How they are made
How they are made.
Traditionally lead "came" has been used for leaded lights i.e. windows built up using coloured or stained glass. This is what you see in church windows, Victorian and Edwardian windows. The lead is extruded in an "H" section and is squeezed so that it grips the glass. A large soldering iron is used to solder the various came "wrapped" panels together.
Back in the 1890's, Louis Comfort Tiffany developed the use of copper foil for making his now famous lamps. Copper being lighter and thinner than the "came", it permitted designs that were far more intricate, that were figuratively and literally lighter than could ever be achieved with lead came.
All the glass is cut by hand with a good quality glass cutter. I very rarely grind an edge or shape, it is all off the cutter. Done well it is usually possible to cut several pieces to within 0.5 mm of each other. With the Geodesic Dome (you can see on this site) accurate cutting for very many pieces was particularly important otherwise the combined amount of error would have been impossible to manage.
To make the case, a narrow strip of copper foil with a heat resistant adhesive on the back of it is "wrapped" around the edges of the glass. The pieces are "tinned" and offered up one to the other. They are tacked into position. In due course when all is well, solder is run into the joint between the seams. As it cools and becomes solid the solder contracts and grips the edges of the glass. That's it; no glue, no chemical or permanent bonding.
Because there is no bond as such between glass and seam, these cases should NEVER EVER be held by or suspended from the top and or a finial. If you do so, the lead seams will stretch and sooner or later the entire case will break apart and crash to the ground. When I do make cases that are intended to be hung, picture wire is buried in the seams.
As you look around Wardian Cases on the internet bear in mind the following.... If a case is open with no door or lid, it is a rather fancy plant pot it is NOT a Wardian Case. A case only becomes a Wardian Case once the case can be sealed. Typically there will be a door or a lid to it - even if the door or lid is not obvious. Once the case is closed a micro climate is created within. Thereafter there can be no exchange of moisture or gases thus the principal conditions for plant life are met but - the plant cannot grow !!
With each case I provide detailed instructions on how to look after it, where best to place it in a room and a list of plants that appreciate being in a Wardian Case.