Wood and Stained Glass Window

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I recently purchased a house in a particularly foggy part of San Francisco. Since the move I have been dreaming up ways to add color and light to our space. I came up with the idea of making a large stained glass window for the front of the house. I ended up using wood between the panes instead of lead which has a unique look and adds strength to the overall design.

Note: Because all houses, and windows are different sizes, I will be giving overall build concepts which you can adapt to your own space.

Supplies:

Supplies:

  • 3/4"-1" thick solid wood panel which is large enough to fit the outside dimensions of your window. You could laminate your own panel or purchase one like this: Pine project panel
  • Stained glass: Color, size, cost will depend on your project.

Tools:

  • Jigsaw, wood blade
  • Hand drill
  • 1/4" drill bit
  • Hand-held router
  • 1/4" slot cutter router bit like this: Router bit
  • Sandpaper (80,150, 220)
  • Your favorite wood finish (varnish, polyurethane, stain, oil/wax, etc)
  • Glass cutter
  • Wood glue

Cost:

  • This is dependent on your project size and design. I purchased a pre-made pine wood panel (3'x6') at my local Discount Builder's store for $45
  • I bought my glass from a recycled building materials store for about $40. Stained glass can get expensive!

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Step 1: Create Your Design

  • We will be installing the window inside your existing window. This allows us to not have to worry about weather proofing.
  • With that in mind, measure the interior dimension of your window frame (taken from the inside of your house). I recommend subtracting 1/8" from the dimensions you measured (to allow for wood expansion).
  • Create a template for your design (to scale). I created a template for my design in a vector software program. You could use any program that allows you to draw a box of a specific size, or even graph paper.
  • In my template, I planned for a solid edge around the perimeter of the window (1.5" wide)
  • Once I made my scale template I started drawing and coloring until my wife approved the design.
  • I tried to make it romantic by drawing two trees with limbs growing together. I recommend a similar romantic explanation for your design, too.

Step 2: Start Making!

Finally you get to cut things up and hope for the best.
  • To transfer my design to the wood, I scanned it into the computer, then blew up to the actual size.
  • I then printed the full size file. Because I can only print on 8.5x11" sheets, I ended up with a lot of sheets of paper which I taped together.
  • I then traced the design onto my pine board.

Unfortunately, because I couldn't cut and take pictures at the same time, I don't have any pictures of using the jigsaw.

  • Tip: in order to cut out the inside shapes, drill a 1/4" pilot hole inside the part to be removed. This will allow you to start the jigsaw in the middle of your board.
  • For more on using a jigsaw check this out: Family handyman jigsaw tips

Sand or file any rough edges.

Step 3: Rout Your Slots

You will now need to create slots for your stained glass. Depending on the thickness of your glass, you could use an 1/8" router bit or other size. I used a 1/4" bit because 1. I owned it 2. my recycled stained glass had different dimensions and 3. we don't need to have a perfect fit for the glass

I am showing one example of a router bit from Amazon but many similar bits are available at your local hardware store.

Using your hand router, create the window slots as pictured.

When finished, sand all wood surfaces.

Then "finish" the wood with your favorite varnish/stain. I used an oak stain and exterior polyurethane.

Step 4: Cut Glass

Layout your glass pieces over each of your planned panes. Traced your cut lines (about 1/4" larger than the opening).

Cut each piece of glass. (This instructable assumes you know how to cut glass)

Step 5: Destroy Your Project

Now for the hard part (as in emotionally hard). In order to get the glass into the window, we need to cut the wood. I tried to plan this so that I made my cuts parallel with the grain, not across the grain. I did this because it allows the cut to be less visible after the piece is re-glued. More importantly, the glue joint will be stronger than if I cut across the grain.

Planning the cuts: This takes some thought. We want to be able to have one cut heading into each "pane" opening and another cut heading out of the pane, so that glass can be easily placed inside. I tried to create a continuous horizontal line (as much as possible). This allowed me to essentially raise the top piece from the rest of the window frame, test the glass for fit, and lower the top piece back into place for gluing. I used blue tape to help visualize the location of my cuts.

Step 6: Repair Your Project

Once cuts are made and glass is determined to fit in your routed grooves, apply wood glue (waterproof glue like Titebond II) to each cut joint. I used a series of clamps to re-attach the frame parts. Allow glue to dry for at least an hour or as recommended on your glue.

For my window, it worked the best to do this process three times in phases. (see above)

It is normal for the glass to move a bit in the pane slots. This is intentional, again to allow for the wood to expand/contract with environment conditions.

After glue-up, gently scrape off squeeze-out. If needed, do a light sanding at joints. Finally apply one last layer of polyurethane or wood finish.

Step 7: Installation

There are many ways to install your beautiful window.

I chose to create an oak frame in front of my window (on the inside of the house). Essentially, the wooden glass frame was sandwiched in place by the oak frame. The oak frame was then nailed into the existing window frame. (See pictures)

Enjoy making your window!

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    29 Discussions

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    Gadisha

    2 days ago

    Very nice!

