Atelier Rodrigue
Stained Glass Studio, Sherbrooke, Qc
Stained glass in every home...

Stained Glass Window Restoration

The restoration of a Clayton & Bell window is presented. It was produced in 1890 in London. Clayton & Bell was a leading supplier of stained glass windows to the British Commonwealth with over 300 employees. Their stained-glass windows are distinguished by a finely detailed glass painting with an almost photographic precision.

Installed in a church built in 1886, the stained glass window and its frame were badly deteriorated after more than 130 years of age. A restoration was in order.

The stained glass windows were stored for a few years in insulated boxes. They were visibly inhabited after the opening of the package.
Opening of the Package
This mouse finds a natural but more certainly harsh environment.
The stained glass sections were removed from the frames. Steel tie bars will eventually be.
Frames with the Steel Tie Bars
Some frames are very deteriorated. The bottom right corner needs to be rebuilt on this one.
Frame Corner to be Rebuilt
Replacement of the keystone, an essential part for securely attaching the transverse ribs to each other.

The project consists of restoring both the window frame and the stained glass windows. Some pieces of the wooden frames need to be replaced due to rot or splitting. Frame parts attachment has to be improved as there are no screws or anchors on these old windows. Finally, a long spackling and sanding work is necessary.

As far as the stained glass was concerned, it was better to rebuild it entirely than to repair it. With time and weight, the top of the glass window sags on the lower part, creating a ripple and ultimately the breakage of the glasses.

After reproducing the drawing and taking note of the dimensions, the work of deconstructing the stained glass window begins.
Deconstructing the Window
It is easy to disassemble the pieces one by one on a old stained glass window. The putty that holds the glasses together disintegrates into sand. Lead is oxidized and embrittened.
Broken pieces must be reproduced.
Broken Glass Pieces

The first step is to reproduce the drawing onto paper using a light table. The disassembly of the glass pieces is done almost without tools on these old stained glass windows. Broken pieces of glass must be reproduced, especially the faces, hands and feet of the figures. This is the most critical part of a restoration project. Failure at this stage renders the project worthless. Images of botched restoration are sure to cause mockery on the web.

The assembly is done respecting the original materials and techniques, i.e. lead and putty based on chalk powder and linseed oil. Reinforcement bars are strategically added to prevent sagging without obstructing the view.

Glass painting is done on a light table to better visualize the transparency. The glaze is fired in a ceramic kiln at 650°C (1200°F) for durability.
Glass Painting
For these praying hands, a uniform color was applied. The pattern was traced by removing some paint using a brush and a fine tip. All that's left to do is add the shading and color of the garment.
Praying Hands
After the reproduction of the glass pieces, the assembly is done with the same lead techniques as the original stained glass.
Stained Glass Assembly

A Satisfying Result

The result is very satisfying. It is quite difficult to distinguish the reproduced pieces from the original ones. The leads are straight, the stained glass window is flat, the light passes generously through the glass. In a refurbished wooden frame painted with a slight sheen, this stained glass window is in the same condition as when it left the Clayton & Bell workshops 130 years ago.

Figures Restoration
Completed Project