Friday, 29 June 2012

Brilliant Cut Glass

While being at the house in Bathgate doing the removal and installation of the cloakroom window, I could not help but notice the glass in the front door.

This is the first brilliant cut glass that I have seen (not that there are not others, of course) in a domestic front door.  Upon enquiry, it turns out that this building of three flats was built in the early 1920's by a local foundry owner.  It may be that the wealth available lead to the commissioning of this front door.

It is not only etched with hydrofluoric acid but also white acid (a combination of alkaline and acidic chemicals to give a more pale etched colour).  The white acid effect can be seen in the thin line surrounding the clear brilliant cut lines.

You can also see the effect of the white acid in the paler upper central area of the panel.  This shows the effects of the two acids clearly.  The chemical combination gets its name from the whiter appearance achieved with its use.  It is rarely used nowadays because of its heat-creating reactions and subsequent risk of explosion.

The brilliant cutting can be seen in the six heart-shaped petals at the top of the stylised acanthus leaves and above the fleur-de-lys emblem at their junction.

This lower section of the central panel shows the effect of the brilliant cutting.  The four "cartouches" shown here have lines at the curve, showing the use of different wheels to do the cutting.  The rectangles and circles are relatively easier to cut than the sweeping curves leading to the circles.

The bottom of the door panel is relatively plain, but contains some superb artistry in the brilliant cutting.

In this emblem at the bottom of the door, the cartouche is cut in one sweep of the wheel.  The inner detail is cut with two sweeps of the wheel for the outward flaring shapes and finally the points put in with a "V" shaped wheel.

The side of the panel shows more of the skill of the cutters. Three linked olive shaped areas are cut and polished beside a group of faint cartouches.  Below is a group of three heart-shaped references to honesty seed pods.  But a simple and difficult feat is the straight lines cut all the way around the panel.

The corner again shows the work in creating both curved and straight lines.  They are all incorporated with the acid etched designs in an almost seamless manner.

My admiration for the skill involved in producing this door panel relates to the requirement that the lines and shapes are cut into the glass and then ground repeatedly with finer an finer grits until polished.  And there were no slips!  Secondly, the whole piece of glass (around 120 cm by 80 cm and 8 mm thick) was suspended and balanced by weights to enable the craftsman to manoeuvre the glass over the spinning wheels.

This work deserves to be at the very least listed as an important piece of work and at best incorporated into a museum setting as this work cannot now be reproduced as all the hand skills have been lost and the computer controlled brilliant cutting machines cannot reproduce the curves of this design.


stuart reddy said...

Not all these skills have been lost if you require a quote etc. for any work like this, check out we are based in bolton but work throughout the UK and abroad


stuart reddy said...

we can produce work like this. If you require more info check out


Steven Norton said...

Hi we have been in business for over 30 years producing hundreds of panels for the four corners of the world, just like the one above. We still use the same methods and techniques as the original makers (just better safety gear now).
Steven Norton
Stuart Owen Norton Glass & Sign Ltd