Sunday, August 10, 2014

I'm Heading Into a Dark Place!

Well we did it again.  We've made it through yet another of our Weekend Workshops.  If you're a new reader then allow me to explain just what a Weekend Workshop is.  On a Saturday morning at 9am up to four people join us in the shop and start working on windows that they've picked from an assortment of patterns.  We cut and grind all of the glass during the first day and if we're lucky (as we were this time around) we may even get all or some of the glass wrapped with copper foil as well.  We end up calling it a day around 6pm on Saturday.  Yes, it's a long day but ultimately a fun one and we've yet to have anyone complain about the hours.  In fact, most of the students want to continue working but we want them rested for the next day.  We resume working in the shop at 9am the next morning and we're generally out the door by 6:00.  Below are the four windows that our four Weekend Workshop Students made just one week ago.  Read on and you'll learn how those two days progressed for Angie, Jeannette, Loretta, and Rowena.

We're going to start off with Angie who decided to make a Stylized Fleur De Lis Window.  She came in ready to cut glass but before that could happen we needed to have a lesson in how to do that.  It's not quite as simple as drawing a line and having the glass break as you want-- you need to plan out each cut and take some curves in multiple cuts.  The cutting lesson generally runs about an hour and a half and once that's done we're ready to trace our pattern onto the glass our Students have pre-chosen and then  start cutting.  Angie had no problems cutting and by two o'clock everyone had their glass cut and placed on their pattern.  We even took time off to eat lunch and still got through the cutting process in record time.  Here's Angie's Fleur De Lis (sans border) on top of her pattern ready to be ground and fitted together.

After spending a little over two hours learning how to grind her glass to ensure a nice, even fit, Angie's window was really starting to look like a work of art.  You can see that one of the center 'bars' and the lower 'arrowhhead' glass pieces are missing because Angie had them with her at the grinder when I snapped this picture.

Once all of Angie's glass fit together nicely she needed to cover the edges of her pieces with copper foil.  This process is called wrapping and involves a fair amount of skill and a little patience.  Luckily Angie caught on quickly, complete her wrapping, and at this point we called it a day.  You can see the copper foil that surrounds all of her pieces in the photo below.

 At the start of the second day we used a soldering iron to melt lead onto the foil to hold all the pieces.  This process is called tacking.  Then we used used the strip cutter to cut out Angie's border pieces.  Surprisingly enough, this step takes less than ten minutes.  Once everything was cut she skimmed all the pieces on the grinder, wrapped them in copper foil and then tacked the border to the rest of the window.  We added four pieces of brass channel on the outside edges and then Angie began soldering.  This is her window just before the final soldering process.

Once the lead lines were nice and smooth Angie washed the window and then applied a chemical called Copper Sulfate to turn the lead from silver to a coppery color.  She washed it again, waxed all of the lead, and then we hung it in the window to take a picture.  Isn't it amazing how much a window changes when it has some light behind it?  You almost wouldn't believe the picture above is the same window as the one below.   Angie did a great job and her window is something she should be proud of.

Next up we take a look at Rowena's version of the Stylized Fleur De Lis.  This is her second Weekend Workshop with us and since the first one she's become a regular weekly student as well.  She decided to remake the same window that she made the first time we saw her way back in February but this time she used LSU colors.  This is her window with everything but the border cut out awaiting grinding.

From the cutting table Rowena headed over to the grinder where she ground the edges of all of her glass so that everything fit together perfectly.  This not only ensures a perfect fit, but it also allows the copper foil to adhere to the glass much better than if the glass weren't ground since the surface is rougher and less slick.  Grinding the pieces makes for a stronger, sturdier window and is a step that is skipped in a lot of the panels and lamps that you see sold so cheaply in stores nowadays.  There's a reason why some stained glass is sold cheaply!  As you can see, Rowena's window fits together perfectly.

Next up Rowena wrapped each of her 28 pieces with copper foil and she certainly made quick work of it.  Not only did she get everything foiled --She also found the time to get her window tacked together before she called it a day.  That's what I call efficient!

On Sunday morning Rowena added her border and channel and then began to apply the final layer of solder.  It's a slow process but luckily we can go over the solder lines as many times as we want to ensuring that the line is nice and smooth. Smooth soldering is one of the signs of quality stained glass.

Again, with a bath and a little light behind it, this window's colors look completely different than they did while they where resting on top of the white pattern paper.  The gold color that you saw lights up yellow in the sunlight and that black looking border turns out to actually be purple!  Rowena is going to give this window away and I think the recipient will be VERY happy with it.  I know that I was thrilled to see how far Rowena has come since her first class with us.

We had four students in the Workshop this week and two of them take classes with us on a weekly basis.  This LSU design was picked out by Jeannette who, like Rowena,  is another one of our weekly students.  Before she started cutting out this pattern I asked her if she wanted to cut it with her standard hand cutter or by using a pistol grip cutter all the while hoping that she'd pick the pistol grip because it makes much straighter lines.  Jeannette made the best possible decision and went with the Pistol Grip Cutter and a straight edge.  There are actually two sets of borders on this window so, as always, we ignored them and left them for last.  Jeannette took to the Pistol Grip Cutter quickly and all of her straight lines are perfect.

