Open windows

When Kim and I moved into our first home a year ago we discovered that the previous owners had left a shed full of stuff behind that they either didn’t want or thought we could use.  

At first we were dismayed. We felt like the previous residents had used our new home as a dumping ground for their unwanted junk. However, after the snow melted and we could pull everything out of the shed, we had a look at what they left behind. Our mood lightened.

The list of miscellanea included a wooden patio set, 15 or so cans of paint, some old windows, several nice bird feeders, 3 shelving units, tiles, and a host of beautiful clay flower pots and gardening supplies. Some of it has been handy, some of it we had to throw away, some of it is just waiting to be used.

It was the windows that caught my eye. Old wood framed windows, covered in cobwebs and cracked white paint; rusted hardware and broken glass. They were perfect!

I brought the frames into my garage workspace and started the long process of restoring them.

First up? Demolition. With a hammer and a rag I carefully knocked out the glass, using pliers to remove the remaining shards and glazing points. I then used a fine wood chisel to scrape out the molding that sealed the glass in place, revealing the wooden lip at the front that the glass rested on.

With the glass removed I turned my attention to the paint. I used a chemical solution to strip out the layers of what was probably lead paint. The frames had been re-painted so many times that it took three applications of the solution to remove the paint. Years of yellowed goop bubbled to the surface and peeled away in slimy ribbons under the edge of my putty knife. I did this one at a time, leaving the stripped frames to dry out for several days. This allowed any paint residue to become brittle and easy to scrape away with a piece of steel wool.

After the paint was stripped away, I removed the rusting hardware and began the process of sanding down the wooden skeletons. This was a tremendous amount of work, combining power and hand sanding over many hours. I had to completely sand the wood four times, each time with a progressively finer grain of sand paper. The first sanding removed the remaining paint and dirt that had built up on the frame. The second sanding brought out the grain of the wood, while the third and fourth sandings continued top bring out the grain and smooth the surface.

Once this was done I used a neutral wood filler to seal up the holes from the old hardware and  began to apply a stain to the wood. Staining serves several purposes: one, it adds a darker colour to the wood; two, it brings out the grain even further, really emphasizing the texture of the wood; three, it seals and protects the wood to prevent it from drying out and becoming damaged.

The results can be quite beautiful. I applied three coats of stain to each frame to give them a rich dark reddish colour. Once the final coat had dried, I drilled new holes and added new pewter hardware so they would retain the look and feel of windows.

The frames were completed, now I just needed to fill them.
I made some prints and took them to a local framing shop to have glass and mattes custom cut and the prints mounted on a rigid backing.
I was quite happy with the results and I know Kim was really surprised on Christmas morning when I presented her with a selection of our wedding photos, taken by my friend Wayne Simpson, framed in the restored windows from our first home.

©Wayne Simpson

©Wayne Simpson

©Wayne Simpson

Thanks for reading!


PS. the title of this post comes from a song by Sarah Harmer entitled “Open Window (the Wedding Song)”. I hope you like it.


8 responses to “Open windows

  1. Ok, seriously Mike, this is a fantastic idea. I love these window picture frames. Such an awesome idea and they turned out beautiful! I WANT ONE! Very inspiring… I now want to look around my apartment for some kind of clever project like this… I don’t have any old windows though…sigh. Your wedding pics look so beautiful in the windows too! You two make a gorgeous couple btw.

    • Thanks so much Amber! I am glad you liked these. This was a really fun project for me, and I am really hoping to do more of such projects this summer. Keep me posted on any creative projects of yours!

  2. Wow, those look great Mike! Far to often I see people purchase my prints or print files which they have purchased only to put them in some crappy Walmart frame with no matting. These look like fine art pieces thanks to your efforts… thanks for that!


    • Thanks very much Wayne! It took a lot of effort, but I really wanted to do something special with these prints – not just buy a cheap frame. In the end I find that not only do the images themselves mean a lot to me, but the frames seem to compliment them and continue the story. Thanks for taking such awesome photos.

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