass Puzzle

Leaded Glass CartoonHere, I have laid out the already cut glass pieces on the work surface.  The cutting patterns are still affixed to the glass with contact cement.  The cartoon that serves as a glass cutting pattern is cut to size using a special pair of scissors called "Pattern Shears. These shears have three cutting fingers, which causes two cuts to be made when using them.  The end result is that a small sliver of paper is removed between cuts leaving a space for the "H" shaped lead came to occupy.  The next step from here is to begin the leading process.  Some glass grinding is necessary to keep everything in alignment as the panel goes together.

Soldering the Panel

Soldering Leaded Glass PannelIn this photo, I am almost finished soldering the lead came joints. The glass panel has an 18 1/2" radius, which makes it about 37" wide. 

An interesting bit of trivia (at least to me) is that stained glass is one of the few common uses for horseshoe nails - other than horseshoeing of course.  Because horseshoe nails are rectangular in cross-section, they are ideal for holding the glass and the came tightly in place against the ledger strips as you build outwards. A round nail would put too much pressure on a very small spot and probably crack the glass. 

Cleaning Panel with Whiting and Elbow Grease

Cleaning Leaded Glass Pannel with WhitingThis photo was taken in the middle of the clean up phase after soldering was completed and glass putty was forced into the gap between the lead came and glass.  The putty serves to weatherize the panel, as well as  to stiffen and stabilize it.   This putty is a traditional mixture of boiled linseed oil, whiting (calcium carbonate), plaster of Paris, lampblack, and turpentine - mixed to taste.  The whiting you see sprinkled on the glass serves to soak up any oily residue as well as to polish the glass as I scrub it with a stiff brush. 

Completed Window - Without Frame

Completed Leaded Glass Panel in Workshop Window (without frame)Here, the completed window panel sits propped up in the shop window, serving as inspiration to move on to the frame building process.

Again, the panel size is about 37" wide x 18 1/2" high.

Beginning to lay up the frame
Laying up the Lunette fraime Since the panel is a custom size, the frame will have to be custom as well.  Being an arch-top panel, I have decided to lay-up the frame by gluing up five 1/4" clear-pine slats for the main body.  The photo shows the beginning stages of the process.  I built a form using a piece of OSB that I had laying around and used a spring-back Lunette Frame Clamped Upcalculation that I found at Woodweb to set the radius.  In other words, the arch of the form is a bit tighter than the finished piece to allow for the fact that the frame opens up a bit when unclamped.

Of course You know that you can't have too many clamps.

Cleaning up the frame
Hand Planing the Lunette FrameThis is the initial cleaning and leveling up of the frame, which will eventually be painted white to match the room trim, so I'm not too concerned with any small gaps or voids between the ribs as they will be filled.

The ends are 6-8" longer than the final length and will be trimmed to length once everything lines up.  The planes in the photo are a Stanley #4 and a #7.
Completed Glass Panel & Recap

Completed Lunette Pannel on WorkbenchThe frame was laid up from 1/8" thick strips of clear pine, resulting in a 1-1/4" wide visible frame. I also formed a 1/4" rabbet for the glass to sit in using the same method, only using 1/4" strips about 3/4" wide.  After planing the surface smooth, I filled all gaps and irregularities with Duram’s Rock Hard Water Putty (the old house owner’s friend) and sanded it smooth.

I chose to make the joint holding arched top to the straight bottom a lose tenon. The tenon is made from a 1/4” thick piece of re-sawn oak set perpendicular to the frame bottom. After trimming, the resulting tenon is about 1 1/4” wide at the bottom and follows the curve of the side until the top of the tenon becomes a point, about 4” up the side.

The finish consists of one coat of Kilz primer and three coats of Kelly Moore white, semi-gloss enamel. I rubbed this out using 2-F & 4-F pumice lubed with Paraffin Oil to a nice dull luster. The panel is set in the frame using clear silicone.

I did make a moulding to hold the panel in place, but changed my mind about using it after my wife said that it looked better with the lead border showing. I was easily convinced because the solder joints (bumps) and other slight irregularities would have caused quite a bit of tedious work to get the moulding to look and sit right (i.e. I was happy to take the easy way out!). Overall, this was a very satisfying project that I enjoyed AND actually completed on time!

Old Tools Used:  1920's Stanley #4 smoother, 1910's Stanley #7 jointer, 1950's Stanley #65 marking gauge, an 1860's Hall square, various chisels, a 1930's Disston Keystone backsaw,  an unknown maker’s “gents saw,” and a few others that I’m probably forgetting.

Stained Glass Links

Mike's Stained Glass - Mike Savad has one of the oldest and most informative Glass
             sites on the net.  It'is on Geocities so it's sometime unavailable due to usage limits.
Dodge Studio Designs - 2001 Miscellaneous Glassworking Tips.
Theodore Ellison Designs - Great side for Art & Crafts, Prairie, G&G style art glass.


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