Saturday, 16 July 2011

Handy Household Hints No. 2: Basic Stained Glass Restoration

About a year ago, I was given a couple of very tatty Victorian leaded window panels by a friend who knew of my interest in stained glass and thought that I could do something with them. Well its taken me a while, but I've put the smaller of the two to good use by fitting it into our pantry door (well, Husband did the fitting!). But before fitting it, the panel needed a bit of restoration as one of the narrow strips of clear glass was shattered and the whole panel was covered in a layer of thick grime.

So, as part of my 'Handy Household Hints' series, here's a basic guide about how to restore a  stained glass window panel.

Panel in its untouched original state
First you need to remove all the grime on the 'cames' (the cames are the strips of lead  with a 'H' profile into which the glass is slotted and cemented) on both sides of the panel with either a wire brush or fine wire wool depending on how much crud there is. I like to use the wire brush first, then the wire wool as this also smoothes down any scratches to the lead from the brush.

Don't add too much pressure when cleaning, as both the lead and glass can be fragile with age and from exposure to the elements.

Once its clean, the next step is to apply new cement both sides of the panel to ensure that the glass is secure and - especially if its going to be used as an external window - waterproof. Even if the original cement is still in good condition, an application of a new layer is a good idea, thus securing the old and improving the look of the restored panel. Wearing rubber gloves 'cause this stuff is messy, use an old toothbrush to gently apply the cement over the existing and pushing it into any gaps between the cames and glass.

Adding the whiting on top of the cement
The next step is to sprinkle chalk dust or 'whiting' onto the freshly cemented panel. This is an essential step, as the whiting absorbs the moisture from the cement and when its rubbed off, helps clean the glass. You can use a old toothbrush or a soft nailbrush for this, but remember to be gentle. Then using a soft cloth, give the panel a light buff.

Cleaned up after applying the cement and whiting
Now you're ready for the fun bit - the final polish! You'll need some rubber gloves, two clean cloths and a tube of black graphite polish (this used to be called 'black lead' and was used for polishing cast iron fireplaces). Hardware shops and mainstream d.i.y. shops should sell this polish as well as specialist glass suppliers.

First, apply the polish with one of the cloths gently over the lead cames of one side of the panel (don't forget to wear the gloves - this stuff is a pain to dig out from under your fingernails!). When finished, give the panel a good buff up with the clean cloth and you'll see that by rubbing off the polish, the cames will have a burnished look to them. Do the same with the other side.

Final stage: after applying the black graphite and the final polish

Now you're finished, so step back and admire your handiwork!

Broken glass replaced and panel cleaned up - finally fitted into our pantry door

You can buy leaded light cement and whiting from specialist online suppliers and this is all the 'specialist' kit you'll need really for undertaking a basic restoration like this. Its also a lot cheaper than taking your stained glass to a professional restorer and also you'll have the satisfaction of having restored it yourself.


  1. You did a fabulous job on that stained glass, and it looks wonderful in your pantry door too. Ooh, I'm jealous you've got a pantry - I would love to have one. I've got serious pantry-lust for Nigella's wonderful walk-in pantry.

  2. Nice job!!he ultimate recycling.
    I LOVE the smell of the cement don't you? Do you go to Creative Glass in Bristol? They are so expensive but have a great bargain bin, I only go when I go to Bristol anyway.
    Tickety-boo xx

  3. That's brilliant. I have two friends who have broken stained glass panels in their front doors, so I'm going to point them in this direction. Thanks for sharing that!

  4. I used to do leadlighting many moons ago.You have done a wonderful job on that piece xx

  5. The window looks just marvellous! I take my felt beret off to you in admiration of all of your hard work on this little beauty :)

  6. Thanks everyone. There's no special skills needed for a job like this, which makes it ideal for everyone to try out - unless you have an orginal William Morris or Edward Burne-Jones window that is!!!!!

    P.S. Tickety-boo - Creative Glass is one of my port of calls alothough I haven't been since they moved. The old place wasn't too far from Get Knitted either.

  7. Wow, that's really clever. Don't think I'd ever dare to tackle stained glass.

  8. You did a brilliant job, it looks absolutely stunning. I love the finished look.
    My childhood home was Arts and Crafts and I adore stained glass, I'm after a couple of panels to reglaze an internal door we found in a skip. x

  9. It looks absolutely gorgeous, still not sure I'd be brave enough to tackle it myself though...

  10. What a useful post and well done you for doing such a super job. It looks gorgeous.

  11. Wow! It looks fabulous...what a great job you did on it.


  12. p.s...I've added your blog to the newly minted blogroll at Hope that's OK?

  13. Thanks Murgatroyd - thats cool by me!


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