Then, this past spring, my wife and I were looking at this ugly curtain that covered a south facing window above our sliding glass door. The curtain came with the house, I think it had once been white but was so covered in dust that its color was indescribably filthy, and the window was just screaming for some class. We had talked about doing something with stained glass for that space, but the window is about five feet by two feet, and the turtle that I had previously made was about four inches by three inches. I didn't know if I was ready to
tackle this large project, so I continuously put it off.
|Cut pieces dry fit together|
I spent the next two months working on this project. I wanted eight panels, so I divided up the window into eight sections, taking out inches for the wooden frame that I was planning in my head. I marked the dimensions for each panel (14" x 15", which included 1/2" on each side that would be covered by the frame) on my garage table, attached a 90 degree raised edge for support, and I was ready to begin cutting glass.
|Little helper breaking glass|
I separated the glass by color. Then, I simply started. As I approached each panel, I had absolutely no plan for what it would look like by the end. I would look at the glass piles, select a piece, cut it, and then just begin to see what colors and shapes I liked around it. I didn't really have any practice panels, so the process was really interesting as I used eight pieces of glass in the first two panels that I made, but 24 pieces of glass in the last panel that I made. As I progressed, my pieces became smaller and more intricately put together.
My kids of course were a part of this, as much as any responsible parent working with glass, lead, and 1000 degree solder would allow them to be. After I scored a piece of glass, I would let them use the running pliers to break the piece (of course making sure that they were wearing eye protection and guiding them with gloved hands). They also helped smooth out the copper foil banding that each piece was wrapped in, and they were fascinated with watching the soldering process (yes, they think that daddy is a super hero because he can melt solid metal into a liquid--why would I tell them that anybody with a soldering iron has that ability?).
|Copper bands, joints soldered|
Here's where the process got interesting. After I had finished the eight panels, I went to a stained glass supply store to get some patina for the solder. I explained what I needed, and the store owner directed me to the bottle. She asked what I was working on, so I proudly showed her a picture of one of the panels, expecting a comment like, "Wow, that is amazing work. How many years have you done stained glass?", or "Our artisans cannot do work that beautiful. Do you want a job?", or even, "That is amazing. Hey Joe, come check out what this young man has made." That is not what I got. What I got was, "Oh, honey, why didn't you come see me before you started? I suppose you don't want to start over from scratch, do you?" I was somewhat deflated, but I still had hope.
|How old is this glass?|
|Panel 3 of 7|
Finally, I needed to keep the piece in place in the window. I cut some strips of quarter round from the same black walnut, and applied the Danish oil to it as well. Once the piece was in place (with the help of Little E), we nailed the quarter round around the outside, attaching it to the window opening, and we have a stained glass window.
|Extra solder and patina|
So while there is no specific, obvious story, this project is the story of life. It is the story of generations of work (my grandfather-in-law's lumber), the story of relationship (my mom and I learning stained glass together, and my kids working with me on the project), the story of encouragement (my wife encouraging me through an intimidating project), and the story of perseverance (more than two months in the making). But, almost as importantly, it is the story of completing yet another project with all of my fingers intact.
|Frame boards cut|
|Frame glued and clamped|
|And the pieces start getting in place|
|The finished project installed.|
|Detail of the quarter round frame in place|