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What Are the Best Tips for Stained Glass Restoration?

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  • Written By: Anna B. Smith
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 17 November 2016
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The best tips for stained glass restoration are to avoid using chemical cleaning agents on the glass, do not allow any water to penetrate the antique wood frame, and completely remove the frame prior to performing any restoration work on it. The glass pieces used in antique stained windows and artwork are often irreplaceable, and must be treated gently and with care to preserve their value and integrity. Supplies to clean the glass may be found in most local grocery stores, and the tools needed to repair the frame may be purchased from a home improvement store.

Antique stained glass is a type of art that welded different colors and textures of glass together using melted metals. The most commonly used type of metal for these projects was lead, though some pieces feature copper and silver as well. These welded portions are known as cam. Depending on the age of the piece upon which the stained glass restoration will be performed, the project may need only cleaning, or the cam or frame could require replacing. Do it yourself cleaners may wish to consult an expert, such as an antiques dealer, prior to beginning any stained glass restoration work, to prevent unnecessary damage to the project.

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Avoid using harsh cleaners on antique glass. Abrasive chemicals, such as ammonia and bleach, can harm the surface of the glass and cause damage to the frame and caming surrounding the pieces. The individual performing the work should begin with a cloth dampened by water only, and work in small sections to remove dirt and grime. If water is insufficient to clean the glass, a gentle, all natural dish detergent may be added to the water in small quantities until an effective concentration has been reached.

Using a small cloth for stained glass restoration will help localize the cleaning, so that water does not come in contact with any wood the may be left surrounding the project as a frame. Harder to reach areas may be addressed with cotton swabs or q-tips that have been dipped in the cleaning solution. Metal tipped pieces should not be used to scrape dirt from the surface as these types of tools are capable of causing permanent damage to the glass.

The stained glass should be removed from the antique frame prior to restoring the frame. This is more easily accomplished by laying the project piece flat on a tarp and gently removing each section of the frame. Pieces that retain their original elements tend to hold more value than those that feature replacements, so when possible, project leaders may prefer to attempt to repair the old frame before simply attaching a new one. New paint or wood stain can similarly devalue a project, and ought to be avoided when possible. Once the individual pieces of the frame have been removed, they can be sanded, cleaned, and sealed to preserve their original quality.

Any pieces of loose glass inside the project area may be experiencing the decay of the internal caming. A stained glass piece with loose glass should not be remounted into its frame, as this increases the likelihood that one piece will permanently break. This type of stained glass restoration is often best performed by a specialist. The old caming is removed through the heat interaction of a soldering iron, and new caming is welded into place. These supplies may be purchased online or from a specialty craft store.

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