Making Leaded Glass

How I make leaded glass – and why i don’t make traditional stained glass

There are a few good reasons why I make leaded glass the way I do. Traditional stained glass is fantastic, of course it is, but the benefits of making leaded glass my way out-weigh taking the other route.

This blog will explain why I didn’t pursue the traditional path and why I’ve made hundreds and hundreds of leaded lights this way.

Traditional Stained Glass

Traditional stained glass leaded lights are undoubtedly beautiful and so very Georgian/Victorian England. Leaded glass goes back much further than Victorian times of course and is very common in Europe but nowhere and nobody embraced the art more than England and the Victorians – well, maybe the Italians but hey!

The English love for stained glass is so evident that you’ll find many examples on every Victorian street from Chelsea to Chorlton. ACTUALLY, a lot of what you’ll see in Chorlton isn’t technically stained glass thanks to me.

Grand Victorian Front Door in Hale

I am on numerous occasions asked to restore a Victorian or 1930’s front door and the question comes up, ‘what can we do about the glass in the door and the 5 surrounding traditional leaded lights?’

Encapsulation

Let me answer that question in this way. The problem you have with existing leaded lights is that they’re not secure and sometimes they can let air in (where the cement between the lead and the glass has become brittle and fallen out). If we take a stained glass unit out, to make it ‘secure’, i.e. using safety glass, we need to put it in between two pieces of clear toughened glass. This makes it safe and completely draft proof. This is called ‘encapsulation’.

Diane's Grand Victorian front door in Wilmslow 110-SK9-6LZ

Everytime Teresa and I ‘looked at a house’ with stained glass, when we were buying, she would get excited. I on the other hand would think, ‘it’s a shame’.

See, to take a traditional stained glass unit out of a frame you need to then make it smaller to go inside a double glazed unit (that will then fit in the existing ‘hole’).

The problem with traditional stained glass

I’m not a fan of encapsulation for two reasons.

Firstly, and very obviously, you see flat reflective glass from the outside which doesn’t add to the intention of keeping the unit looking ‘genuine’ and secondly to get the finished unit to fit into the existing aperture you would have to either take 25mm of the whole width and height of the original unit or make the hole bigger!

1930's Replica Front Door Didsbury

The Solution?

I get over these issues by making a double glazed unit that has our lead work on the OUTSIDE piece of toughened glass. Adhesive lead is stuck on to the outside of the glass to a design that we work together on. Regalead coloured art film is used on the other side of the glass (eventually inside the double glazed unit) in the sections where colour is required. Lead then goes around the sections.

Making Manchester Bee Leaded Glass

I painstakingly solder every joint and treat the lead to age it. The result is a double glazed unit made with toughened safety glass that has soldered jointed lead on the outside that you can touch and feel. I believe this safer, warmer and more authentic that traditional stained glass.

Regalead Stained Glass Art Film

Regalead have really managed to capture the authenticity of old Victorian and 1930s hand made glass with the colours that they produce. The 1930s doors in the photos here and the grey Victorian door at the top are done using this stained glass art film.

The result is a leaded light unit that has lead work exposed externally, with colour between the leaded sections. The glass is toughened and the same size as the original light.

Hopefully this will reassure you that making our coloured leaded lights this way is the most genuine looking practical solution – safer, warmer and authentic.

Thanks for reading, please tell us what you think.

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2 thoughts on “Making Leaded Glass”

  1. Quick question – My door is south facing with no shade, so will constant sunlight warp or fade the coloured film?

    Reply
    • We’ve been using this film for about 6 years now and nobody has ever said the colours have faded Karen. I have pure confidence in it.

      Reply

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