Friday, January 28, 2011

This Never Happens

I can't figure out what happened this time. Everything was going along so well with the front windows and then suddenly the whole thing went sideways on me. Chiseling out the corners is taking a lot longer than I anticipated. The glass was held up being shipped because of the odd size I ordered. Work has been ka-raze-ee this past week, so I've been in no mood to work on it in the evenings. It has just been one thing after another. This never happens!

Oh, wait, this always happens. Never mind, it's business as usual.

In a way it was an odd coincidence that things came together the way they did. If I hadn't slacked off on finishing the frames and the glass did show up on time I would have been frustrated that I couldn't install them this weekend. If I had finished the frames and the glass was late I would have been frustrated as well. As it turned out there was a harmonious synergy of laziness and incompetence that means no one is really to blame.

It's a beautiful thing.

So now the plan is to finish the frames this weekend. Get the glass midweek. Install the glass and get the glazing done. Then I will do nothing the on the windows next week because it is Super Bowl Sunday and I don't want to only finish the install half way on Saturday.

See you in two weeks!

Friday, January 21, 2011

It Just Might Work

As the old saying goes, there is more than one way to skin a cat. The method I'm using to build these windows is probably the least complicated way to do it. That also means that this method probably makes the weakest joints. I don't write this to point out that I'm making inferior windows, but rather I don't want someone to read this and think that this is the best or only way to make windows like this.



Now, I don't think these windows are going to fail any time soon, but I will be the first to admit there are better ways to do this. I chose this method because it is a nice balance between the time I can put in to the project and the skill sets I have. I get compliments on this blog regarding my carpentry skills, but really, I am no master craftsman. I accept that.

On my windows the only muntins that are solid pieces of wood are the 2 long stiles running vertically in the center. All of the rails are coped in to the stiles, and then all muntins are coped in to the rails and stiles of the frame. Rials are members that run horizontally and stiles run vertically.

There are ways to make these where the 4 main rial and stile muntins are all single pieces of wood. You could also do it where the rails and stiles of both the frame and the muntins are joined by mortise and tenons. All of my joinery is done with coping, and then secured with glue and brads. Not the strongest, but it will have to do.

Changing the bearing on the bottom gives you a different dept of cut


I used a rabbeting bit on a router to cut the rabbets where the glass will sit. It is a 1/4X1/4 inch rabbet, which I think is about as small as I could get it. You could also cut the rabbets before assembly, but that is more of a challenge. The problem with cutting them with the router after assembly is that the router leaves round corners that must be chiseled out to square.

There is a tool called a corner chisel, which I own, that will do this in one pass, but the radius left by the rabbeting bit I used is too large to work with the corner chisel I own. This means I need to work with a hammer and chisel to square up the rabbets where the glass sits. It is a lot of tedious work. On the plus side, if the coped joints I did with brads and glue hold up to the hammer and chisel I can be pretty sure that they won't fail from the door opening and closing several times a day for the years or decades to come.





After the chiseling is done I can paint the side that will face outside and oil and shellac the side that will face inside. Then it is just a matter of waiting for the glass to come in, which I ordered today. I went with the blue textured glass in the center and then red and glue chip around the edges. The guy at the glass shop told me he would have it ready by Wednesday.

If I can get the glass installed Wednesday evening then I can take it to the glass shop on Thursday to have the glazing done. I've done a lot of glazing myself, but I'm not really good enough to do it on these windows. There are 26 pieces of glass and when people knock on my front door they will be inches from it. I want the glazing to be crisp and sharp and I know my limitations.

If - and that's a big if – If I can get the windows back by Friday I can install the windows in the front doors next Saturday.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Characteristic Change

This one took only a matter of hours, but believe it or not I have changed the design one last time. Well, ok, maybe it's not the last time, but I feel good about this one.



