Lots of us appreciate the wavy glass we find in our old windows. Some don’t even know what they have, but for those of us who have taken note of the unique appearance of wavy glass, the new stuff just won’t cut it.
Old glass has bubbles, waves, inclusions, varying thickness…all kinds of beautiful imperfections, and that’s exactly why we love it! I’m sure I’m not the only one, but to me, modern float glass is too perfect. There’s no character, no uniqueness. Every window looks the same and its perfection is like monolithic splendor run amok.
I want the character. I want the history. I want something perfectly imperfect, and wavy glass is just that.
A Short History of Glass
For years, the only glass available was hand-blown glass. It was expensive and large sheets were not available. A local glass worker would blow the glass on a rod and spin it into discs which when cooled could be cut into small pieces.
That is why homes built in the 1600 and 1700s have so many small panes of glass in their windows. Price and availability of glass dictated window designs and lite patterns.
Later as technology improved in the early 1900s, machine drawn cylinder glass was introduced. This process drew large cylinders of glass vertically from a machine. These cylinders could be upwards of 40 feet tall!
They were then cut into smaller cylinders of 7-10 feet typically before being cut lengthwise and reheated to flatten them into one big sheet, from which the glass could be cut according to the window maker’s needs.
Then around the mid-20th century, float glass was invented, which is how we get modern glass. The molten glass is poured out onto a bed of molten tin, which allows the glass to “float” on top and level out perfectly to remove any imperfections.
With float glass, you get perfect pieces of glass. Perfectly boring!
Where to Find Wavy Glass
Probably the best place to find wavy glass is the curb. Sadly, so many people throw out their original windows to get replacement windows. If you’re new to this blog, you’ll learn that replacement windows (or disposable windows, as I have come to call them) are a terrible idea and not worth anyone’s time or money.
Finding old windows at the curb to salvage the wavy glass is how my company has created a large stock pile of the stuff. But if you can’t find any laying around the first-rung neighborhoods in your town, then there are some other sources you can turn to.
Search your local architectural savage yard. Most larger cities have at least one or two of these shops in the area. Antique shops might be another place to check, but you won’t get the kind of deals you will find at salvage yards. For between $5 and $50, you can often walk away with some old glass.how much you’ll spend just depends on the size and waviness of the glass.
AGW makes some great wavy glass in several different grades of waviness to help you match the glass to the age of your project. You can also order samples to find the options that works best for you.
Hollander’s manufactures glass that is similar in appearance to the wavy glass of old. It may not have the history of antique glass, but for appearances, it looks a lot closer than float glass. Hollander’s also has several grades of glass to match different age buildings.
This restoration glass company has been around since 1927 in New Jersey. They have different options of wavy glass and also offer antique style mirror glass.
Between these options, you should be able to find a sufficient solution to your old glass needs. Always keep an eye out on the curb for some free old windows though. You may be lucky enough to snag some of the best old glass just waiting for the garbage truck.
This is another great manufacturer of wavy restoration glass in several grades. They can even put together wavy glass IGUs if you should need.
Founder & Senior Editor
I love old houses, working with my hands, and teaching others the excitment of doing it yourself! Everything is teachable if you only give it the chance.