Archive for the 'restoration' category

Return to blog homepage

Fully refurbished and reinstalledFully refurbished and reinstalled

Mid-March found me and my site team in the large country town of Tumut, in the high country, Southern NSW, re-installing two 150 yr old windows which we had removed last October. They were in a rather dilapidated state, with large gaps appearing between the lead came and the glass, and many repairs carried out over the years.

Commencement, inside viewCommencement, inside view

Commencement, outside viewCommencement, outside view

Fortunately Tumut Catholic Church has its own aluminium scaffold, so that was set up ready for us, and the external steel scaffold was erected by a local contractor. First job was to remove the plywood covers we had installed previously for weather proofing.

Half cuts to timber beadHalf cuts to timber bead

Foil at apex installedFoil at apex installed

In some ways timber frames are even more tricky than masonry installs. For the top foil and the arches we used a very old but simple and effective method to bend the timber beads, making small half-cuts to the timber and filling these afterward with "builders' bog", later sanded off and painted.

Filling saw cutsFilling saw cuts

Sash clips to hold leadlightSash clips to hold leadlight

At the bottom of the window set were a pair of ventilating steel sashes: these present their own particular issues. In this case we used traditional sash clips to hold the leadlight panels in place. In the photo above you will see small holes in the side of the steel frame to accommodate these clips. The rebates are then puttied up, burying the clips and keeping them safe from corrosion.

Ventilating sashes completedVentilating sashes completed

Reinforcing rodsReinforcing rods

Replacement of damaged glassReplacement of damaged glass

As is often the case with refurbishment of old stained glass windows, there were quite a few pieces that had been repaired previously. With such an important piece of glass as the Sacred heart of Jesus I deferred to the Parish committee for a decision on whether to replace or no, given that there was a break right across the top of the heart. I knew that I could make a fair facsimile of the original and although it took two attempts, that was what was done in the end.

On Monday 3rd February me and my team headed out of Sydney toward Boorowa, a medium-sized country town about 130km west of Goulburn. We were booked to excavate two stained glass windows from St John's Anglican Church. I'd looked at these windows about 12months prior, to make recommendations as they were clearly in need of remedial work. It took some time for the Parish to gain the necessary funding for the work but its very good that they did; when I saw the windows again the other week, they had deteriorated significantly in the intervening time. In the Good Shepherd window the buckling of the lower portion had reached a stage where glass was about to break.

St Johannes Window

External scaffold: commencing workExternal scaffold: commencing work

Top arch removedTop arch removed

Cutting out the sacrificial borderCutting out the sacrificial border

Lifting out the next panelLifting out the next panel

Hacking out putty to free overglazingHacking out putty to free overglazing

Lifting out the overglazingLifting out the overglazing

Removong the last panelRemovong the last panel

Lifting out the inscriptionLifting out the inscription

The Good Shepherd Window

Overglazing removed from the archOverglazing removed from the arch

Removing timber beadRemoving timber bead

Arched panel removedArched panel removed

Removing next panelRemoving next panel

Separating panel 2 from panel 1Separating panel 2 from panel 1

Boarding up the openingBoarding up the opening

About 12 months ago I removed all the stained glass windows originally installed into old Chapel of the Anzac Village, Collaroy Plateau, by Philip Handel. My task was to come up with a design scheme which would be suitable for the new Chapel, satisfying the requirements of the architects, Humel Architects of Dee Why, while paying respect to the original artwork by Handel.

I knew at the start it would be a difficult job, and it has proven to be so. But with 6x of the 12 panels installed, people seem happy with the result thus far. In fact the new leadlight material surrounding Handel's pieces gives them a new life.

Re-setting of Handel windowsRe-setting of Handel windows

Australian Commonwealth Military ForcesAustralian Commonwealth Military ForcesAustralian Commonwealth Military Forces

Panels 4, 5 and 6Panels 4, 5 and 6

These six panels are installed as highlights either side of the entry corridor. They are photographed here while standing in the scaffold tower. The following snapshots give you some idea of the installation process.

Pedro on the scaffoldPedro on the scaffold

Viewed from outsideViewed from outside

Tying rods in placeTying rods in place

My work station onsiteMy work station onsite

Painting copper tiesPainting copper ties

I am still working on the remaining six panels, to be installed early in May. One of these six is actually an entirely new panel to make up the set and provide a symmetrical format for the back wall of the Chapel. The RSL has commissioned me to produce a window based on the image used in their website Soldier On: an interesting challenge!

Design sketch for Soldier On Design sketch for Soldier On

Completed windowCompleted window

Left hand side installedLeft hand side installed

Right hand sideRight hand side

For the past four weeks I have been restoring a damaged stained glass window installed by Ashwin and Company in the 1930's. Once again I had chris Wellwood and Clive Hillier assisting on the excavation of the window and boarding up. After initial hesitation with the St Jame's Catholic Church project at Glebe, Clive has embraced working on scaffold with gusto.

Damage to stained glass windowDamage to stained glass window

Close up of damaged sectionClose up of damaged section

Existing fragmentsExisting fragments

The difficulty that presented itself with this paarticular restoration project was the obvious severe paint loss ocurring in almost all the windows in the Church: not on all the glass however, only the flesh- all the faces, hands and feet. Many of the faces have lost their trace lines and now appear as ghosts. When I eventually got the window into the studio I discovered that the paint on these pieces of glass was so flaky it could be scraped by a fingernail: very unusual.