Here is a better shot of the frames. If I had to do this over, there are a few things I would have done differently. The rails and stiles are 1-inch by 7/8ths. The 7/8ths is the width and I should have made them one and and 8th or maybe even inch and a quarter. I need to cut rabbets in them to accept the glass and it will be very tight. In fact, There is a real chance I might have to start over. I'm mentally preparing myself for that.



As for the final color, I think this is the way to go. The small clear squares will be glue chip glass. As of yesterday, the large panels in the center were going to be glue chip, and then red and blue around the perimeter. I remember now though, when I was looking at glue chip samples last week at the glass shop the owner admitted that new glue chip is not quite the same as old glue chip glass. The pattern is different enough that it is noticeable.

There is glue chip and there is also double glue chip. Both are nice, but there is something different in the way it is made now. The shop owner pulled out a large sheet and we found sections here and there that would be a good match. These isolated sections are better suited to smaller squares than a large center panel.

Another option, which I'm considering, is to put the smooth red glass in the center and the blue textured glass alternating around the perimeter with the glue chip. I like both for different reasons. Having the large red panels in the center more closely matches the big front window with its large 32-inch diameter circle of red flash glass. However, the blue glass is more obscure and so leads to better privacy.

What it may come down to is what is in stock when I go to order. I would hate to postpone the installation because I'm waiting on glass to come in. I'm hoping to be able to order glass this week. That is, if I don't completely screw these up when I cut the rabbets today.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Chiseled In Wood

Well, there's no turning back now. The design has been finalized and the frames are made.



There is still some work to be done before I can think about getting glass cut, but I think the worst is over.



I've decided to simplify the colors a bit. Yellow is gone and the final colors wil more closely match the other original cottage windows in the house.



Next up I will router the rabbet to accept the glass. Then I can order the glass. While I'm waiting for the glass I can sand and finish the frames. If all goes well I might install them in 2 weeks.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Locked & Loaded

My Scranton, PA supplier delivered the goods today so I finally have all of the hardware parts in place to finish the doors. I purchased this in “as is” condition, so they need a little restoration work before I can install them. The post for the lower bolt needs to be shortened, as well.



This project will take precedence over the windows. Once I get the locks installed I can finish the weatherization of the doors. Given the current climate (it was 31 degrees when I woke up this morning. Brrrr!), I'm sure everyone will understand.

I encourage others take a look at what Penn Antique Restoration has to offer. This is not any kind of paid endorsement. I really did get good product at a good price from someone who was easy to deal with and very accomodating. Shocking, I know.

Thursday, January 06, 2011

Texture Shopping

I went and poked around a glass shop today to look at samples for the new front windows. I wish I could remember the name of the place I go to. It is on South G Street in Arcata. The gentleman who owns the place is a pleasure to deal with. I took in my netbook with pictures from the blog and in seconds he is pulling out samples flipping through catelogs.





I looked at dozens of samples and it was agreed that the texture of the glass is the important factor. The shade of color can be off a few degrees but if you put in a texture of glass that was not used in the period it will be immediately obvious. When the time comes to pull the trigger and chose the color he said I could bring some chips home so I could view them in the light of the room.

Over the weekend I cut and planed all of the wood I will need and yesterday I ordered some router bits to make the muntins. Wood selection was important because these will be relatively thin pieces of wood holding glass that is in a door. It needs to be nice, straight, tight grained redwood to do the job.

I'm hoping I can start to make the muntins next weekend and do some assembly. Once that is done, I can order the glass. If everything is in stock, that should only take a day or two. If all goes well I can have these done in 3 weeks. All never goes well, so maybe more like 4 weeks.

In the mean time, Diane from Pandora's Parlor sent me some wonderful photos of cottage windows she has added to her house. She makes them herself in many cases by replacing the glass in the top sash with colored leaded glass. I encourage you to go over and have a look. It is amazing what the effect of the colored glass has on a room. Below are photos of two of her doors. Yet more inspiration for me.



Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Oh no, your house would have had...

Good friends whom I genuinely like and respect start many sentences with the words above. It goes something like this.

