February 14, 2013
A Tour of Rohlf's Stained and Leaded Glass Studio
Skylands, my home on Mt. Desert Island in Maine, is a massive granite structure that has many, many large and beautiful leaded glass windows. Unfortunately, last October during Hurricane Sandy, one of those windows blew open, breaking two panes of glass. There was a local artisan who used to fix my leaded glass issues from time to time, but I found out that she retired and I knew of no one else in that area to call upon. So, I had the window removed from the house, crated up, and driven to my home in Bedford, New York because we found a place in nearby Mt. Vernon, where it could be fixed. Rohlf's Stained and Leaded Glass Studio has been owned and operated by 3 generations of family members for more than 90 years. It is one of the largest stained glass window firms of its kind and has completed many major window installations worldwide. After touring their studio, I realized that my two broken panes would be absolutely no challenge for the highly skilled craftsmen who work at Rohlf's Studio.
1 Rohlf's Stained and Leaded Glass Studio operates out of this 15,000 square foot, solar powered facility in Mt. Vernon, New York.
2 For three generations, Rohlf's has been creating and conserving stained and leaded glass art worldwide.
3 This is Gregory Rohlf. Greg works alongside his father, Peter, and his brother, Hans, who was named after his grandfather who started this business in 1920.
4 There's a lot going on in this very busy workroom.
5 This is the window from Skylands, which was crated up nicely for the drive down from Maine.
6 Two panes on this large leaded-glass window were broken and in need of repair.
7 Greg showed me the perfect glass for the repair - reproduction glass with slight distortions to match the rest of the window.
8 I was given a little tour of the studio and was told that these restored panels are from the Yale Repertory Theatre on the Yale University campus. Rohlf's has done a lot of glass restoration for Yale's beautiful windows.
9 This is Tony waterproofing a window from the Congregation Beth Elohim in Park Slope, Brooklyn.
10 The waterproofing putty is a special concoction that also strengthens the window.
11 Another example of waterproofing - All excess putty will be removed and will be undetectable when the project is complete.
12 This craftsman is working on a window for Stickley furniture.
13 Soldering another window for Stickley
14 More Stickley panes ready for delivery
15 This is another fine example of a cabinet door for Stickley.
16 This craftsman is attaching reinforcement bars, or rebars, which are highly recommended on all leaded glass windows that are used in a moving unit, such as doors and windows. Without a rebar, over time the window can bow outward, breaking the glass.
17 This is Patrick who is piecing together a stained glass panel. The metal strips are called lead came, which has an H-shape. The glass sections fit snugly into the grooves of the came. Came comes in many widths.
18 This fellow is soldering and securing the lead.
19 When taking a stained glass window apart for restoration, it's absolutely necessary to have an exact diagram of the original design.
20 These are called cartoons and there are many hanging on the walls from previous jobs. The cartoons are made by laying a sheet of paper over the window before taking it apart and rubbing with a special pencil.
21 There is a large inventory of stained glass.
22 Here is Greg inspecting a piece of glass made by Fremont Glass in Seattle, WA.
23 This is Brian, who has worked at Rohlf's for more than 30 years. He is a historian of stained glass.
24 Brian is working on the Yale Repertory Theatre job.
25 Using a cartoon, Brian knows exactly how the glass fits back together.
26 This stained glass is in obvious need of restoration. The old lead is carefully removed and the glass pieces taken apart.
27 The glass pieces are washed in a soapy solution.
28 After cleaning the glass, Vincent places the pieces on the cartoon to begin the reassembly process.
29 Stained glass was often hand-painted and baked in kilns and Rohlf's has artists who can replicate pieces like this one.
30 Rohlf's Studio restores many church and cathedral windows. Broken glass is either meticulously repaired or replaced with a close match.