Monday, May 18, 2015

Heart of Glass

Once I had a love and it was a gas
Soon turned out had a heart of glass
Seemed like the real thing, only to find
Mucho mistrust, love's gone behind

Much to my dismay, it had become apparent in the last couple of years that the windows were simply not up to the rigors of the road. They're old, after all. One of the windows in particular was about ready to fall apart - the leading had broken and a pane was loose. Norm taped it up with cardboard, which, as I'm sure you can imagine, looked like arse.

On the advice of our builder, we decided to try something in a last ditch effort to make the windows useable. He suggested we pour acrylic resin over the windows, to fill up one side and encase the glass, embedding the whole kit and caboodle in plastic.

I realize that there are those out there who might object to doing this, in the name of preserving antiques, but really, we had no choice. They were literally falling to pieces. This was the only way we could save them without paying a LOT of money to a glass worker to remove them from the frames and completely re-lead them. (I did look into this; it would have cost me FOUR TIMES what I originally spent on the windows.
This was really the only way.

I figured, if I totally screwed them up, we could punt by replacing the windows with shutters.

Step 1: Cleaning

This step was about as much fun as you might think. I used denatured alcohol to thoroughly clean both sides of the glass. painstakingly removing every bit of tape goo, grease, and smutch. I wasn't keen on permanently embedding dirt in the plastic, nor did I want the stuff to not stick because of oil or grease on the glass.

Step 2: Sealing

I wanted to make sure that when I poured the acrylic into the back side of the frame, it didn't seep totally through the glass and make weird drips that would harden into plastic spikes. Nor did I want to epoxy the window TO the worktable. So I took cardboard covered with saran wrap and taped it to the back of each window, to support the glass and contain the resin. I used a SHITLOAD OF TAPE.

Whether this technique worked as I envisioned we'll discover shortly.
Saran wrap doesn't stick to the resin. Cardboard to support the damaged panes. 

All four windows prepped with saran wrap, cardboard and LOTS OF TAPE.

Step 3: Pour
This is the step that kept me awake the night before, because the ratio of hardener to resin is really, really exact. How much you need depends on a lot of factors:

1) Air temp and humidity
2) Thickness of the layer being poured
3) How many layers are being poured

If you're doing more than one layer, you have to decrease the amount of hardener for each successive layer, because the heat will build up from previous layers and accelerate the process. Plus, trying to figure out how deep a layer I could pour for each window with the gallon of resin I'd purchased strained my very non-mathematically inclined brainmeats.

Chemistry Class. Note my notes under the two tiny bottles of hardener. 
Now, hardener is measured in DROPS per ounce of resin. I was working with 32 ounces per window, which came out to 256 drops per batch. If you've ever had to measure out 256 drops of anything, you will understand how it is an activity that WILL drive you INSANE.

Having no other choice than hold my breath and proceed, I counted my drops, mixed my resin, and POURED.

How did it turn out?

Reasonably well, actually. The resin did indeed leak all over the place - my tape job did not stick well enough. It got EVERYWHERE. This wasn't as big a disaster as it could have been, though - I'd put down a LOT of newspaper. The most damaged window leaked like a sieve - resin got on both sides equally. The other windows also leaked, but to a lesser extent.
As the resin entered the semi-hardened 'gel' stage, Norm and I, realizing that every window had resin leaking, tore off the cardboard and tape. Working quickly, we were able to peel off the jelly-like half-hardened resin with a chisel and razor blade, and clean up the spillage before it got all the way hard. It's a damn good thing we did, too- that stuff got hard as a rock by the next day.

As you can see here, it's a bit oddly textured. That's because I covered the wet side with saran wrap to prevent bugs from landing in it. Originally I'd taped it over but not touching the wet resin, but somehow (maybe the warmth of the resin, it got pretty hot) the saran wrap collapsed into the resin. By the time I saw the problem, the resin was gel-hard and the wrinkles were permanent.

On the plus side, the glass is now just about bulletproof. I do believe that these windows would survive a nuclear blast. Mission accomplished. 

Step 4: Finishing

I had stripped about 25 layers of paint off these windows last year, and stained them when we originally thought we were going to keep the vardo natural stained wood colors. That didn't work out, so now the windows needed to be painted to match the new color scheme.

There were also some divots of wood missing from a few of the windows - the one with the most damaged glass also had a big chunk out of the frame, so I patched up all the frames with Minwax High-Performance 2 part wood filler. This stuff is really good - hardens in a few minutes, is layerable, sandable, stainable and paintable. 
All of that white stuff is where I had to re-construct where the hinge had broken off a chunk of wood. 

I took a sander to each window and smoothed out the putty and roughed out the surface. Norm used the belt sander in places where we needed to take off a lot of surface. 

Next, I applied two coats of the indigo exterior paint to each window. Et voila!

You can't even see where I did the filling, it's totally invisible. Norm painted the window-openings and sills the same blue. Here they are back in the vardo:

So, In general, the Great Resin Experiment was a success. In hindsight, I can think of a few things I'd've done differently. Like I would have put a layer of duct tape directly on the glass to prevent leaks. I also would not have used saran wrap on the surfaces, which would have come out smoother. 

But I had fun working with it, and I can think of a bunch of projects one could do. One that I saw online is for a table filled with resin that was mixed with glow in the dark powder: 

Except I think I'll use a router to make a design (Like the door to the Mines of Moria) and fill the design with the glow resin. THAT would be cool!

Next: The Return of The Lunde?

1 comment:

  1. I think that it came out very interesting. I like that it looks like very old hand blown glass with imperfections. Gives it beautiful character, Just my humble opinion....