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Framed Art Glass

Corner of the Framed Glass
Two Glass Panels

Two Glass Panels

Starting a few years ago, we tore out some upper cabinets between the kitchen and dining room.  In order to tie off the remaining cabinets, and fill the void left by the former cabinet that occupied the space, we built a corner cabinet.  To enhance that corner, we found some outstanding art glass at Rainbow Artistic Glass in Omaha, NE.  There were several 2 foot by 3 foot panels that we found there and agonized over which to buy.  To satisfy our inability to make a clear choice, we ended up buying three panels!!  Shown in the first image are the remaining two panels that we committed to some day wrapping in a frame, and hanging on the wall.

It took nearly three years to start the project.  Frankly, we could never get comfortable with any frame ideas that we thought up.  Nothing satisfied us, and so the project stayed in the closet — at least that is where the glass was stored.  During that time, I finished up my career, and helped start a new church.  But now I am officially retired, and it was time to get that glass out of the closet and onto the wall.  Complicating this build were the irregularities in the two glass pieces.  One piece had two chipped off corners, and both had areas along one side with voids of at least 1/2 inch.  Rather than cut the glass, we chose to bury half of the sides pretty deeply into the frame.

Framed Art Glass Hanging on Wall

Framed Art Glass Hanging on Wall

We love the Arts & Crafts style, and especially enjoy the wonderful works of the Greene and Greene brothers in the early 20th century.  One of their most famous projects being the Gamble house.  Reviewing the 5 books that we possess featuring their works, I came upon an idea based upon a photo of an inglenook in one of the homes.  Surrounding the fireplace are bookcases, and I suggested to Judy that we make the frames appear as doors that opened onto a view.  The doors would be surrounded by a bordering frame, much like a set of double windows.  Included would be a set of escutcheons with keyholes to further the concept of a locked set of windows — similar to, but different from the doors around the inglenook.  We both loved the idea, and the project began!

Much of my previous projects have been done in quartersawn white oak or walnut.  In this case, the glass would be the feature and not the wood.  I suggested that we use a wood that had character, but would not compete with the glass.  I thought a nice straight grain wood like a mahogany could be perfect.  About 5 years ago on a business trip in the Jefferson City, MO, area I found a place, Cardwell Lumber and Hardwoods, that sold some nice Sapele, and brought it home.  I dug it out and we agreed it was perfect.  But, there was not enough to make a frame this large.  There were a couple of options in the area for exotic woods, and we opted to drive over to Dunham Hardwoods in Dunlap, IA.  A really nice piece of African Mahogany with straight but pronounced grain looked perfect for the sides.  The Sapele was used for the top, bottom and the center pieces.  I actually ended up gluing two pieces of the Sapele together to make the center board, and I am very happy with the way that joint is invisible.

Detail of the Corner Joint

Detail of the Corner Joint

In order to strengthen the overall frame to carry the weight, but keep it light I opted to fake the appearance of a set of windows set within a casing frame.  This worked well, but created the need for various levels of surface area which would help suggest an inner fame.  There are actually only 5 separate pieces of wood, each having two different surface levels which give the appearance of double the pieces.  The 5 pieces are joined by lap joints, with some braces on the back to keep the frame rigid in the middle so that the glass cannot be twisted.  In this shot of the right corner, it looks like 4 pieces of wood coming together, but in reality there are only 2.  I acquired a special bit from the Woodcraft of Omaha store to help me build the rounded over edge where the surface level changes.

A regular feature of Greene & Greene interiors are the little ebony plugs.  100 years ago the plugs were used both to obscure fastening methods, and to provide visual delight.  This frame contains 26 ebony plugs.  22 are 1/4 inch and the remaining 4, set in each outer corner are 5/16 inches.  All of the plugs in the outer frame cover screws driven into the lap joints, but the 16 plugs on the inner frames are purely visual.

Ebony Escutcheons Made By Hand

Ebony Escutcheons Made By Hand

The frames also have the appearance of having escutcheons around keyholes.  These I made by hand cutting a keyhole into one piece of Gaboon Ebony, and then slicing it in half with a hand saw.  We were very happy with the way these turned out.  I have had some of the nice black ebony around for a long time, and almost never throw any of it out, as it often takes such small pieces to make wonderful ornamentation.  Each escutcheon was taped to the wood with double-sided table, and then I used a sharp knife to trace around them and chiseled out the wood by hand.

Cut-outs for the Escutcheons

Cut-outs for the Escutcheons

Charles Greene used slight changes in height to highlight features, so all of the plugs and the escutcheons are slightly taller than the surrounding surface and nicely beveled.  As a result of all the different levels, you get nice shadows and lighting to highlight those surfaces.

Escutcheons

Escutcheons

The coloring is a combination of two water-based dyes from General Finishes,  as refined by Darrell Peart and described in his first book: 7 parts orange and 4 parts medium brown.  The African Mahogany is darker than the Sapele, and contains row grain which runs in both directions.  The tops and bottoms looked consistent with a single coating of dye, but the middle needed two coats to look consistent with the sides.

To finish, I brushed on 1 coat of sanding sealer and sanded it down.  Then three coats of semi-gloss MinWax polyurethane were sprayed on.

As I have on other heavy projects, this one was hung using a French Cleat system.

Overall dimensions are 5 ft wide by 4 ft tall.

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