Traditional Leadlight

Traditional Leadlight has been around for centuries and is well known from its’ appearance in many churches and homes throughout New Zealand and around the world. It has been used in many ways and situations where decorating a panel of glass has been desired. From religious works to welcoming door panels, china cabinet doors to lampshades, Traditional Leadlight has found its’ way in to every part of our lives.

There are two general methods of creating glass art in this way – The “Lead Came” method and “Copper Foiling”.

I will start with the “Lead Came” method.

The basic construction process is as follows: individual pieces of coloured or textured glass are cut to shape to form a pattern and then pieced together with lead came like a jigsaw puzzle. The lead came is shaped like an “H” and the glass slots in to either side of this. The diagram below will help explain this. Where each of the leaded sections meet, the came is soldered together on both sides to “lock” the panel together. At this point, the entire glass panel is still relatively unstable and loose. The panel is then cemented to fill all the spaces between the lead came and the glass. Once dried, this provides solidity to the panel, as well as creating a weatherproof seal to keep wind and water out. The panel is then polished and is ready to install for all to enjoy.

Traditional Leadlight can be used in single and double glazed situations in both timber and aluminium joinery.

This “H” came method is used for flat window construction but is also used in curved panel construction as required in the curved end panels in china cabinets.

The “Copper Foil” method has the same initial stage of cutting the glass to the pattern but that’s about it. Once cut, the pieces are cleaned and a thin copper foil adhesive strip is placed around the entire edge of each piece of glass with a small overhang on each side. This is then folded over to form a “U” shape around the full perimeter of each section. See the illustration below.Each piece is then placed on the pattern to create the overall design – just nestled together. Every edge joining another section of glass is then soldered along its’ entire length as the copper foil will hold a soldered bead. Once one side has been completed, the panel is turned over and the second side soldered as well. The entire panel is then cleaned and a suitable finish applied to the solder and then polished, ready to install.

The Copper Foil method usually has a much more delicate look to its’ construction and is ideal for very fine detail where wrapping an “H” came around intricate pieces of glass would be too difficult or heavy. The seam of lead created by soldering copper foil will generally be thinner than “H” came and often irregular in width.

Copper Foiling is a popular method of creating lampshades or sun-catchers to hang in a window. It has also been used in general window construction but larger panels can be problematic.

(CLICK HERE) to see our Photo Album of Traditional Leadlight Glass.

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