September 7, 2011

Washing Old Windows in a Bathtub...

Posted by Kristin

A while back, I mentioned here that I'm known to go to extremes to reach a design goal and that is no lie. But once you mention that, people want to know what you mean by "extreme". Among other random things (like recently scraping tiny bits of paint off of bathroom fixtures with my finger nails because my scraper was too big, nice nails = not a priority for me), I did once find myself washing an old window in my bathtub to ready it for painting.  Why, you may ask, was I subjecting my clean bathroom to a window full of grime and dirt? The story begins with last Christmas...


I honestly don't know what inspired me but last Christmas I was determined to make each of my family members a handmade gift. While good in theory, it led to a very busy December and while I'd love to do it again, I need to start earlier next time!  For my brother Jon, I wanted to incorporate something very personal, which I knew he would appreciate. When I visit him and Brent in Boston, we've taken to going on "house walks" where we gaze longingly at beautiful historic homes and envision ourselves living there.


Doesn't it just say "Come on in and live here" ?

We also always check out the landscaping and during our house walk in Fall 2010, I was able to snag some pretty great photos of residential gardens.

I love the texture that ornamental grasses add to a landscape.

So when December rolled around I knew I wanted to make a gift for my brother that incorporated memories of our house walk. Knowing I wanted to use pictures, I decided to design a picture frame from a salvage window that they could hang on the wall. First, I scoured local antique shops for a salvage window to no avail. They were all of out of my price range (my budget was $10 or under) so I kept hunting. Then one day I got a phone call from my sister Catie and she said she had found me a window. For free. In the woods. Buried near an old car. Covered in dirt. With plants growing out of it. Its never straight forward is it?

Catie stopped by the next day and dropped off the window and 2 others she had found. I chose the cleanest one (I'm using the word 'clean' here very loosely) and started figuring out how to make it work. I started by brushing out most of the dirt and grime with a steal brush and then I scraped any paint from the panes.

The window had a lot of grime on the panes but this razor-blade took most of it off.


Next I had to wash the window. And this is where the bathtub came in. It was mid-December by this point and pretty cold out, so that fact combined with no hose made washing it outside impossible. Enter the bathtub.

I know...my high school track sweatshirt and Carharts totally make this moment.


After the window was washed I let it dry thoroughly over night and then taped heavy paper over the glass so I could spray paint it. The original wood was a little too roughed up for me (I guess 50 years of being covered in dirt will do that to ya) so I figured black spray paint would even things out and add a little class to this country bumpkin.

Heavy card stock taped down was thick enough to prevent the paint from seeping onto the glass.

Clean glass surrounded by a crisp black frame starts to be revealed as I remove the card stock and tape.

Once all the tape and paper were removed I chose six pictures from our house walk. I played with using all portrait or all landscape-oriented photos (meaning either vertical or horizontal photos) but I ended liking a mix the best. So I picked three of each, changed the color photo to black and white in Photoshop, and got them printed.


Next up, I had to figure out a way to hang the picture on the wall. Since it weighed a lot, I knew some heavy-gauge wire would probably be the best bet. I've used this trick before and its fairly easy and inexpensive (I had two windows of a similar style hanging in my Easthampton apartment for two years and the wire held up great). I started by finding the center point of the top of the window and then measuring out a few inches on either side from that point. I screwed in two screws on either side, leaving a small space between the screw and the frame. I then wrapped wire around the screw until it was snug against the frame, pulled it tight, and wrapped it around the other screw.I finished it up by tightening the screws a bit more to make the wire really snug. I did this on both the top and side of the window, in case Jon wanted to hang the window horizontally or vertically.

A simple technique to hang heavy frames.

Next up, I attached my six pictures to the frame with clear tape and called it ready to go.

Alternating between landscape and portrait-oriented photos helped create balance.

Jon and Brent both loved the frame and it now hangs happily in their hallway. And just to show you how real life happens around here, I apparently can't even wait to get dressed in legitimate clothes before starting a project. Apparently I thought my black pea coat over my pajamas was presentable enough to be running around outside armed with a hammer.

Just taking a TV break while DIYing. (I honestly don't even remember what I was doing at that point).

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