75. Making windows

The greenhouse has got to be glazed.

5th June 2015

For the last three days I've been getting into a serious groove where I'm likely to stay for at least another week, perhaps two. I've started making the leaded windows for the greenhouse at the centre of the front elevation of The Orchard: a delicate chimerical surface created by many small panes of traditional glass, filled with subtle ripples and defects. It's a huge job but it's going to be worth it. The combination of the strong, chunky oak frame and the fragile lead windows is a winner, and has been for centuries.

Our experience making stained glass has given us the confidence to take on this task. The approach is basically the same: cutting lead and glass, fitting all the bits together and soldering all the junctions. Here's the recipe in more detail:

First stretch your lead cames (a came is a length of lead with an H profile designed to hold pieces of glass). The stretching helps to stiffen the lead and get it in shape.

Second, cut your lead to the right size. And cut your glass too. The latter task is much harder and may result in severe bouts of swearing when the expensive glass refuses to break along your carefully scored lines.

Third, put the pieces of lead and glass together, using a simple jig to keep everything in place. Slip small lengths of steel into the horizontal cames to help stiffen the window.

Fourth, prepare the joints with a tallow candle, which helps the solder to flow. Then solder the joints. Turn over and solder the other side.

Fifth, brush cement into all the joints and cover with whiting to help cure the cement. Leave for at least thirty minutes, depending on the temperature of the ambient environment, and have at least one cup of tea.

Sixth, clean up, taking care to clear all the residual cement that has oozed out of the cames, and polish with black polish.

Seventh, prepare the rebate in your oak frame with putty.

Eighth, carry your window up the scaffold ladder single-handedly, reciting the Hail Mary.

Ninth, install the window and pin in place with the oak beads that you conveniently made earlier.

Tenth, stand back and enjoy for a brief moment before starting all over again.

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