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    deltafour

    5 days ago

    Great idea! Why not take 2 1/2" boards sandwich together with a clamp, cut your pattern, then take only one board and router out it using a half lap bit. Lay the fitted glass on the lap joint put the other board on top of that piece. Nail it together.

    4 replies
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    sharpstickdeltafour

    Reply 5 days ago

    An even simpler technique is to cut the openings in two thin boards. Lay the glass panels over one board and tack them in place with hot glue. Add a few spacers around hem and strips at the edges, then glue or nail it all together. No routing required.

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    grammerssharpstick

    Reply 4 days ago

    I agree this sounds very easy and you would only need minimal glass cuts!

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    deltafoursharpstick

    Reply 4 days ago

    No, I meant 2 solid pieces of wood. Like oak , maple. ash etc Cut the groove just deep enough to allow expansion and contraction.

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    grammersdeltafour

    Reply 4 days ago

    This would work too! I assume you mean using plywood? I did think about doing it this way and ended up choosing solid wood, partly because I like working with it better than plywood. However if you used plywood it would solve the issue of expansion and contraction. And you wouldn't have to cut the piece apart!

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    RBRBRB

    4 days ago

    I was wondering, did you make it so it's fairly easy to pull down and clean yearly?

    Cleaning the inside is of course simple, but if you live in an area with pollution, any glass product will start to get a film on it. also if you have the window in full sun the wood on the outward-facing side May tend to dry out.

    Kudos on keeping the existing glass window, especially if it's a energy-efficient one.

    To keep your glass piece looking its best you will probably want to pull it down and inspect it once a year and clean it. You will probably also need to clean the inside of your regular window pane.

    I wouldn't make it totally sealed in an attempt to keep dust out as you can have issues with humidity and condensation.

    It looks like a solid piece that will last for many years! Nice work!

    5 replies
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    non-instructedRBRBRB

    Reply 4 days ago

    this is so helpful to think about! I asked Grams to put extra extra extra varnish on the piece so it wouldn't fade in the sun but with all the smoke we get in our neighborhood, we will need to pull it down to clean and dust sometimes. this shouldn't be a problem as it is tacked into place. Since it is not sealed closed and the extra room in the creases between the glass allows for a bit of air flow, i don't imagine we will have issues with humidity but time will tell. you are so kind to make a comment about her work. thank you. :)

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    RBRBRBnon-instructed

    Reply 4 days ago

    :) Well... the wife might have pulled me into a stained glass retail store ownership a looong time ago.. so.. I got to do a few installs. We've even had to ask the architect to put an a/c vent in one situation at a firehouse where.. (no kidding) it got over 150 degrees F in the Texas sun, because it was a perfect enclosed greenhouse. That oak frame didn't look so well i suspect after 5 years. But it held for sure!

    And your situation isn't as extreme. Just the residue it gets from smog could use a yearly clean-off at least. We never took down existing glass windows in our installs either. Its too $$$ to sandwich panels in e-glass, and you have to use high efficiency windows in new residential anyhow, so the home owner already paid a lot for them.

    LOVE the colors. Mottled and ring mottled glass has always been one of my favorites. I still have a Uroboros "rainbow sherbert" colored sheet in the garage.. i just cant part with. Its nothing more than a straight sheet of it.. but man, its pretty!
    Uroboros 65-951 (Amber, Red and Blue with Pink and Green highlights)

    L65951.jpg
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    grammersRBRBRB

    Reply 4 days ago

    Also it's true the wood may dry out. I used a number of costs of exterior varnish to try to avoid that happening too soon. Also my window is about 20' in the air so slightly dry wood probably won't be too visible. 🙂

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    grammersRBRBRB

    Reply 4 days ago

    I can easily pull down the window if I ever want to. I used nails that were slightly proud of the wood frame, so I could remove the nails. You might think of a more clever way to do this though!

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    grammersKevinS244

    Reply 4 days ago

    The glass is not painted. The glass is made with the colors and textures infused in the glass.

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    RBRBRBKevinS244

    Reply 4 days ago

    That's not 'fake' stained glass they used. That's the real stained glass from companies like uroboros. Youghaheiny, bullseye, and spectrum. That's why they said it's expensive.

    I'm very happy to see someone recycle this material considering the amount of effort and craftsmanship it takes to make good looking, real stained glass. Never throw away stained glass scraps! If you can't use them at least take them back to a stained glass store for other artists to use in their projects.

    Also consider that most real american-made stained-glass is becoming more valuable as the manufacturers close their doors. :(

    And while you can certainly use alcohol-based or pebeo paints on normal float glass you will never get the depth that real stained glass has due to the way the colors are mixed by the Craftsman that make it. You will also miss the texture that a real stained glass product has.

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    EddieN11

    5 days ago

    Nice. Maybe do an acrylic pour in the voids.

    1 reply
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    grammersEddieN11

    Reply 4 days ago

    I don't know how to do that but would love to see an example of what you mean.

    Amazing! Grammers i don't know how you dream your projects up but keep 'em coming!