Making a Leaded Window

Finally, it's time to start making a leaded window. All of the preliminaries are done. Your cartoon is prepared and the glass is cut, or at least the first few pieces are cut. You have the tools necessary to do the work. There's nothing holding you back, so let's get started.

When making a leaded window, you will need to know where to cut off any internal lead that meets the two borders that do not have framing boards and lead. Those two borders will not have lead until the window is completely constructed. They are the last two pieces of lead to be put in place. Therefore, there is no visual indication where you should be cutting the internal leads, so that they will neatly meet up with the border lead when it is finally in place.

Marking inside edge of border lead

To make life easier, we will draw lines across each lead line that meets those two borders. To do this, take a small piece of border lead and place it on the cartoon, lining up the back/outside edge of the lead with the outside edge of the cartoon. Now draw a line across each lead line that runs into the border. Use the inside edge of your scrap lead to draw along. You only need to do this on two sides. The other two sides will have border lead in place right from the start. These lines will be referred to as "cut off lines" through out the rest of this making a leaded window tutorial.

Side piece of border lead in place

Now that your "cut off lines" are drawn, the first step is to put the left side border lead in place. You will see, in the picture, that it stops precisely at the line that denotes
the outside edge of finished window (not the cut off line). Secure both border leads in place with scrap lead and horse shoe nails as demonstrated in the next picture.

Top border lead in place

Step two is to put the bottom or top (depending on which end of the cartoon you are starting from) piece of lead in place. Please note that this piece is cut to stop where it will touch the "cut off line". As you learned in the section on making a cartoon, the side leads will be the long ones, and the top and bottom leads will fit in between. I see no need to miter corners. Once the lead is soldered nobody will know if the corners are mitered or not.

Using a measuring piece

Now cut approximately a 1" piece of the same lead that you will be using for the construction of your window. This is your "measuring piece" of lead. It will be used each time you add a piece of lead, and will show you where to cut that particular piece of lead. Make a mark on the lead where the inside edge of the "measuring piece" meets the lead. Take the lead off, cut it and put it back on. To make a mark, you can draw a line with a pencil or sharpie or make a scratch with your lead knife (that's what I do).

You want to be sure all of your leads touch each other. Gaps are not a good thing. Trying to fill gaps with little bits of lead is difficult and time consuming. Just do it right the first time. If you cut it too short, take it off and cut another piece that fits. The measuring piece has a purpose, and that is to make sure the lead is cut to the right length.

If you will be using more than one piece of lead cut to the same length, cut them all now to save time while you are making a leaded window. As an example, I have a border of glass that is all the same width, so I cut all of the lead, that will join each piece of glass, at the same time. You will see that in the next picture.

First 4 pieces in place

Start putting in glass, one piece at a time. The first piece will slide into the border lead on two sides. Gently tap the glass with the rubber end of your hammer. Tapping will set the glass into the lead. Using your "measuring piece" add a piece of lead. My design is fairly geometric, so I put in all of the glass down the left side with a short strip of lead between each piece. The next piece of lead will be one long piece that goes the length of the four pieces and stops at the "cut off line".

As you are constructing your window, the glass and lead that is already in place, moves around if it isn't secured in place. This happens as you are tapping in new pieces of glass. Believe me, it can get quite frustrating.

Glass secured with lead scraps and horse shoe nails

There is a simple solution to solve this problem. Take a small piece of scrap lead, slide it over the exposed edge of the glass and hammer a horse shoe nail into the outer channel of that scrap lead. There will be times when almost every piece of glass will have to be secured when you are making a leaded window.

Securing the lead in place with V scraps

If the glass has lead around it, and needs securing, use a scrap that had a V point on one end (cut from the V side of the lead dykes) as explained earlier. Slide that V point into the lead channel and hammer a horse shoe nail through the other end of the scrap. That V point will not damage the lead which is around the glass.

Making a leaded window is similar to putting together a puzzle. You have to figure out which piece to put in next so that you don't get into a situation where a piece won't slide in due to the shape of the surrounding pieces. Sometimes you will get boxed into a corner and have to pull out a few pieces and go at it from another angle. This will usually happen when you first start making a leaded window. The more experience you get, the less likely you will run into that sort of problem.

Making sure the lead lines are straight

As you are adding glass, gently tap the glass, with the special glass hammer, to make sure it is seated in the lead. When you have a long straight piece of lead, like you see in the picture, use a long board to tap the lead. This will seat the glass and make sure the lead is straight. I have seen too many windows that have crooked "straight" lead lines because the artist has not taken this step when making a leaded window.

Next piece of glass

Here is the next piece of glass to be added. See the "measuring piece" ready for marking the lead? The lead will be taken off, cut on the marked line, and put back on. There is a lot of putting on, taking off and putting back on of the lead. It is just part of making a leaded window.

Marking the lead for an angle cut

When you have to cut the lead at an angle, form the lead to the shape of the glass then lay the lead on top of the glass. Looking straight down on the lead, mark the angle, take it off and cut it.

Long lead used for several pieces of glass

In this area I am using one length of lead for five pieces of glass, instead of cutting it into five short pieces. It gives the panel a nice flow and is really easier to do. It is used basically the same way as the lead I put along the first four pieces of glass. The vertical lead, along those four pieces of glass, is one long piece. It just happens to be straight instead of going around several curves. In this present area, the excess lead will hang loose until I'm ready to use it. As you can see, glass pieces numbers 17 and 10 are not in place yet.

Half way there

Now I will start at the top again and work my way down. The next pieces of lead to put in will be along the top pink petal and the bottom granite and turquoise glass. Then the sequence for glass will be pieces 5, 11, 15, 6, then 7.

Just about done

All that's left are three more border pieces of glass. Then the bottom border lead will go on and lastly the side border lead. Don't forget, the side lead is the long one and the bottom border lead goes between the two sides. The bottom lead will be cut at the "cut off line" which was drawn on the cartoon before I started making a leaded window.

Done leading up

It's done! Before the last framing board was put in place, the panel was measured again, to make sure it was the proper finished size (and it was spot on). If it was off on the large side, I would tap the border lead with a board, to try to get the glass seated tighter which in turn would make the panel smaller. If it was too small, I would wiggle the glass to loosen it up a bit to make the panel larger.

When I'm talking about making it larger or smaller, I'm talking about 1/8 to 1/4 inch. Of course, the larger the window is, the more room you have for tightening or expanding it. If you are way off on the small side, a wider border lead can be used to replace the existing border lead. If you're way off on the large size, trim the border lead all around.

Hopefully none of those scenarios will happen to you. If your cartoon preparation is exact, your finished window will be exact as well. Making a leaded window can not be done with a "that will be good enough" attitude. Every step needs to be done with precision. I want you to be proud of your work, so take the time to do it right. Mother has spoken!!

To learn how to solder your window, click here: Soldering A leaded Window

To learn how to putty your leaded window, click here: Putty A leaded Window

To learn how to lead up a circle, click here: Leading Up A Circle

To return to lead came, click here: Lead Came

The design I used for making a leaded window is from the book:
The Little Project Book
Volume Two
Victorian Windows
by Marianne Warner
1984 CMW Publications
This design may not be copied due to copy write laws.

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This page was last updated on March 5, 2016

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