I'm learning the art (or is it a craft?) of stained glass. At this weblog, I record progress, note useful links, and document flesh wounds.
The Art League
Weisser Glass Studio
Virginia Stained Glass Co.
Glass Galleries Links List
The StoreFinder: Stained Glass Store Front
Nancy's Beginner Tips and Tricks
Splinter Removal Tips
Beaded Unity Candle
Green Tiered Lamp
Sunday, May 21, 2006: Back in the Saddle?
Hi there. Remember me? I used to do stained glass.
That was three years ago, with only a brief, hurried relapse two years ago, when we were preparing our old house for sale and it became apparent that finishing up the last transom installation could be procrastinated no longer. I dug the last of the three transoms out of the basement, puttied it with a quickness, got Don to frame and install it, and then we sold it (and the rest of our cute little bungalow) to a nice young couple from Dupont Circle. At closing, the nice young couple went on and on about the many renovations that had been done to the house, including the previous owner's kitchen remodel and inventive exterior paint, plus Don's picket fence and built-in bookshelves, but with no mention of the transoms over which I sweated lo these many hours. I choose to believe it's because they mistook them for original to the house. Yep, that's the ticket.
I never did finish the tiered lampshade I abandoned three years ago this month. Going back to school got me off-track, lack of momentum kept me there. One day, maybe.
The lampshade lives in its 85-percent-completed form in the basement of our new house. The new house does not bring the cute the way the old house brought the cute. But we're working on it. The first task was a badly-needed kitchen remodel (before; after). The company who did it for us did a good job, except for neglecting and neglecting to brick up the old stove fan. They have been telling us for a *year* that they'll get to it. But if the molded-plastic vent cover on my outside wall is the biggest complaint I have with the new kitchen? I have no room for complaint at all. As Don observed, the old kitchen was good for nothing except a place to put the Chinese takeout.
The kitchen work finished, I then repainted the entire first floor, with the exception of the bathroom, which was in a state similar to the kitchen's when we first bought the place, i.e.: nothing worth saving; this is a job for the professionals. That was going to be our next project.
And then we bought a Siberian Husky.
Those of you who know huskies can see where this is going. The breed is insanely high-energy, and especially as puppies, can be very destructive if they get bored. When Tashi was seven months old, we smartened up and adopted another husky to keep her amused, which may be the only reason our new house still stands today.
Even so, most of our project-type energies in the last fourteen months have been devoted to fortifying the house and grounds against the sort of abuse a husky can dish out. For example, a six-and-a-half-foot stockade fence was needed in the back yard when the three- or four-foot chain link that had been there didn't even slow Tashi and Shadow down whenever they would get an exploring itch. And of course there was the pressing need to replace the couch that Tashi ate.
Fortunately, Don had just the answer to that particular problem. For a year or more, he'd been periodically trying to convince me that I liked the look of a mission-style sofa for which he had woodworking plans, from a book of DIY mission projects. Each time the subject was broached, I artfully deflected. "All that wood, it doesn't look comfortable." "When do you have time to build something like that?" "We have a perfectly good couch already." When we no longer had a perfectly good couch already, I no longer had a leg left to stand on. And so Don bought a small forest's worth of mahogany, and built us a new, mission-style couch.
The couch is just about done now. Don wants to put one more coat of finish on the wood, and possibly also add, on each side panel, a little stylized dogwood motif he designed and cut out of holly (for the white petals) and I think walnut (for the dark center).
But even if those things never happen, the couch is done enough to sit on. Shortly after the couch was made sittable (and in fact more comfortably so than one might have initially believed), we were so taken with the new look of our living room that we ripped out the cute, but very dark-making plantation shutters that had infested the first floor of our house when we bought it. What a difference that made to the feel of the living room: no longer a sullen cave, but an airy nest of domestic delight! (The less-vomitous-than-previously shade of yellow in which I repainted the living room last year helps, too.)
Once we had some sunlight in that room, I suppose it was just a matter of time before I decided we needed some stained glass. Something incorporating Don's dogwood motif. Something, I am thinking, that might look like this:
Monday, May 22, 2006: The Part Where Mistakes Can Be Made Without Breaking A Thing
Went glass shopping for my dogwood window project yesterday. I planned to use some stuff out of my scrap glass box, but needed to buy quite a lot of new stuff anyway. It was a Sunday, and Weisser Glass wouldn't be open again until Tuesday, and I just couldn't wait. So off to Virginia Stained Glass I went. I hadn't been there in probably four years. I think the store got smaller. Literally. It's in the same place but I think the shop next to it in its little strip mall used to be space taken up by the glass store. Fortunately, it's still impossible to get a smile out of any of the staff there: thus reassured that I was in the right place after all, I commenced a vigorous browse.
