A hard day’s restoration

A couple of posts back I shared some photos of an alter box I had picked up to repair. Well today I finally got a full day in my workshop to tackle this old beauty. It has been rattling its doors at me every time I walk past it, so it was good to finally get on with it!
I have never restored something in such a bad state; very little of the glass was broken, but the lead was bowed and buckling and all the glass had just popped out.
Firstly, I had to remove the panels from the wooden doors, which was quite a task in itself as the wood is very old and I did not want to damage it. Eventually I prized them out and the full extent of the damage was apparent. I had already realised that the reason the lead was so distorted was because it was very thin lead holding in very heavy, thick cut glass central diamond bevels, more of that later.
Usually I would have taken a rubbing of the existing leading to use as a pattern for remaking it, but the lead was too badly distorted to do this so I moved straight onto taking the old lead apart. When taking apart an old lead panel it is important to damp down the lead and wear protective gloves and mask, lead starts to deteriorate after around 93 years and this means that is starts breaking down into powder, which is when it is at its most dangerous as it is easily inhaled. So first of all I gave both the panels a good spray with water and put the old lead aside to be recycled.
Next I started work on the new pattern. Only 3 pieces of clear glass were missing, so this was easy to match; but measuring out and drawing the new pattern took a while, especially as I decided to use various thicknesses of lead to hold the heavy glass in place more securely.
I then built up the lead and glass and soldered the finished pieces together to secure.
I still need to cement and paterna the piece, but I think you will agree that an afternoon’s work can make a huge difference!

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I am a stained glass artist working in Exeter and a busy mum of 2; trying to carve a path through the tide of washing and children's toys that stands between me and making beautiful things.

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