20 March 2013

Windows 37

For that is how many windows I'm going to have to make in total...

A few people expressed interest in how I'm going to make my windows, so, even though I'm way off being able to make and fit windows,  I thought I'd make up one and document its construction

What I actually started off with, was a drawing of my actual sash window in Adobe Illustrator - I drew the shape of the frame, the lower window and the top sash window and saved it in a format that could be out put by aVinyl plotter used for cutting vinyl to make signs. I copied this drawing multiple times  as I'm going to be needing a LOT of them...

The plotter literally cuts out the shape you've drawn on a sheet of self adhesive white matt vinyl. What you then have to do, is with a scalpel, carefully pick out the bits you DON'T need, which leaves you with something like this

Earlier attempts at making a window used just 2 laminations, this new, revised version uses 3 - A base layer of the full window frame and panes, a second layer with the frame and top sash, then a third with just a frame.

Once the excess vinyl had been "weeded" out, I put a piece of release paper over the top, which is essentially a large piece of low-tack tape, which sticks to the surface of the vinyl and allows you to take off the backing paper.

Here you can see the vinyl sticking to the release paper  and the backing paper being peeled off. This leaves the adhesive side face out and it can now be stuck onto your window of choice. In this instance I used a piece of flexible cd case.

Once I had the "base" layer stuck down, I was able to then carefully line up the sash layer onto the frame layer, 

I actually forgot a step here and left the base layer on it's backing paper instead of sticking it down to the acetate first. Drawing a box around the window gives you something to line up with
After carefully lining up the layer, I then stuck it down and peeled the release paper off to leave behind the next layer of frame. finally I repeated the process with the frame layer and was left with something like this:

Here you can see the relief that this 3 layer technique results in. The completed frame is now stuck on to the backing paper instead of the window "glass, but no matter, it's now three thicknesses, so is thick enough to stand a scalpel blade sliding underneath and lifting it off to stick on the acetate.

 All that was left to do then was test the window in one of the openings on the unfinished building

Close photography can be so unforgiving. Here you can see some of the verticals are a little, well, not so vertical in the stone courses. I blame a slightly inebriated Apprentice Mason...
Temporarily tacked in place from behind with sellotape. Quite a good fit

I'm going to leave the frames white, but with a wash of dilute grey acrylic to bring out the lines and relief.

I think it's going to take just as long to make and fit the windows as it did to scribe the walls....


  1. Thanks for the explanation Lee. The windows look superb - very sharp. I want one of those vinyl plotters! The possibilities must be endless. Is that a bespoke or off-the-peg service you could or do offer for a fee as an alternative to laser cutting or etching?

  2. Hi Chas, I'm pretty impressed with them myself.

    I evolved my technique after printing out a window on paper, then cutting out the 'panes' and gluing the resulting paper frame onto the plastic - result - slightly ragged edges and glue seep - a little bit scruffy, then inspiration hit me one day at work.
    Initial prototypes were just one layer with the frames cut within themselves - it looked ok, especially when washed over with dilute black acrylic to bring out the lines, but I thought I could do better.
    Thinking about it, if you didn't want white, you could cut the frames out of any vinyl colour available, but they wouldn't necessarily match any rail livery colours, but in theory the outer frames could be white, the inner frames, blue, green etc, which would give you an ultra crisp edge between colours.

    The alternative would be to output on white, then instead of applying the base layer to the acetate, leave it like I did in this example, and spray with a light dusting of primer, then paint whilst still on the backing paper, meaning you don't get any paint on the 'glass' or brickwork.

    This could be done in stages too if you wanted the inner frames a different colour, painting the individual pieces before they they were assembled - of course you'd probably have to use enamel this way to limit the possibility of the paint lifting when you apply the release paper to assemble the complete frame.

    As you can see I've been thinking about this way too much..

    As a bespoke service, there would have to be differing levels ranging from supplying the cut vinyl only, leaving end user to 'weed' and assemble (possible with masking tape and a window or lightbox to stick base layer on to) ranging from a fully assembled window (White or pre-agreed base colour)

    The possibilities, as you say, are indeed endless - as with etching - if you can draw it, then the machine can cut it. If you're interested in a sample - drop me an email (find me on the contact page via the website as up on the top right of this page) I can make one up and post it to you.

  3. An excellent post, full of very innovative stuff which you explain extremely clearly. I had thought of this myself, but didn't have your patience and ended up throwing the windows across the room and stamping on them. Seems I have to try a little harder :-) The results (your results) are superb, accurate, delicate and totally believable.

  4. I haven't yet got to that stage with a model, but progress is very slow with this current one. As for the windows, they are very fiddly and require precision - but I think it took me longer to blog about it than make one!!

  5. Thanks Lee. The process is fascinating. I can see it as a viable alternative to a bespoke etching service where there is just nothing suitable off the shelf. In hindsight, I'd have done better with something like this for the chapel windows instead of making the design fit the available windows. I have a couple of things in mind I'd like to model next (before I run out of space) so I'll give you a shout then if that's OK.

  6. I can't actually believe the amount of really fine models you've got on your layout already.