Color Inside the Lines: Fine Tuning Panel Alignment

The South Wall of St. Vincent de Paul is currently being installed!

The center rose presents a nice case study of the challenges of installing multiple panels that must work together to create a single continuous image.  The center of the rose has a “Christ the King” figure with rays of yellow and red light emanating outward.  These rays begin in the center panel and must continue “underneath” the metal framework and into the adjacent panels.  If the color rays and the lead lines are misaligned, the image would look disjointed and unharmonious.IMG_9484
At Nzilani we take special care to install the panels such that all the rays and their lead lines align perfectly.  However, as with all installation projects, many factors can thwart our pursuit of perfection.

Which panel goes in first?

The metal frame divides the rose into 9 sections.  The center square panel must be installed first because it provides the “map” for how the other sections are aligned.  The center panel is held on all four sides by metal frame, so there is no room for adjusting the panel later on.  Once the center panel is locked in, we move on to fitting the adjacent panels.

IMG_9200The panel directly below the center panel is held on two sides by metal frame and along the bottom by a curved wood frame.  If the panel is too short or if a slight rotation is needed to align the panel with the one directly above, rubber shims can be placed between the bottom of the panel and the wood frame.

The alignment of the bottom panel was nearly perfect: IMG_9297

We see lead lines and glass that flows smoothly “underneath” the metal bar and putty bevels.  The eye is not tripped up by any glaring misalignment.  The two adjacent panels are also aligned correctly.

The true test is how the panels look illuminated:IMG_9472

There is a slight shift in the red and yellow rays, but this should be negligible when viewed from afar.

Flaws in panel design

The panel above the center panel proved to be much trickier.


There are noticeable points of discontinuity in the junction between the these two panels.  In this case, we are limited in our ability to correct the orientation.  We cannot shift the top panel because there is no extra room between the two metal bars on either side.  Even if that were possible, the alignment would not be improved because the top panel was originally built out of alignment with the center panel.  IMG_9470

Viewed from inside the church, the transitions are not perfect, but the overall flow seems fine. This section shows how important careful panel design is to the finished product. However, there is a noticeable design flaw on the upper left corner (see if you can find it!). The upper tips of two of the rays have been switched during the glazing process. Because panels are built in the studio on a table that is not illuminated; even the most careful glazier may switch a piece with one that is similar in shape.

At Nzilani, we check multiple times during the conservation process to ensure the final outcome is of highest quality. To err is human; to not fix a known error is unprofessional. After this photo was taken, we exchanged the pieces in situ… this is how it looks now.IMG_9578

We often quote the German proverb:

“Vier Augen sehen mehr als zwei” – Four eyes see more than two”


It takes a little more time to do this final review, but it’s worth it. Our work should last a generation; this is the time to leave the window in the best shape (both structurally and visually) we possibly can.

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