Light for stained glass window?
February 21, 2005 12:37 PM   Subscribe

I recently restored a nice stained glass window that we have hung on a wall.

It is mostly amber colored glass, and I painted the wall behind it white in hopes that it would bring out more illumination of the glass color. Now we're thinking of putting a light behind it.
The question is, what type of light would be best to give a kind of ambient glow behind the glass, wherein the source of the light would not be definite. We are US 110volt, would a cathode type light like the ones used in computer mods work?
Help me see the light...
posted by Heatwole to Home & Garden (9 answers total)
How far is it hanging off the wall? You know they make those "pushlight" things that you can just stick on a wall, and they give off a nice, soft glow. This one is battery operated (lame) but I know they make some that you can wire yourself.
posted by Baby_Balrog at 12:53 PM on February 21, 2005

Have you thought of painting the area behind the glass with a highly-reflective paint? A nice metallic paint like the kind used in street signs might work nicely. As a teenager I collected handicap parking signs (terrible, I know) and hung them in my room. They would glow with the very slightest illumination from cars passing through my cul-de-sac, even light diffused through a hedge and mostly blocked by venetian blinds.
posted by mds35 at 12:53 PM on February 21, 2005

You'd have to do one of two things. Either put a light box / diffuser of some sort (think light table or slide viewer), or line the whole edge of the window with those tubes. Either would work, light box would look artificial (and the light color would be yellow, esp. as the diffuser ages) but would be cheaper, depending on how much you can spend the cathode tubes could be done really nicely, but it'd be complicated to put together.
posted by SpecialK at 12:53 PM on February 21, 2005

On post: MDS has a really good idea.

You can get white retroreflective tape and line a board or the wall behind the sign. You won't necessarily be able to use paint, but retroreflective is what you want.

Retroreflective material directs light directly back at the source. It's what they use on street signs, safety vests, and other high-vis stuff these days.
posted by SpecialK at 12:54 PM on February 21, 2005

Stupid question, maybe, but why not hang it in front of a window? No matter what kind of light you use, it would be difficult to bring in the intensity of normal daylight, even on a cloudy day. This doesn't help a night, but then, stained glass as developed in churches, etc., was intended to seen by day, not by night.
posted by beagle at 1:40 PM on February 21, 2005

i doubt retroreflective is going to work well. it does the job for signs because you're typically in a car with headlights, which are reflected back at you. in your case you aren't going to have a light aligned with the person looking at the window. in a bedroom at night it's cool to see intermittent flashes of light, but here you want something steady and fairly bright, even when the room is lit.

it's a lot of work, but assuming it's a large window i'd make a frame with a fairly wide border and place fluorescent tubes inside the border. tubes are low wattage (to avoid heat problems) and a long, extended source down both sides (even better, along top + bottom too) that doesn't light directly, but illuminates the white wall behind, is probably the best way to get an even spread of light. if it's too uneven, you may need to add a sheet of translucent plastic too.

cold cathode lamps might work - i know nothing about them - but i think the most imporant thing is to use long lights rather than point sources, and make sure the lighting is indirect.
posted by andrew cooke at 2:58 PM on February 21, 2005

If it has some sort of a frame, you could look into rope lighting just behind it. I've seen it used well on the tops of cabinets, inside bookcases to show off display items, etc. Great for that "ambiant glow" look, especially if you run it all the way around the inside of the frame on the back.
posted by true at 4:51 PM on February 21, 2005

googling around, it seems that there are various commercial illuminated frames available. try googling for "edge illuminated", "illuminated poster frame" etc. depending on the size of the window, you might even be able to use one of those directly.
posted by andrew cooke at 5:03 PM on February 21, 2005

LED strip lighting. Google turns up many suppliers, I've no idea which are good.
posted by sfenders at 6:26 PM on February 21, 2005

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