Heath House Inspired Stained Glass Panel


This month’s project was a 6″ by 8″ inch panel based on a small detail of a stained glass window from the William R. Heath house.  The Heath house was designed and built in 1905 by Frank Lloyd Wright.  The original design is an outstanding example of his prairie school of architecture.

Stained Glass Panel Layout and Design

Dennis J. Casey’s, Light Screens Illustrated, served as an excellent reference for this project.  Casey is of course well known for his detailed documentation of Wright’s most famous windows.

The original design called for brass plated zinc came. For this smaller variation, I used several varying widths of lead came including  5/32, 3/16, and 1/4 inch.  I was looking to try my hand at Wright’s approach using different widths of came to emphasize different areas of the panel.  You’ll notice the heavy 1/4 inch came around the central amber diamond, with a lighter came used in the fishbone diagonal pattern above.

Glassing Cutting

Glass Ready to Be Assembled

Cut Glass Before Assembly

I’m hesitant to cut all of my glass pieces up front. I chalk some of that up to my lack of confidence in my glass cutting skill. In the past, I’ve taken the approach of cutting each piece of glass and then leading as I go.   I would want to mess up any of my antique stained glass from the architectural salvage warehouse.  Regarding timing, this is not the most efficient approach.

This time I decided to buck that trend and face my fears.  I cut all the glass I needed before leading a single piece.  As I went, I was more cautious and exacting than I usually am.  I spent more time grinding and perfecting each piece.  In the end, I think this was a smart move.

I’m glad I faced my fear here, It will pay dividends regarding speed in the future.

Glass Leading

One of my goals for this project was also to experiment with different lead came sizes.  I’ve been working with 3/16th lead came and wanted to try came that was both lighter as well as thicker.  This project provided a chance to test my hand with both 5/32 and 1/4.

After this project, I decided I like 5/32 inch lead came. It’s  pliable, and I can see it working well for rounded shapes.  It is, of course, less forgiving of rough cuts than 3/16 inch, but I like how it looks.  I can see it working well for next year’s round of Christmas ornaments. Note to self, by a big spool of 5/32 next time there is a sale.

The 1/4 inch came worked well for accenting.  I wouldn’t use it for an entire piece necessarily, but to draw the eye to one area, it’s a good choice.

During the leading, I did run into one issue with my amber glass.  I didn’t consider that the amber glass I had was thicker than most of the clear and red translucent glass.  That just meant more time spent working with a glass fid to open up the came to compensate for the thick glass.

Soldering and Attaching Hangers

Attaching Hangers with Panel Vise

Panel Vise in Use

Soldering was a breeze on this piece.  I was through the entire glass panel in no time flat. After getting both sides fluxed and soldered I had a chance to use my homemade panel vice.  Previously I was using a box full of packing peanuts to hold my panels while I would solder the corners or attaching hangers.  I would just shove the piece in the box, wedging it in the peanuts until it was stable enough to solder.

The panel vice makes a world of difference. It’s, of course, hands-free, and considerably more stable. The best part was that I made the vice out of some scrap wood I had laying around and a few screws.  If you don’t already have a panel vice, make one now.

Final Notes on the William R. Heath House

If you’re a Wright fan, you’ll probably want a to know a more about the William R. Heath House.  The Heath house was built in 1905 in Buffalo New York around the same time which was under construction from 1904 to 1906.

Heath himself was a lawyer and served as a vice-president of the Larkin Company.  Interestingly enough Hubbard’s sister-in-law was married to Larkin Executive Elbert Hubbard.  Elbert Hubbard was a founder of the famous Roycroft Movement in East Aurora New York.

The house itself had seven bedrooms with two baths upstairs and a lavatory on the main floor.

And As always, remember these pieces and other small decorative windows are for sale over on my Etsy shop.  If you’re interested in this leaded glass panel, you can check it out here.