20907 Acorn Ave. Milton, Iowa • 641-675-3740
info@hersheystudio.com
Conservation And Preservation Of Stained Glass Nationwide

Hershey Studio Offers Complete Stained Glass Restoration

Restoration/Relead - In Situ Restoration - New Stained Glass
Light Boxes - Faceted Windows - Protective Covering

Top Left: Painted window after releading and restoration - St. Ignatius Loyola Church Houghton, MI.
Top Right: 162'' Rose Window set in stone - Evansville, IN.

In 1979 Kevin Hershey tossed around the possibility of forming a restoration company. He has always had a genuine appreciation for history and is an avid collectors of antique bottles. This interest in history and glass led him to the field of restoration of stained glass. Hershey's Stained Glass Studio was formed out of this. The studio does extensive restoration work on church windows as well as residential windows. From time to time certain public buildings such as libraries and court houses also have stained glass windows which need restoration. Hershey's Studio also deals with the design and fabrication of new stained glass windows and protective storm coverings. Kevin and associates have worked on a variety of churches across the country from the New England states to Hawaii. Including stained glass windows dating back to 1812, and many different styles, Victorian, Prairie style, beveled, hand painted, and Tiffany stained glass windows, just to name a few. Many of the projects worked on are historical landmarks and must follow special restoration guidelines. In recent years the studio has concentrated on churches in the Midwest, which are closer to home. It's always interesting to learn when and where the windows were made. Many times, the windows were added later as the church raised the money necessary to purchase the windows.

The greatest popularity for stained glass in the United States falls in the general time line of 1870 to 1915 with the highest popularity occurring during the 1890's and early 1900's. Most stained glass windows found in Iowa churches and residences are made of individual pieces of colored or painted glass that are fit into a particular pattern. Lead came is hand fit around each individual piece as each piece of glass is added to the pattern. Once the entire window is completed, each individual lead joint is then soldered. When one side is soldered then the window is turned over so the lead joints on the other side can then be soldered. At this point the window is cemented. The cementing process uses a special filler that is hand worked into the spaces between the glass and the inside groove of the lead came. This helps to give the window a certain amount of stability and strength. Brace bars are added for stability on larger panels.

As a general rule, stained glass windows are not that structurally strong. Over the years a number of factors can cause the deterioration and breakdown of the window. The most common cause is the deterioration of the lead came. Lead is an extremely soft metal and oxidizes easily. When exposed to the weather or other forms of moisture, the lead oxidizes and begins to break down. Eventually the lead breaks down to the point where the window begins to sag or develop bulges. At this point the old cement has already begun to fall out, further weakening the window. This slow process of deterioration also can cause breakage of the individual glass pieces. Another common cause of damage is inappropriate storm window coverings. While a storm window protects the stained glass window from the weather and most forms of vandalism, improper installation of the storm window can actually cause more damage to the stained glass. Without proper ventilation, the air space between the stained glass and the storm covering can create excessive heat build-up and condensation. A certain amount of pressure and increased air temperature, causing excessive expansion of the window. When you think about it, the storm covering can work like a solar panel with the darker colors of the stained glass behind it. The darker colors absorb the heat and temperatures can reach upwards of 130 degrees and higher causing pressure which leads to bulging of stained glass panels. Improper glazing also puts stress on the stained glass windows. Rigid glazing compounds prevent the window from expanding and contracting. Windows with lots of darker colors tend to expand more from exposure to the sun. Eventually this problem too will create bulges and broken glass. One of the most common causes of needed restoration are prior attempts to fix or restore the stained glass window. As with most areas of restoration, quick fix jobs or work done by inexperienced workers can cause much more harm than if the window had been left alone.

Many home owners and churches don't know what kind of condition their windows are really in. From a distance, the windows may appear to be just fine but closer examination usually reveals a number of problems that have developed over the years. There are a couple of quick tests that you can do to tell if your windows may need work. One is to place a straight edge on the face of the window. The window should be flat with no large gaps showing between the straight edge and the window. On larger windows, try to position yourself with your head at the bottom of the window and look up towards the top of the window. If the window has bulged or sagged from its original flat position you should be able to see these bulges from this position. Also look for any broken or cracked glass. Another simple test is to lightly tap on the window with your fingers. If you can hear a rattling sound, it means that the cement has fallen out over the years and the noise you hear is the glass rattling against the lead cames. This is an obvious problem which weakens the window.

While some restoration can be performed on site, most restoration takes place at the studio. A complete relead is the best cure for most windows in poor condition. This involves making a rubbing of the window. A rubbing is a duplicate drawing showing where the lead lines are located. This insures that the window will be put back together with all the glass in the original position. The window is then soaked in a cleaning solution to remove years of dirt and smoke residue. Once the old lead is removed, each individual piece of glass is then carefully cleaned. Special care is mandatory when dealing with windows that have painted glass. Painted glass windows have a number of colors painted on the individual pieces of glass. Theses pieces of glass are then fired in kiln. A separate firing is required for each different color of paint. Because of the older methods of firing the kilns certain painted pieces of glass can begin to lose the paint over the years. In the case of broken glass there are a couple of options. One option is to restore the broken piece of glass to keep the window original. There are a number of methods used to properly stabilize the broken piece of glass. If the piece needs to be replaced then comes the task of matching the old glass. Sometimes this can be a problem. One reason is that the color may no longer be available because the oxides used to make that color of glass are no longer available or are banned for environmental reasons. Also, over the years, ultraviolet rays of the sun can alter the original color of the glass. The change is usually very slight but is more noticeable on some colors of glass than others. Once the glass has been cleaned and all repairs or replacements have been made, the actual releading process can begin. New lead came, which is ordered to match the original lead, is then used to build the window. By using the rubbing as a guide, the window can be releaded back to its original pattern. The soldering and cementing processes, as described earlier, would take place next. With proper restoration techniques and properly installed protective storm coverings, the releaded window should last for many generations to come.

At Hershey Studio we believe the success of the company is directly related to the experience and commitment of its owners and employees. Our philosophy for restoration requires three basic ingredients:

  • 1. Proper quality restoration techniques and conservation procedures
  • 2. Patience
  • 3. Care

Hershey Studio offers complete restoration for all kinds of stained and leaded glass windows. Including all aspects of wood frame restoration or new frames. We also build all types of new stained glass windows for churches and residential. Custom original designs are available as well as many contemporary designs. We also offer a large number of Victorian patterns available from a turn of the century stained glass catalog.

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