Introduction: Stained Glass Window Inserts

About: I build drums, make costumes, work on house projects/repairs, dabble in Genealogy, eat tacos, and sometimes work in IT.

Several years ago, I replaced two of the house's old octagonal windows. They were wooden, drafty as all get out, and rotting away. However, the panes were stained glass, so I salvaged them. After all ... they do belong to the house.

The new windows are vinyl and fixed - no more rot and no more drafts. The jamb extensions and interior trim are poplar and were custom made in my workshop.

The idea was always to make new frames for the stained glass panes and hang them on the wall of the room from whence they came ... but of course that seemed too simple. I decided to size them to fit within the new windows jambs. Nothing like making a straight forward process more tedious.

The first step was to determine the required frame stock thickness. This was achieved by cutting grooves in some scrap wood and trimming it down until I had a good fit. 2" wide stock was the winner.

Step 1: Milling Stock

I'm using plywood instead of solid wood because of stability. My hope is that I won't encounter as much seasonal expansion, nor any twisting or warping.

I generally keep plywood offcuts since a 3/4" sheet is around $50 and I always end up using it for small projects and/or jigs.

The stock was ripped to 2" wide and then I used the Rockler crosscut sled to cut the mitered segments. The angle was 22.5° and the length was sized to the window panes - no real measuring. I just snuck up on the cut for the first one, set the stop block, then cut 18 more - 3 extra in case I mess a few up.

Step 2: Grooves and Mortises

Each segment received a groove to accommodate the outer edge of the panes. Blade height was set using an actual pane and the cut was made with a standard blade. I centered the blade by eye, made a cut, rotated the piece 180°, and made another cut. Then I just nudged the fence away from the blade, made two more cuts, tested the fit, and repeated as necessary [Fig. 1-3].
Note: The 180° rotation is the fast and easy way of keeping the groove centered.

I decided to use floating tenons for strength, as well as for alignment. These were cut using a Domino because I have one and I like using it .. it's fun. To secure the small pieces, I used the Rockler T-track table and a few accessories - a long stop and auto-lock clamp for lateral clamping and a hold down for vertical [Fig. 1].
Note: The 1/4" acrylic was just a spacer to get the mortise more centered.

Step 3: Glue Ups

I considered gluing the frames around the panes in one shot, but I had a feeling I'd end up wrestling with alignment and chasing gapped joints. I opted instead to glue them up in halves. Glue in each mortise, as well as the mating faces ... then pin nails to keep them from sliding.

Once the glue had cured overnight, I glued the two halves around the panes. The dominos made the process very easy, but dowels or miter splines would be another option. Anything to eliminate the frustration of parts sliding around during glue up is a win in my book.

Step 4: Filling and Sanding

My joints were pretty tight, but not perfect. Since there were some plywood voids around the edges that needed wood filler, I took care of any flawed joints as well.

All of the faces and edges were sanding using the orbital sander and I broke the edges by hand - 120 grit all round.

Step 5: Trimming to Fit

Even with my initial layout efforts, the panels ended up being too large for the window openings. In this instance, too large was better than too small.

I set my fence to remove 1/32" and trimmed four adjacent sides. The fence was nudged another 1/32" to trim the four remaining sides. I ran through this process three times, but I wanted a tight tolerance, so it was worth the time and effort.

Step 6: Keyhole

For the ability to hang these panels on wall, I added a keyhole.

Left to right center was found and marked on the top segment. A 3/8" hole was drilled to a depth of 3/8" using a Forstner bit. A speed square was clamped to the frame to ensure a straight cut with the trim router and keyhole bit.

Step 7: Shellac and Paint

Finish was one coat of shellac, quick sanding with 220 grit for any raised grain, then two coats of paint.

Step 8: In Place

The final fit is pretty close to perfect - loose enough for the panes to be inserted without binding, but tight enough to prevent them from tilting forward and falling out.

They restrict a lot of light, so I expect they'll end up on the wall sooner rather than later.

My goal was to return them to and keep them with the house. I think they look pretty good.

Plywood Challenge

Participated in the
Plywood Challenge