Me: I stripped my house back to bare wood and found that the original color was white.

Them: Oh no, your house would have had an earth toned color scheme made up of at least five colors.

Me: It looks like these redwood floors are the original floors and maybe they were just shellacked and then had large rugs over them.

Them: Oh no, your house would have had wall-to-wall carpeting.

Me: I don't see any evidence that there was picture rail on the second floor of my house.

Them: Oh no, your house would have had picture rail in every room and hallway in the house.

Most of these statements are based on the fact that my house is a cut above a lot of the homes in Eureka from the period. Don't get me wrong, The Petch House is no mansion. What it is is a very nice, upper middle class Queen Anne home built in 1895. From an architectural stand point it has a lot of bells and whistles. That doesn't mean that it had every little detail that was available, though. Few, if any homes did

Because I have crawled all over this house like a monkey for the last 8 years no one living or dead but the builder knows this house better then I. When I say there is no evidence that there was picture rail on the second floor it is a qualified statement. I don't care if every single house built in Eureka in 1895 had picture rail on the second floor, mine did not.

How this relates to the front door window I'm working on now is that I have been assured by these same friends that my front door windows would have had leaded stained glass or acid etched glass in the windows. In this case there is really no way of knowing what was there because glass leaves no witness mark, nail hole, or residue with which to observe and base a theory on.

In the end I must make an assumption that their assertion is based on something. My friends are very knowledgeable about what could have been, so there is always the possibility they are right. Maybe many houses of the period had these varied accoutrements or maybe only those that were photographed had them. Maybe my house was the only house ever built that had no picture rail on the second floor. Maybe my house is the only house painted white. Maybe all of the other homes did have wall-to-wall carpet. Maybe all of the other homes did have something more than just cottage windows in the front windows on their homes.

Now though, a few people have posted comments indicating that cottage windows are very common on Victorian homes in their area or that they don't see a lot of leaded stained glass on the homes of the period. So, maybe I was wrong when in my last post I indicated leaded stained glass was very common in Victorian homes. I mean really, what the hell do I know about homes in Cincinnati, or for that matter, any other city a 100 years ago. I can only speak authoritatively on The Petch House. Beyond that I'm spouting rhetoric, conjecture, and hearsay.

In the end, what does it really matter. Anybody can do what ever the hell they want. There is no rule book to home restoration and renovation. Last I checked I still lived in a free country and if I want to gut my house, build a giant pyramid inside, sit under it and eat dog poop I can. I don't think I'll be doing that anytime soon, but you never know. If I want to put cottage windows instead of leaded or etched glass I can do that was well. In the end they are both period appropriate and neither could be considered a hack job.

I like my friends, I really do. The only reason I get uptight about it is because these comments are made while they are standing in my house. If you are going to say I'm wrong and insist that my house had picture rail on the second floor then at least take 2 minutes to inspect the bare plaster walls for nail holes or inspect the corner blocks for witness marks.

I think part of this comes from looking at books with pretty pictures and assuming they were the norm. It is like thinking that every home in America today looks like the homes in Better Homes & Gardens. Those places are the exception and not the rule. A photographer in 1895 probably would not have gone in to Joe Buggy Whip's home and taken photos of uninspired interior details. What would be the point of that.

Now, what is really bothering me about this is that I am now falling in to the trap of thinking that my house was unique because it did not have every detail known to 19th century man. I now am under the impression that every house East of the Mississippi had every imaginable detail known to the period. My mind has become coerced and corrupted by my well intentioned friends. It's like the peer pressure of high school all over again. That is, if I had gone to high school. I guess I can feel fortunate that my friends are only obsessed about Victorian homes and not heroin or bank robbery.

The debates are lively and a lot of fun. I now can't wait to finish the windows so I can have them over for dinner to argue about the front doors.

