MISSION & CRAFTSMAN LIGHTING HANDMADE IN THE USA
Handcrafting beautiful Mission Lighting takes time, patience and years of experience. Our light fixtures feature a combination of beautiful wood and stain glass together for an appealing and elegant design. When combined these two raw materials have a beautiful synergy effect and create a unique style of lighting.
Carefully selected glass and wood is part of the artistry of our lighting. For starters, not all woods are alike, and stain glass has hundreds of variations in quality, color and texture.
The information below will provide details about our construction technique and material selection for our Arts and Crafts, Mission, and Craftsman Lighting Collections. We have outlined four specific segments of the construction process for your clarity and understanding.
Here is a summery of what we are covering in this post
1. Material Selection
2. Staining Process
3. Stain Glass Process
4. Wood Construction
Starting with the right materials
Wood Selection - Quarter Sawn is Classic
The choice of wood is very important for the look and design of our Mission style lighting. Over the years we have found two woods that work the best, Oak and Cherry.
Oak represents 90% of our products sold and is a great match to the early 1900's homes. Oak is available in two main types, quarter sawn, and plain sawn.
Plain sawn oak is the type of oak you see in today’s homes and at places like Home Depot, and is very popular in today's home construction as it's less expensive then other varieties of oak. The more preferred type of oak is quarter sawn oak, it is more beautiful, expensive, has an more interesting grain texture and long lasting
One of the most important characteristics of quarter sawn oak is that it's less likely to warp, twist, expand and shrink over time, in contrast plain sawn oak is much more likely to do so. The stability in the wood is a result in how the wood is cut once harvested.
Quarter Sawn Oak
Plain Sawn Oak
The difference between the 2 types of woods can be defined by the end grain of the board which is a result of how the woods is cut at the mill. To understand how the wood is cut it helps to imagine looking at the end of the log before the wood is cut, quarter sawn is cut like a piece of pie where plain sawn is cut by slicing layers of the log.
Wood Selection - Cherry Wood
The other wood option we offer is Cherry Wood. We only offer one finish on Cherry and that is a clear natural oil finish which does not color the wood, an application of four coats with 12 hours to dry between coats does the job. One thing to keep in mind about Cherry Wood is it will patina overtime, so in one year it will turn two or three shades darker.
Stain Glass Selection - Hand Rolled Glass is Authentic
All different types of stain glass are made throughout the world, some are thick some are textured and some are semitransparent. When we first started building Mission and Craftsman style lighting we spent 2 years trying different glass of all types and fell in love with Wissmach Glass.
Each piece of Wissmach glass is hand-rolled so each sheet is just a little different, no two sheets are alike. Wissmach glass also has just the right transparency so the light passes through with a brilliant stain glass color and glow. Glass texture(see image below) is also important in creating the authentic “Craftsman” style look and this has just the right glass texturing.
Our Craftsman Style Staining Process
In the early 1990's we built a furniture line in the Mission style and developed a unique staining process that really helps the quarter sawn become more defined in the wood grain. The quarter sawn flakes in the wood are more dense and not very porous so an application of water stain will stain the surrounding grain darker and leave the quarter sawn lighter. Below you will see our four step process to achieve a nice beautiful stain on quarter sawn oak.
1st Step Sanding the Surface Thoroughly.
First sand the wood with 80 grit sandpaper, then wet the board with a damp rag and let dry for 30 minutes. Next sand the board with 100 Grit sandpaper, and again wet the board with a damp rag and let dry for 30 minutes. The final sanding should be with 180 grit sandpaper. Now the board is ready to stain.
2nd Step Water Stain
We use a mixture of several water stain colors to create the tone and color we are looking for. The application process is a wipe on and wipe off process before the water stain dries - see video below. Water stain has a tendency to run and drip so the wood must be wiped thoroughly everywhere. The water stain should dry for 12-24 hours before going to the next step, which is applying the oil stain.
3rd Step Oil Stain
Just like the water stain we mix several oils stains (we like Minwax) to create the ideal color. Here again we wipe the stain on and off quickly, no need to have the oil stain sit on the wood because the water stain has already stained the piece lightly. The oil stain should dry for 12-24 hours before applying the finish coat.
4th Step Finish Coat
The final coat is a Gel Top Coat Sealer from General Finishes. Wipe a thin layer on and off, let dry for 12-24 hours. Repeat twice for a total of 3 finish coats.
Sand with 80 grit sandpaper, wet with damp rag and let dry.
Sand with 100 grit sandpaper, wet with damp rag and let dry.
Sand with 180 grit sandpaper.
Wipe water stain on and off quickly and let dry 12+ hours.
Wipe oil stain on and off and let dry 12+ hours.
Apply finish coat, wipe on and off let dry 12-24 hours
Apply 2nd finish coat, wipe on and off and let dry 12-24 hours
Apply 3rd finish coat, wipe on and off and let dry.
Mission Style Stain Glass Process
There are 2 processes for building stain glass, Foiling and lead caning. We prefer the foiling method for our Craftsman lighting as the process creates a more artistic hand crafted look. The famous lamp maker Tiffany use the foil method in his lamp building. Below is a brief summery of the 3 steps for the stain glass foil process.
The process of glass cutting is easy, just score with a glass cutter and snap the glass(see video below). The difficult part is cutting with great accuracy. Many of our mission light fixtures have 20-80 pieces in total, the glass must be cut with great accuracy to align the pieces. To build the glass shade perfectly you will need to cut the glass with a tolerance of 1/16 of an inch.
When explaining the stain glass process people always ask how does the metal(solder) stick to the glass and the answer is copper foil. Copper foil comes in very thin rolls with one side sticky and the others side copper foil. Applying the copper foil to the edge of the stain glass is done with a foil machine, see video below. Now when you apply the solder the melted metal will stick to the copper foil and not the glass.
Soldering - Building the Stain Glass Shade
Soldering is what joins the glass pieces together to make a complete shade. The process involves melting metal at 400 degrees on to the copper foil. The melted metal will avoid the glass and stick to the foil.
The art of soldering takes many hours to master as It's easy to have too much or too little solder and it takes time to learn just the correct flow necessary for the piece you're working on. After soldering we clean the metal and glass with a damp rag and apply a black patina with a clean brush to make the metal black.
The goal here is to have a very tight and strong joints that will last a long time. For this part of the process we use the old fashion technique of wooden dowels. The wooden dowel method of wood joinery has been around for 70+ years and has proven to be very durable and long-lasting.
Building authentic Craftsman and Mission style light fixtures to match your home is an artistry we have developed over 20 years. Our carefully selected hand rolled glass and hand selected woods are the foundation of our beautiful lights and lamps.
The unique staining process we use creates definition and classic beauty in the wood grain while keeping an old world charm to the piece. The foil stained glass technique's reminiscent of the early 1900s contribute to the beautiful antique feel of our lights.