Once her LSU was cut out she took it to the grinder and made a perfect fit with all of her glass.  This went really quickly for Jeannette since straight lines are easy to grind if you've cut the pattern line off while you cut your glass (which she did).  All her glass needed was a simple skim over the grinder for the most part.  In the picture you can see the square we use to ensure that our windows are made with nice right angle corners. (It's supporting the bottom and left side of the window.)

Once the LSU was wrapped and tacked together with solder Jeannette was able to add the clear borders on both the top and bottom of her window.  She cut the pieces on the strip cutter, ground them, wrapped them and then used to soldering iron to melt lead on top of all the foil that she wrapped all her pieces in.  Getting this first border attached kept her right in time with everyone else.  When Jeannette came back in on Sunday morning she was ready to add her final border along with everyone else. 

Sunday morning saw everyone working on borders.  Jeannette made short work of the process and began soldering her window before anyone else.  The idea behind soldering is to smoothly and evenly melt lead on top of the foil that surrounds each piece of glass.  A lot of the windows and lamps that you see sold so cheaply in stores are simply tacked together and not properly soldered which is why they are sold so cheaply and why the tend to fall apart in a short amount of time.  Jeannette's window has beautiful lead lines and is as solid as it can possibly be.  This window will easily be around a long, long time.

And here's Jeannette's completed LSU Window.  The purple and yellow glass are the same colors that Rowena used and again you can see what a difference a little light behind a window can make.  The colors aren't dark at all and have a vibrancy that's completely lost while the glass is lying on the table. I think it's safe to say that Jeannette has done another great job!

And lastly we come to Loretta's version of the Stylized Fleur De Lis.  This is the third version of this design that we're seeing in this post but it's got a different color scheme.   Loretta ended up using a transparent black for her accent and border pieces and when you see it all come together at the end I think you're going to love it.  This is what Loretta's window looked like when she had her glass all cut (save for the border which, if you recall, goes on at the very end). It may look a little askew, but that's the way things look before they're ground.  All in all, Loretta did a wonderful job cutting her glass.

She then moved on over to the grinder and in just a couple of hours all of her pieces were fitting together exactly as the pattern showed it should fit.  We can take small liberties here and there on some stained glass designs but when you're dealing with a symmetrical pattern, little things mean a lot.

Next, Loretta needed to wrap all of her pieces in copper foil and as I said above it takes a fair amount of skill.  What you have is a 1/8th inch piece of glass that you need to center on a 7/32 wide piece of thin, adhesive backed foil.   Once she had each piece completely surrounded (and centered!) on the foil she folded the overhang over and onto the front and back of the glass.  If it looked even, which it did for the majority of her pieces, Loretta then applied pressure to all three edges of the foil with a wooden or plastic tool.  The process is very much like rubbing down a sticker after you've placed it where you want to insure it doesn't come loose.  Since the lead sticks to the foil and NOT the glass any irregularities in the foil show as irregularities in the solder.  If something doesn't look right when you are wrapping you really have no choice but to remove the foil and start over again.  I'm pleased to say that Loretta had no problem at all with her foiling.  At the end of the first day this is what Loretta left in the shop while she went home to get some sleep.

On Sunday we attached all of the borders, added the brass channel around the outside edges of the windows and then decided to eat lunch before getting into the final soldering process.  Loretta then began soldering her finished bead on top of the tacked sections of her window. This bead needs to be done on both the front AND back of the window which freaks a lot of people out when they think that they're finished and then learn that they have to turn the window over and do it a second time!

Now, when I first described Loretta's color choices you might have been thinking, "Black for the border and the accent pieces?" but just look at this window.   The first thing that comes to my mind is the word 'elegant' and the second thing is that this does not look like the work of someone who has never done stained glass before.  Loretta, like everyone else, did a wonderful job and this picture proves it.

All in all we ended up with four perfect windows made by four happy students.  Almost every one knew one another and laughter was always in the air.  No matter what hurdles our students faced they persevered  and ended up proving to themselves that they could, in fact, make a beautiful stained glass window in just two days.  Russ and I had a blast getting to know both Loretta and Angie, and getting to know Rowena and Jeannette even better.  As it stands, I'm anxiously awaiting our next workshop (in November) and Angie will be returning in that class along with a friend.

Although our November class is full we still have openings for our February 2015 class.  If you're considering joining us you'd best contact us quickly as the four spots tend to fill quickly once we get close to the date.  We also have our weekly classes and even though there's a waiting list for those spots, you'll never get called to come in unless you get your name on the list!

In the end I want to thank Rowena, Jeannette, Loretta and Angie for making a long work weekend go by so quickly.  We had so much fun it's hard to believe that these incredible windows were made in between all the laughter.  Thanks ladies!

BayouSalé GlassWorks

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