Clear Plexi Options/ Stained Glass Windows

tdtastic

Active Member
I don't buy much plexi or other other plastics for that matter and could use some help narrowing down what option is best for me. It's a tad daunting to sift through all the different types, materials, finishes, or treatments. I need to get the cheapest option for me without unknowingly paying for fancy features I don't need.

Need six to eight sheets of a clear rigid "plastic" minimum 3'x7' that can cut without shattering and only has to support paint treatment and fake leading (we're making stained glass windows....). Do NOT need it be weight-bearing at all. The thinner and lighter the better.

Any advice on paints or fake leading ideas would be appreciated too!
 

Van

CBMod
CB Mods
Premium Member
Any 1/8" acrylic sheeting should be good. Typically comes in 4x8. You can cut it on a table saw with a SHARP high tooth-count blade, like a paneling blade or a medium tooth-count blade turned backwards. Either way it helps to add feather boards or similar to keep the plastic tight to the table and keep it from jittering. Be sure to leave the plastic coating on the sheet because it scratches really easily. If you need to cut curves use a high tooth-count blade and make sure the jig saw is set to straight cut, no reciprocating. I like to have a sacrificial piece of 3" Extruded Polyethylene glued to a sheet of 1/4" Luaun to use as a cutting surface. This makes sure the piece doesn't wobble and crack like it would if you were hanging the edge off the work table. Adding felt or masking tape to the shoe of the jig saw also helps reduce scratching of the plastic during cutting.

For leading you can transfer your layout from full scale drawings or free hand the layout then just buy black acrylic Latex caulk cut the tip really small and follow your lines. If you don't want a raised look you can buy cheap automotive 'Pin-striping tape'. it follows curves real well and sticks to acrylic well enough, as long as you don't pull it too tightly when applying it.

Depending on the look if the finished window there are a ton of ways to go. If you want a traditional textured stained glass look I would buy a quart of Crystal Gel from our friends at Rosco. You can mix small amounts with regular latex paint pigments or with regular latex paint and dab it on. It dries completely clear. It sticks to almost anything and it gives you that mottled look of traditional stained glass. For flat glass you can use Gel, plastic dyes, and thinned latex paint, or Acrylic paints. All of these you'll want to do while the piece is flat.

Let me know if any of this is unclear. I'm fighting the Man-cold from Hell right now so everything is confusing...
 

Amiers

Renting to Corporate One Fixture at a Time.
You might be able to goto the big box store and have them cut it for you if you swoon the cutting dept.

You can also buy custom sizes from an online store. The name eludes me but they are reasonably priced.
 

sk8rsdad

Well-Known Member
Premium Member
Fight Leukemia
The cheapest, lightest (least durable) option I have used is heatshrink window insulation plastic. It is very easy to apply using staples through gaff tape to prevent tearing. It takes paint well. Leading can be painted on or built up using something like VSSSD.

An example from last season (not my work)
Arsenic-Gallery2-539x273.png
 
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StradivariusBone

Custom Title
Fight Leukemia
The absolute cheapest option we came up with was to raid the recycled gel folders and cut pieces of old gel and use spike tape as fake leading to tape it together. It was dimly lit and upstage, but it ended up looking pretty good overall.
 

Ancient Engineer

Well-Known Member
3'x7' Is pretty large.. I'd use black or grey spike tape for the "leading" and use gel for the "colors".

Once I had all that taped down I'd probably get out my roll of LEE 452 or 188 and cover the whole thing to make the edges a little less hard.

Floor/Wall transmission effects are pretty lovely like this...
 

Dionysus

Well-Known Member
I've done this a few ways. Second the heat shrink plastic.
I've also used plexi before, for a travelling drama competition show, a wooden frame, and used paints that are actually intended for faking stained glass I believe... Geez this was like 20 years ago. Worked great. However, the plexi did eventually crack. After the first show (Tragical history of doctor Faustus) and the crack terminated at Jesus' heart... After the final performance when we sent the show home it continued to crack more.

Lots of options out there.
 

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ML.Rice

Member
If it doesnt need to be transparant, I have had *great* success with painted muslin back lit with a fixture or light boxed with white led tape behind. Ive used this method with several small (10"x28") stained glass windows in Doubt up to a 30' diameter Notre Dame window for Hunchback.
 

Moonthink

Member
I agree, 1/8" plexi should be fine, and the most economical solution to start with. Here's my process:

1) cut on a table saw. Best to use a fine tooth blade. If you have some old lauan or scrap plywood that can be used as a sacrificial layer (plexi below, sacrificial board on top) -- that's what works best for me. In lieu of that, put a strip of heavy masking tape over the cut line, this can reduce splintering/shattering too. Keep the saw blade as low as possible, just barely above the thickness of the plexi, even if it doesn't cut through the sacrificial layer (though you may need to pull off kickback/splitter or other safety features of your particular saw -- use caution). Push slowly, don't be in a hurry.

2) A projector and a sharpie is the best way to draw out the pattern, in my opinion/experience. Depending on the distance from the audience, sometimes a thick sharpie line is all you need for the leaded glass. If you need it to be dimensional, I'll explain that step later.

3) They sell a lot of different glass paints. I've worked with el cheapo brands and they worked fine, and I've used more expensive brands and they were richer and sometimes easier to work with. My advice is have an extra or scrap piece of plexi to practice technique on. The technique I like is stippling -- it gives a nice texture, and if you have limited paint colors, you can also sort of mix on the fly. Depending on the paint, you may need to do layers (and let each dry in between) to get the saturation you're looking for. Colorations was the cheap glass paint, I believe, but not very saturated -- required multiple coats for darker colors. I don't remember the more expensive brand, but you can look on Amazon or various art supply outlets for options to fit any budget.

4) After sharpie and glass painting is done, I've used black silicone caulk to give you dimensional leaded glass beading. You have to be very careful with this step, of course. Again, I'd say practice on a scrap piece. You might also want to consider beading on the opposite side as the glass paint, just because if you make a mistake, it might be easier to correct, but it probably would look best finished if it had glass paint and beading on the side facing the audience.

5) Be careful how you attach it to the set. I've had plexglass crack and splinter more often when attaching it than when cutting it on a saw. Even if you pre-drill pilot holes, it's easy to overdrive a screw. Best to make the windows slightly larger than the opening and use some sort of scab/frame to hold it in place.

Good luck!

PS. reading other replies, I would recommend AGAINST doing this with tape and gels (unless it is a very simple design). I've done it that way several times before, and it's just way too much trouble/time and expense, and tends to not hold up very well.
 
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