When I did the Photoshop mockup of my design, I did my usual trick of swiping real glass samples off the various manufacturer's websites. Spectrum still has the best samples, hands down, and even provides an FTP site where you can download them all en masse. Bullseye's samples are the least useful. You have to download their catalog in PDF, and then for each color of glass it shows you tiny chips of like four shade variations, and the textures aren't shown together with the actual colors, so there's a lot of imagination necessary there, and imagination doesn't port well to Photoshop.
I ended up with colors pretty close to those I used in my Photoshop design, and interestingly enough, the colors look vastly less harmonious just laid out on a table next to one another than they do in my Photoshop document.
See? That's not a collection of colors you'd just pick, out of context, to go together. Somehow it seems to work in my design comp though. Uh, fingers crossed.
Another design decision fraught with peril: am mixing opaque and non-opaque glasses with abandon here. I've never done that before. The greens and cream are pretty solidly opaque; the purple is a "wispy" glass that's fairly translucent; the red is a nice clear cathedral glass; and the crinkle pattern on the clear glass doesn't even provide the level of opacity you'd expect out of a shower stall door... so I'm running the gamut here.
For seven square feet of clear, two of purple, and one of green, the bill was going to be seventy-five dollars. (Now I *have* to build these windows...) But lo and behold, I had in my wallet a beat-up old Virginia Stained Glass punch card, which entitled me to $25 off after spending $250. When I got distracted from glassing three years ago, the card was punched up to $210. So check me out: three years later, I got $75 worth of glass for $50. A victory in the name of wallet packrats everywhere.
Tuesday, May 23, 2006: Soon Turned Out, I Had A Heart Of Brass
Today I stopped in to the The Art League School annex in Old Town Alexandria to see if I could find Jimmy, who taught a couple of classes I took back in the day. I wasn't sure whether he'd remember me, but way back then he'd said "Stop in whenever if you have any questions or anything." I didn't know if he necessarily had in mind "three years from now" but I was concerned about some design/construction issues with my new project, so: road trip!
As it turns out, he remembered me: this website may have helped. He said he'd found it just recently. So everyone say hi to teacher! Having maintained a web presence for going on eleven years now, I realized tonight how nice it is to hear the words "I found your website" and not have to wonder if I wrote anything embarrassing involving the finder. (I'm 99 percent sure I didn't: allow one percent for the recent comment about unsmiling staff at a certain glass shop where Jimmy once gave classes, and still may for all I know.) My clear conscience owes no debt to any particular prudence or virtue on my part; it's just that he's such a nice guy and so good a teacher that I can't imagine having had anything other than good things to say about him.
A case in point. The dogwood windows I want to build are 33 inches high by 14.75 inches wide. This seemed to me to be just about big enough that I'd need to use steel reinforcing bars, or rebar, in construction. Problem: I know nothing at all about using rebar. I went to Jimmy to find out if there was some way he could ease my troubled mind. I did not leave disappointed.
I showed him my design, and some photos of the room where I want to install the finished product. His first take on the situation was that, yeah, I'd want a horizontal length of rebar on each window. No surprise there. The bad news was that for structural reasons, the rebar would want to be on the *inside* of the window. The other bad news was that the rebar would want to be notched about an inch deep into the window frame on either side of the glass.
Here is where I began to have some doubts as to whether this was a good idea. Hacking up window frames sounds scary ("scary" and not "out of the question" only because I have an immensely handy husband). But then I showed Jimmy some closeups of the window frames in question, whereupon he realized that I had nice new windows ("Oh, you have thermopaned windows!" "...is that what they are?") and that changed everything. It turns out, I can basically build the windows as zinc-framed panels, and caulk them puppies right into the window frame in such a way that the crank opening thingie (er, "casement?" there's a whole world of window-related terminology I never knew about) still works, opening up the stained glass itself, while retaining the double-paned clear glass behind it.
This is a good thing because: 1) stained glass windows that actually move on functional hardware are way cool---I'm so glad we did the transoms that way, where by "we" I mean "Don". 2) Jimmy says he thinks I can get away with no rebar at all. The double layer of window glass behind the stained glass will provide enough protection from the weakening elements of sun and wind and etc. that Jimmy says I can just use reinforced lead came, which has a heart of brass for more structural support than lead alone offers. 3) You don't have to stretch reinforced lead, which means I won't end up bruising my coccyx on a concrete basement floor. 4) No surgery on my window frames is required.
Jimmy recommends DAP Dynaflex 230 caulk for the job. He says duct tape the window in enough to hold it up, caulk it in, let it dry, peel the tape, and you're good. The internet says Dynaflex 230 is paintable, a bonus.
For years, I have heard stories from Don about how his dad's answer to all home fix-it chores was "caulk the shit out of it." I have in fact been given many times a pop quiz in which the question sometimes varies, but the answer is constant: "caulk the shit out of it." This seems a close cousin to the common sentiment, popularly held by a certain type of solid, can-do, red-blooded American guy, that duct tape can fix anything. And so it seems that here tonight I have achieved the holy grail of male odd-job know-how: a job whose sole two agents are caulk AND duct tape. I have the strongest urge to crush an empty beer can on my forehead.
