FOOTVILLE — Stained glass artist and cabinet maker Richard Snyder won’t know how the stained glass window he is restoring looks until it’s lifted and placed at Luther Valley Historical Society in June.
He also will be building a new solid wood Douglas fir frame for the window to be installed in the front south side of the former church building.
Snyder, who has restored 25 stained glass church windows and hundreds of lamp shades and other windows, was called upon to restore a large rosette stained glass window for the new location of Luther Valley Historical Society.
The rosette, which depicts an amber crown and cross in the middle, is a total of 5 feet in diameter and was sorely in need of repair.
The historical treasure had been in the original Methodist Episcopal Church building in Footville dating back to the 1840s. The windows had been taken out after church services ceased and were put in storage and fell into disrepair.
Snyder first viewed the window in 1994 when the church was getting some estimates for potential window repairs, but were unable to commence with Snyder’s proposal.
However, Syder was finally able to restore the treasure when Luther Valley Historical Society gave the go ahead for the restored window. A member of the Society, Ken Haberman, along with his family, decided to sponsor the project, Snyder said.
When the window came out of storage it was in poor shape, with the glass being brittle with age.
“Eighty-five percent of the glass was broken and unusable,” he said. “The border and the medallion are the only true original pieces. The rest is all new.”
The project posed significant challenges.
“I picked it up out of storage and tried to salvage as much as I could. You can’t put new with old. The texture and color is different,” he said. “When it’s dark behind, it might look a good color, but in the light it changes. You have to either use what you got or replace it all. The best option was to replace it all.”
Snyder worked to find the best colors to keep the original look, but also have a fresh vibrancy when light hits it. Via his studio and woodworking shop in Janesville he hand cut 97 pieces to fit together.
“A giant puzzle is what it is,” he said.
Snyder said he begins his process by drawing out the design on clear plastic with each piece numbered, which was his most formidable part of this particular restoration.
He cut the grain of the glass in the opposite direction for the four golden diamonds to make it even more stunning in the sunlight. He also selected colors such as the gold with other color streaks embedded within, including pink, blues and greens hues.
“There are multicolored elements with each piece,” he said. “It must all blend together to flow, thousands of colors and shades.”
Because of the large size of the piece, Snyder is unable to pick it up and truly know what it will look like in the dawn or dusk.
Next Snyder will add the leading in between each piece. After the top is soldered it will be cemented with boiled Linseed oil and paint thinner with whiting powder. The dough-like substance is then forced under the lead to bind the glass to the lead and make it waterproof.
A one-inch thick storm window on the exterior of the stain glass exterior will protect the stained glass rosette.
“This will last for another 150 years or longer,” he said.
Snyder began woodworking in 1972 and started his first glass piece as a gift item, silk screening on glass after it was fired in a kiln. He sold thousands of the gift items. He later began offering stained glass wall hangings via his company Glass Impressions. He eventually began stained glass repairs and got into restoring and repairing church stained glass windows in 1992.