The process of repairing begins with taking the piece apart until all the broken pieces have been exposed and removed. In some cases you have to repair the item only removing the broken pieces. In most cases the repair requires the piece to be taken apart until you reach the broken area. Sometimes you have to take out additional unbroken pieces because the replacement glass is not a perfect match. In the case of the picture frame, there were two broken corners but the replacement glass did not match the remaining clear edge perfectly so all the clear edge pieces were replaced with new clear that was very similar. The frame would have looked odd if I had combined the original clear with new clear and the compatibility of the piece would have been compromised.
One of two broken corners The frame dismantled All put back together
In most cases the broken item is still somewhat intact and I can see what the end result should look like. In the case of this flower frame all the flowers were in a baggie and all I had was a photo showing the piece hanging in a window in the background - not even a close up picture. To add to the challenge, and what makes repairs interesting, is the method in which the original piece was made. This glass oval frame was a 3D image with the flower petals laying at different angles and on top of each other. The area around the flowers within the oval frame was open space.
Flowers laid out on workboard Frame missing the center Placing the flowers to match
This piece was purchased at an auction house. They knew it had broken glass and would need repair but I don't think anyone realized this piece was not really yellow. This is a picture of the piece before it was cleaned. The piece of glass on the far left was taken out and washed and put back in just to show the difference.
This is a close up of the washed piece. It was broken so getting it out of the main piece was not too hard. That allowed me to take it out, wash it and put it back in place to show the difference. I don't know how old this piece is but I have to assume that the yellowing is from cigarette smoke over many years.
Here is a close up of one of the pieces where I only cleaned half of it to show the difference.
Before taking the piece apart I take hundreds (literally) of pictures of the piece from every angle to document placement and condition of the original pieces. The first picture shows the glass had come right out of the lead. I use stickers to mark broken or separated glass. The second picture is documenting broken pieces. The tear down involves heating the old solder and lead and then cutting it apart and separating the glass from the lead. Once all the lead has been removed I lay all the pieces back on the board and start to replace the broken ones.
In the case of this project once I had replaced all the broken glass then I started washing all the original glass. After all the glass is clean I lay it all back out and begin rebuilding using new lead.
After all the lead is cut and the 'puzzle' is put back together the joints are soldered. After soldering comes the messy part. Cement is poured over the entire piece and with a rubber spatula you push the cement under all the lead pieces so it surrounds the glass inside each piece of lead. After applying the cement a white powder called whiting is poured over the piece and with a scrub brush it is worked into the lead as well. This whiting helps to absorb the linseed oil in the cement and it also helps to clean the glass and gives the lead a blackened finish.
And when all the dust clears and after lots of cleaning and polishing you end up with this!
Lamp shades add a whole new dimension to stained glass repair. Shades come in many different shapes and sizes and repairing them requires a different approach. The first few steps are the same, take hundreds of pictures, identify the broken pieces, find glass to match and begin the tear down.
Keep in mind....solder melts down hill. Taking the item apart means trying to remove the broken pieces and as few of the good pieces as you can get away with. When possible, I try to tape the broken pieces before being removed so I will have the full piece available to use as a pattern. When you take away three sides of a good piece of glass to remove broken pieces the last remaining good piece is coming out too! And this is all being done while trying to keep the lamp in a position to let the melted solder roll off the lamp and fall on your work surface. You can buy lamp 'forms' which are very helpful when initially making the lamp shade but because there are so many shapes you may not be able to use the same form for each repair. I have found that a copy paper box comes in very handy at this point. I can position the lamp at various angles as needed.
Once the broken pieces are moved you need to clean up the rest of the glass that remains intact so you can apply foil to them. When the broken pieces have all been re-cut and foiled I found using tape on the inside of the lamp gave me a sticky surface to hold the repaired pieces in place. Using the copy paper box to position the lamp so the repair area is level, I began to solder the replacement pieces back in place. I constantly shift the lamp shade in the copy paper box to allow the area to be soldered to be as level as possible. When all the pieces have been soldered the lamp is washed down and the patina is applied so the solder matches the original color. Then is it ready for cleaning and polishing.
Lamp repair requires more time from start to finish because of the various shapes and the need to solder only on level surfaces. Even just a good cleaning makes a big difference. Let's face it, cleaning your glass lamp shades with a toothbrush is not a daily chore in any household.... If you don't spend a couple hours cleaning and polishing the finished repair you might as well not do the repair in the first place. But when it is all done - you end up with a beautiful lamp shade looking just as good as new.
Identify broken pieces Tape broken pieces Begin solder meltdown
Removing broken pieces Cleaning prep for foil Cleaned, ready for foil
Foiled and taped New glass stuck in place Soldered, patina, cleaned