So basically I now have all my pressing construction questions answered, and there's nothing stopping me from diving right in. Honestly, I expected to end up asking Jimmy if he does any kind of private lessons, for me to learn how to use rebar. His spring class at Art League is about over, and the summer class doesn't start for a month, even if I thought I needed nine weeks of instruction. But I got everything I needed tonight in less than half an hour. A less generous teacher would have looked at my finished design and my fifty-dollar glass-buying spree and seen a captive audience of one, a tuition check in red beaded sandals. And that's why I'm certain I've blogged nary a negative word about one Mr. Jimmy Powers, stained glass artwork & repair, summer classes at the Art League School of Alexandria, VA beginning at the end of June.
Wednesday, May 24, 2006: Window Clarity
A comment on the Glass Chat board about my last entry cautioned me against laxity in installing my dogwood windows (caulk bad, screws and stops good). It made me think I should clarify a bit. A picture's worth a thousand words:
The part of the window that actually opens up is built in such a way that the glass is inset into a kind of recessed frame, leaving a lip maybe half an inch deep all the way around the glass where my stained glass panel can handily rest, and be affixed accordingly.
I thought I'd clarify in case anyone got the idea that you could use caulk to "glue" a stained glass panel to a window frame, without there being a lip or channel of some kind for the panel to rest on. I don't want to be responsible if someone tries it and ends up with their stained glass in shards on the floor!
Saturday, May 27, 2006: Dog-By-Numbers: A Siberian Husky Pattern
... all apologies to Andy Warhol ...
I did this pattern 2 or 3 weeks ago, just noodling around in Photoshop, trying to get the stained-glass circuits in my brain flowing. I'm not going to build it, though. I may love animals, but I do not, as a rule, love decorative animal-themed tchotchke. There's a line there you can't cross, when you have as many pets as I do.
If you would like to build it, however, you're welcome to. Here's a cutlines-only, larger version. Two rules: 1) Don't sell it. If you're tempted, keep in mind that I have both the original photo this pattern was based on, and the original dog, and that right there is a recipe for an embarrassing situation for you. 2) Please send me a photo! I'll post it here, or not, whichever you like.
Hey, and, you glassers, is it cuttable? I really did my best with the whole area around the left eye, which is now at the point where good proportions are being sacrificed for larger/more-cuttable pieces, and I'm afraid to take it any further. If you see major issues with the pattern, leave a comment here and I'll revise accordingly.
Wednesday, May 31, 2006: Holding Pattern
It's not that I lost steam on the dogwood windows project after getting only as far as buying nine square feet of glass. It's that I don't have a place to work.
At the old house, the unfinished basement was full of ancient, dusty, ugly cabinets and benches and tables (including a small mirrored medicine cabinet with little pots and vials of things like mouthwash and shaving cream and pain relievers that dated, I'm guessing, from the 1940s and 1950s). One of these antiques, an unpretty but solid work table, was perfect for stained glass work. It had been there since long before Don bought the place, and now that we've sold it, there it remains. It didn't seem worth moving, but I'm kind of kicking myself now, because the basement at the new house is all drywall and recessed lighting. Nary a dusty, unused workbench in sight.
Nothing's stopping me from going to IKEA and getting a cruddy little laminate table, except, well, maybe I'm cheap but spending sixty dollars on furniture that's just going to end up covered in glass dust, solder balls, and lead came scraps? I can't bring myself to do it.
So I've been hovering around the furniture ads on Craig's List and the local Freecycle boards. I failed to move quickly enough on two good candidates there, which will get old fast if the pattern continues. Don had suggested a trip to Rough and Ready at 14th and T Streets in Shaw---a Sanford-and-Son-esque cave of dusty used furniture stacked to the leaking ceiling. But I reminded him that Rough and Ready was gentrified away recently, the entire block purchased for a planned condo development, and I know of nothing else like it.
I may have to break down and get Don to build something for me. Plywood and two-by-fours: stronger than IKEA laminate and aluminum, yet vastly less expensive. Why didn't I just ask him in the first place? Well, he's been busy, cleansing his palette after the couch project with an amusing little Mission end table, something he can do with one table saw tied behind his back you understand.
It's almost done now. When the furniture Don is building suddenly looks like something purchased at Abu Ghraib's Going-Out-Of-Business Sale (all torture implements must go!), that means glue-up is in progress.
And if glue-up is in progress, the end is in sight. I'll wait a few days for Don to put a finish on his end table and call it done; if by then my own Craig's List want ad hasn't resulted in a beefy workbench big enough to hold two 15 by 33 inch windows-in-progress, it'll have to be handy husband to the rescue.
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