Monday, January 03, 2011

More on “Cottage Widows”

If you read yesterday's post you know I got the term “Cottage Widow” from Historic House Parts, a salvage yard in New York. I'm curious if anyone else has heard this term used to describe the Victorian era wooden windows made with colored glass. Is it a vernacular term used mainly on the East Coast or is it just used by Historic House Parts? Maybe it is a common term and I've just never heard it before. Regardless, I like it

Here in Humboldt County most of the stained glass windows you see on Victorian homes can be described as Cottage Windows. My own house has 3 and I plan to make two more for the two front doors.

A common design of this style of colored glass in the front door window around here employs a uniform series of glass squares around the perimeter with a large pane of clear glass in the center. I'll see if I can get some pictures soon. Although my front door was not originally done in the cottage window style, other cottage windows on my house have a similar design (See yesterday's post).

The big difference between mine and a lot of others you see around here is that on mine the panes of colored glass are not uniformly sized all the way around. There are squares at the corners and rectangles on the sides and top. This is what drove the original design for my front doors. See below.

Original Design


Then after looking at some of the samples at Historic House Parts I changed the design of my windows. My main concern with trying to do the uniform squares all the way around is that it does not leave much room for error. If I limit the design to one size of square I could end up with a window too big or too small. For example, if I had 7 panes going up the side and each square is off by a quarter of an inch that adds up to an inch a three quarters too tall or too short.

Examples of Cottage Windows from Historic House Parts




Design Round Two – Inspired by Historic House Parts


With this design I can play with the length of the center panes to make sure the window fits the existing opening on the door. The pinkish glass was added as well, and is taken from the big front window that is original to my house (See yesterday's post). The real trick may be matching the texture of the 1895 glass.

Sunday, January 02, 2011

The New Frontdoor Window

So, I've decided to venture in to the mysterious and intimidating world of stained glass. {Deep Breath} I'm going to attempt to make my own stained glass windows for my front doors {Exhale}.

Now, a lot of you probably have one or two ideas of what it takes to make stained glass or what are the requisite parts of a stained glass window. From what I can tell, stained glass falls largely in to three broad categories of construction. Old school stained glass uses lead came. These are the 'H' shaped pieces of lead (sometimes zinc) that are soldered together around the pieces of glass. The more modern method, which is a late 19th or early 20th method, uses copper foil that is wrapped around the edges of the glass and then soldered together. The last method uses wood instead of copper, zinc, or lead to separate and secure the pieces of colored glass. I believe these would be called muntins.

If you lived Back East 100+ years ago the leaded stained glass windows could be easily ordered from suppliers in almost every size and shape imaginable. There were huge catalogs of designs to chose from and even modest homes might have a front window with a leaded stained glass sash. It was quite popular.

A very eclectic design from The Carson Mansion (1887)


There are some fine examples of Victorian era leaded glass in Eureka, but really it is limited to the mansions. If you walk around Eureka, almost every home you see from the turn of the century has at least one stained glass window on it. What you don't see though, are a lot of the leaded stained glass. Most here are made with wood.

Two in the parlor


Better view of the large parlor window


Upstairs hallway


Close up of glue chip pane in hallway


Close up of blue glass


With lead came the designs can be as intricate and elaborate as you want. With wood, the designs are limited to using mainly squares, rectangles, diamonds, and the occasional circle. Historic House Parts of New York refers to these simple wood and colored glass windows as “Cottage Windows”. The Petch House came with 3 of them originally, as seen above.



In keeping with the original windows, above is my first design for the front door windows I want to make. The muntins will be redwood, of course. These are roughly 38X22. The corner squares are roughly 5X5. I added yellow to the mix because I have yellow glass left over from the butler's pantry cabinets. Next week I'm going to visit a local shop to see if they have anything that matches the purple glass that is in the big front window. I would like to match the color, but also that texture.

To see some eye-popping original Victorian windows from the 19th century visit the links below. I will not be held responsible for damage to any computer equipment while viewing these sites. Cover the keyboard with a towel and have your drool buckets handy. You have been forewarned.

Easy Boo (UK)

Historic House Parts (US)