Creating a cutlineCreating a cutline

Cutline for new glassCutline for new glass

New glassNew glass

Cartoon for new glassCartoon for new glass

It's a matter of conjecture as to why this might be the case. Other stained glass windows I've seen showing paint loss tend to suffer across most of the glass and I assume that the cause of this was not adequate firing in the first place. And it is possible that with the Holy Cross window the faces, hands and feet were fired as a differnet batch of glass to the remainder of the window. It would be unlikely that a different paint was used to that of the drapery and foliage. But I am convinced that it is to do with the chemistry of the particular glass, an unusual shade of pinkish/yellow brown, and a possible incompatibilty with the glass paint.


Replacement hands and feetReplacement hands and feet

Replacement handReplacement hand

Completed windowCompleted window

Detail of the facesDetail of the faces

Detail of the handsDetail of the hands

The window is booked for re-installation next week and the scaffold will come down before Easter celebrations begin the following weekend.

Today I've just re-installed the Gabriel window into St Peter's historic Church at Cremorne after carrying out some extensive restoration over the last few weeks. I did manage to see in the New Year in style but also spent many hours laboring over some quite challenging paintwork to achieve the best result I could in matching the old painted glass.

Extensive damage to the Gabriel windowExtensive damage to the Gabriel window

With green paper block-outs to cut the glareWith green paper block-outs to cut the glare

Piecing together fragmentsPiecing together fragments

There was no signature or date of manufacture to be found on the window but a best estimate is around 90 - 100 years. It was common of windows from this era to be very heavily painted and while they look quite good, if somewhat sombre, insitu it becomes terribly difficult to read and then re-create such dark paintwork in the studio.

Fired trace on piece of draperyFired trace on piece of drapery

Same piece of glass with stipple matt appliedSame piece of glass with stipple matt applied

The restored windowThe restored window

The restored windowThe restored window

Detail of wingtipDetail of wingtip

Close up of restored areaClose up of restored area

Since Thursday October 13th I've been working onsite at St James Catholic Church in Woolley St, Forest Lodge, cleaning and restoring the three large stained glass windows behind the altar. Each set of windows is made up of three individual lancets, so nine windows in all, installed sometime around 1880.

Scaffolding over altarScaffolding over altar

External scaffold around the apseExternal scaffold around the apse

Rear of St James from the lanewayRear of St James from the laneway

The job entailed firstly removing the wire guards to gain access to the windows and then completely removing all the old overglazing. This was in a terrible state, badly cracked and scoured and in fact should never have been installed in such a manner in the first place. When these windows were rebuilt some 40 or so years ago, the installers glazed a layer of protective glass hard up against the stained glass at the same time and in the same rebate. Consequently over the years huge deposits of debris had collected in the tiny space between the leaded glass and the overglazing, obscuring much of the beauty of the windows from the inside.

Removing overglazingRemoving overglazing

Trapped silt and overglazingTrapped silt and overglazing

External build up of siltExternal build up of silt

Assisting me on the job are Clive Hillier (seen above) and Chris Wellwoood. Chris used to run Aurora Stained Glass at Narellan for many years. He currently runs a Life Drawing class for Liverpool Art Society. Clive operates Clive Hillier Stained and Art Glass now located at Kingsford. He has taught leadlighting for many years at Australian Stained Glass Supplies when they were at Leichhardt, (now primarily online sales, with a warehouse at Arncliffe) so the windows are in very good hands. The three of us are taking great care with the windows, spending long hours painstakingly cleaning each pane of glass both inside and out. There are also many small repairs to be done and just one panel requiring reconstruction. The last task will be to re-cement all the windows firmly into their stone rebates and re-hang the wire guards.

Scraping away sludgeScraping away sludge

Obscured and damaged inscription panelObscured and damaged inscription panel

Restoration is a little like forensics or archeology and a good knowledge of many different studio practices is extremely useful in determining just what it is we are looking at. Painted stained glass windows tend to acquire an organic (I think) scum which builds up on the actual glass paint over the years. But in addition to this scum and accumulated cement render and house paint these windows were also covered in patches of black sludge.

In the making of a leadlight the final stage is to putty the gap between the glass and the lead with a glazing compound making them waterproof and binding the whole fabric together. Many studios use a slurry method to achieve this but effective clean-up is crucial with such a method and often this doesn't happen. Such was the case with the St James windows. When they were rebuilt sometime in the 1970's whoever applied the slurry left large clumps of the stuff adhered to the glass. A careful reading of the fired glass paint is required here to distinguish between sludge and the painted decoration hidden beneath. Fortunately the paint itself is quite strongly adhered to the glass (not always the case).

An advantage of having been rebuilt relatively recently is that the lead fabric is quite sound so these windows should provide many more years of good service and the congregation will be able to appreciate their beauty anew once the scaffold comes down in a couple of weeks time.


Subscribe by RSS

The Latest Happenings in my World

This blog is where you will find my latest news. It can range from posting images of progress of the current commission to art crit to political or social commentary, both national and international. Anything, basically, that's commanding my attention and I feel is worth sharing with you, my reader. Enjoy. My previous blog can be found at