This is a supplemental article to accompany my Youtube video “Poor man’s stained glass for my front door”
I put quite a lot of effort and research into designing the front door for my circa 1860’s house and wanted a really authentic Victorian look to it. I knew that would mean some kind of stained glass and the photo below illustrates how boring the door looks without it. I originally wanted it to be proper cut glass held together with a web of lead “came”, nothing could be more genuine after all! but also high on the list of priorities in a modern home is double glazing and security, so I had some decisions to make!
There are ways of incorporating genuine leaded glass panels into double glazing and they also have their disadvantages; The most common way is to encapsulate the stained glass inside a sealed unit in the same way triple glazing is made, but the centre pane is the leaded glass panel. I wasn’t keen on this approach mainly because by hiding the stained glass panel behind a pane of smooth glass you lose the texture and tactility of it, which is a major element of its beauty.
So during my research and video watching I found this method of sticking self adhesive lead to glass to give the impression of lead came, and then using glass paint to give the effect of stained glass, I wasn’t keen to begin with but the more I thought about it the more I thought I could make it work and look really genuine. I also scoured google images for inspiration and the photo below is what really influenced my design, I like the random mosaic pattern which kind of mimics the skin of a Giraffe!
Tools and materials.
Some of the materials shown in the image below from left to right are;
- grade c 60/40 Solder
- Tallow flux
- reel of 5mm self adhesive lead came
- fid tool (came free with the lead)
- LeFranc and Bourgeois Vitrail (Orange Yellow)
- wide flat brush for the vitrail
Other tools and materials not shown in the image;
- Glass cleaner (vinegar or dilute ammonia is also recommended)
- wood strip or ruler for spacing
- Soldering iron
- fine wire wool for abrading the lead
- Copper sulphate
The tools and materials are really relatively simple, you can literally get started with just the self adhesive lead strip which came with a “fid” the black pointy tool which is used for pressing the lead strip into place. Adding colour with glass paint is the next step, is used LeFranc and Bourgeois Vitrail, which is a translucent paint which can be used outdoors. I found a wide flat brush was best for applying the paint.
Although you can make beautiful designs with just the lead strip and paint, it is the soldering and tarnishing that really finishes it off and gives it the authentic look. The soldering mimics the solder joints of genuine stained glass really well, in fact even from a few feet away it is very difficult to see the difference. When I had the door in my workshop I actually had a customer see it and comment that id made a really good job of restoring the original glass, thinking it was in fact an original stained glass panel!
The tarnishing process uses copper sulphate which actually reacts with the lead to form a thin layer of metallic copper on the surface, once the lead is coated the reaction stops so the coating can only be very thin. The copper then tarnishes to a dull brown colour very quickly (a matter of hours) to give a really genuine aged look.
One of the most common question I have been asked in the youtube comments is “how is it holding up to the elements?” and “How long will the adhesive last?” Well it has been installed now for only around seven months and some of the lead has become a little powdery here and there where the copper hadn’t covered very well, this is just natural oxidisation of the lead and I could very easily just go over it again with the copper sulphate.
The adhesive did stick really well after properly cleaning the glass so I am confident in its long term performance. so far there is no sign of deterioration or water ingress, I can see the adhesive back from the inside and any water or dirt getting behind would be quite obvious. I also tried picking at the lead to see if it would come loose and my finger nail just chipped away the lead leaving a nice shiny spot, the lead is still stuck solid though.
Over all I could not be happier with how this turned out, it is a really good compromise between a genuine stained glass look and modern insulated glass. the only real down side is that it does look a little shoddy from inside since you just see the adhesive side stuck against the glass but it does look amazing from the outside. It was quite time consuming but was well worth the effort. I have a window above the bathroom door which I will also do in a stained glass design at some point in the future.