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.
- 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.
- 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
- 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!
- 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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