Friday, 27 May 2011

Cementing Panels

I recently had the occasion to repair a panel made by a friend of the clients several decades ago. It was cemented by pushing commercial putty under the leaves of the leads. It illustrates very well why lead light cement should be brushable to completely fill the space between the glass and the came.

This photo shows how the putty filled the space above and below the glass but not between the glass and the heart of the came.

This photo shows the putty missing from the corners of the glass. There has been a little chipping of the putty in the dismantling process, but not much.

The question may be asked about what is so important about a bit of putty missing from the edges of the glass, it is sealed along the leaves of the came. Yes, this style of cementing will seal the panel from the weather for a time. But had this glass been in a window instead of hung inside, it is questionable whether it would have begun to leak only about 20 years after being made. Certainly as the putty begins to break down, the moisture will rapidly find its way into the inside.

The only way to be certain that the panel is completely weather proofed is to use brushable cement. The cement is pushed under the leaves of the lead with a stiff brush. You know the fill is complete by the cement oozing out of the other side.

It is possible to make up a brushable cement from commercial putty. You simply add some white spirit to the putty. I make a depression in a fistful of putty and add white spirit. Fold over the sides into the well and gradually, the white spirit is mixed into the putty. Continue adding white spirit until you have a very thick molasses that can be pushed around with a brush.
Of course, while you are doing this mixing, you can add a blackening agent - powdered or oil based black pigments are best.