A Guide To Lead Windows

August 21, 2013

What are leaded windows?

Leaded windows – also sometimes known as leadlights – are decorative windows made up of small panes of glass held together by metal supports, or ‘cames’. Stained glass and coloured glass is often grouped with leaded windows, however, whilst the method of manufacturing is similar they are not the same product; leaded windows are not as complicated to put together as they are less complex in design.

Are they still made with lead?

Since the 16th century, the metal strips holding the glass in place have been made of lead, hence the name leadlights.

How are they put together?

Many manufacturers’ tools of choice do differ, however, the techniques are always similar and are based on the same methods used centuries ago.

Generally speaking the windows are made up of individual square or diamond-shaped pieces of glass, so planning the design of the entire panel has to be extremely careful and thorough. A wooden frame is nailed together and the lead strips are laid against the wood to form a border. The individual glass pieces are then cut out using a glasscutter and laid within the frame. The cames are then cut to size and soldered together on both sides of the window. Before fitting, light cement is brushed into the areas where the glass meets the cames, to ensure the window is tightly sealed and weather-proof.

How can you maintain a leaded window?

Leaded glass does require more attention than normal windows, however, if cared for on a regular basis they can last for centuries to come. Day to day cleaning simply requires dusting the surfaces with a soft brush or dry cloth. The most important thing to bear in mind is when a more thorough clean is required never use any type of acidic solution. Instead, use a soft cloth with a pH neutral solution mixed with water. In order to get rid of any streaks that might be left behind a small amount of dry whiting powder can be applied to the glass using a dry cloth.

How can you make any leaded window repairs?

Over time, it is possible for the cames to no longer fit to the glass tightly or for the glass to crack and, in some cases, even break entirely. At this point a professional leaded windows specialist would have to be contracted to restore the window. Of course this can be an expensive job, however, if cared for properly and not damaged in any way, the windows can last hundreds of years before needing further work.

Although based in Dorset, Sherriff Stained Glass Specialists is able to offer its services across the UK, so if you would like further information about the design and fitting of leadlights or if you require leaded window restoration, contact us via email or on 01202 882208.

Author: Nathan Sherriff

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