Stained Glass Window Restoration

Windfall Light Stained Glass

Local Joplin artisan Sam Lopp always had an affinity for art but his interest in stained glass was sparked when he bought a how-to book on the subject in the mid-1970s. Lopp was working as a graphic artist for a local printing business, Whitaker Publishing. He continued in that job while he honed his skills at creating stained glass. He recalls, “My wife Rita, has played an integral role in my profession. In fact, I made my first stained glass window while she and I were dating. Unfortunately, I really didn’t know what I was doing, and it wasn’t very good. But, through it all, she always encouraged me to continue.” (As for that first attempt at stained glass, he says, “Twenty-five years later, Rita made me throw it away!”)

Sam Lopp

After Rita and he were married, Lopp set out to work full time in the stained glass business. He started passing out business cards at craft shows, and then began repairing stained glass church windows. He also had an opportunity to get involved in manufacturing etched glass for Morton Booth. “For 10 years, we provided them with etched glass for their gun cabinets,” he says. “I remember at one point I had up to five people working on just that one project. At peak periods, we were producing 1,000 pieces of glass a week, including etched waterbed mirrors.”

Not only did Lopp become a respected stained glass artisan, but he also began teaching the fundamentals of stained glass to others. He recalls, “Through the years, I have instructed a minimum of 500 students.” During a typical six-week course, Lopp teaches the copper foil method and lead cane method. (The JHN properties utilized the lead cane method.) He says, “Putting a stained glass window together is tedious work. Frankly, only about 10% of all my students go on to do another project.”

For a full window restoration like that of the JHN properties, Lopp says the first step in the process is to observe and evaluate the condition of each window (Is it sagging? Is it missing glass? Are there cracks in the lead?). The next step is to remove the windows from the sashes to get an even closer inspection of each element. He says, “What I’m finding on the [JHN windows] is that they are structurally sound, but in many cases the stained glass is coming away from the border and everything is loose from the rot of wooden sashes.” He says this is from a natural progression of deterioration due to age, sunshine, fading, heating/cooling, and gravity. Small samples of glass pieces were sent off to D&L Art Glass Supplies in Denver, Colorado to try to match the original glass as closely as possible. He says, “Only a very well-trained eye—like these experts—will notice a slight shade difference.” Each replacement piece will then be painstakingly placed back into the original window design.

Lopp says the JHN stained glass windows were facing a critical period. “Without preservation, the windows would be lost. So I’m excited to restore and rebuild them to their former glory,” he says. “This type of project is extremely unique. It is a once-in-a-lifetime project for me.”

 

For more information about Sam Lopp and his stained glass work, please contact him at 417-623-5002.