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All About Wavy Glass

All About Wavy GlassLots 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.

antique cylinder glass
A piece of cylinder glass ready for cutting ca. 1918

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.

Architectural Salvage

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 much you’ll spend just depends on the size and waviness of the glass.

AGW Old Style 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 Restoration Glass

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.

Bendheim Restoration Glass

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.

Pioneer Glass

This is another great manufacturer of wavy restoration glass in several grades. They can even put together wavy glass IGUs if you should need.

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64 thoughts on “All About Wavy Glass

  1. I have a number of old wooden windows with wavy glass that I would like to find a good home for. I am in West Hartford CT. If you are interested in picking up some cheap wavy glass please contact me.

    1. Thank you so much for commenting! We have people comment alllll the time asking where they can find some locally so hopefully some locals in the New England area will be able to get some from you. Thank you again!
      -Alyssa at The Craftsman Blog

      1. We are in Connecticut and recently salvaged A LOT of blue green wavy glass. Came out of cypress tobacco sashes. All different sizes. Estimate about 100 year’s old. Feel free to message [email protected]

    2. Hi Michele,
      What are the dimensions of the panes, and do you know what year they were born?

      1. Hi Levi,
        The panes are aprox 8″ x 12″. Some are larger as not all the windows are the same size. The windows have the classic New England 3 across / 2 down pane configuration.
        The house was first sold in 1918 according to the town property records, so I suspect the windows are from that same time frame.

        1. Thanks for your response Michele,

          Unfortunately, They are a little small for my purposes. And possibly too new.

          If anyone else checks this thread though: I’m looking for as many old panes/lites as I can find that are 10” x 15”, from ca. 1860. An odd size, and there aren’t many panes out there that I could cut down to that size. Serves me right for taking this job on… Good thing I’m not in a hurry 🙂

          1. Levi –

            Are you still looking for wavy glass? We have a lot of old windows taken from a circa 1861 farmhouse. My husband was planning on using them as part of a greenhouse, but …..never got around to it. We will be moving later this year, and I asked him what on earth we are going to do with these windows…..he says they have the original wavy glass in them. They are full size windows, so they would have to be picked up. Let me know — we’re in Pennsylvania.


      2. There are LOTS of places to get windows with panes that size to be cut down – check your local architectural salvage places. We have three in Louisville, all with windows – and most incredibly cheap – and many many would have panes large enough to be cut down to that size – not big at all. Lucky you.

  2. I have three pc’s of wavy glass in wood frames. 2 pc’s are 24 X 32 and 1 pc 24 X 28 but has a broken corner would cut down to 21″ x 28″ . I do not want to just throw away. If interested e-mail me. I live in Bedford IN, (Tunnelton))

  3. I have two french doors with 21 panes each of wavy glass – they were the original front doors of my 1920’s home here in Tulsa, OK.
    I’m looking to sell them but would prefer them to go to a good home. 918 428 6927 if anyone is interested.

  4. No one should throw away wavy glass windows. List them for sale cheaply or donate them to an architectural salvage yard.
    Best of all is to keep them in place—add storms and caulk, they will be more energy efficient and they are a historic preservation asset to the house, like the original door hardware is.

    Even old windows with broken corners should be salvaged as they can be trimmed down.

  5. Love the way that the old glass refracts sunlight making it look like reflected water on walls across from or perpendicular to the windows. I enjoy that daily.

    1. We love it too, Sandra. Thanks for reading and commenting!
      -Alyssa at The Craftsman Blog

  6. We just purchased a Spanish Colonial home in Pasadena, CA built in 1926. All of our windows are original with amazing wavy glass. I have 2 questions regarding our windows:

    1) When I crank the windows shut, there are still openings that let in the elements (heat, cold air, rain, bugs). Can the windows be re-hung to fix this problem?

    2) Can clear window tint be professionally applied to wavy glass to cut down on UV rays which damage our furniture and original 1926 wood floors?

    Thanks in advance for your advice.

  7. I have 9 very old wavy glass windows 34×34. What price should I ask for them. They have the interesting small bubbles at different areas. The wooden sashes, though having many layers of paint, are in very good shape.

  8. Hello friends. Anybody know anything about an opaque wavy glass that appears to be copper in the sun? Old church like window in my old house. I re-caulked and no drafts – just wondering if anybody knew what kind of glaaa it was just in case I ever needed a replacement piece. Thanks so much in advance.

  9. Up in Nova Scotia we have house built in 1900. Most windows are wavy glass and I’ve come to like it. The cost to replace about twenty 6 x 3.5-foot windows with modern ones is totally crazy, so I will be cleaning and making wooden storms (needed, as it’s waterfront property), and then continue enjoying the wavy glass.

  10. I am selling all of my 45 wavy glass antique windows . They will be available for pickup mid June . Please call 585-750-7508 if you are interested .

  11. My friend and I do window restoration a lady had a piece of broken glass in her window were looking for a 48″ wide by 18″ tall piece a wavy we work all through the Denver metro area

  12. I have a 4×8 feet piece and 2×8 feet piece of old 1960s green glass. It is made with 2 inch circles all over. We are replacing with a clear color rain design. I hate to get rid of the big piece of glass but I don’t know where to take? Ideas?

  13. To those unfamiliar with wavy glass the 2003 Kevin Costner American Western “Open Range” has some really good cinematography showing wavy glass. During the climax gunfight the cinematographer shot some gunfight scenes from the inside of the buildings looking out to the street through the wavy glass. If interested please fast forward the movie to the last 15 minutes or so and see for yourself.

  14. Does anyone have any ideas on how to make existing window glass look like old glass with the imperfections, bubbles, waves, etc. I thought about getting a clear glass,( paint on) paint and finding some really tiny clear pellets to look like bubbles and put those in some of the paint and use a foam brush to create some wavy effects. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated. Thanks, Karen

  15. My name is Nancy. I have to replace all the windows in my Mother’s house. built in 1840, and the windows are still the originals. Should I ask them to save the glass…is there anyone out there,
    that would want this old historic glass?

    1. Nancy, don’t throw it away! If you must get rid of the glass, at the very least, offer it up on craigslist or contact your local architectural salvage depot.

  16. I’ve been a professional window cleaner over 35 years. I LOVE old glass for it’s imperfected character! We use water with small amount of dish soap , usually Dawn or Joy, scrubbing with a ‘wand’ (imitation lambs wool or microfiber on a T-Bar) and a good squeegee. This cleans any glass new or old. The angle of working the squeegee has everything to do why people gets streaks. All this can be bought at Lowes in cleaners dept (Ettore). A non-scratch pad (usually 3M white pad, or kitchen sponge) will remove most stains and nasty baked-on dirt & grime, bug stuff and won’t scratch glass. The scratches you now see were most likely already there and are visible now that the glass the is cleaner, just like the comment above. Your glass, remember, is probably 60-100+ years old and has seen a lot! Hope this helps!

    1. The author explains that glass was once hand blown, flattened and spun into a disc. This early method did not create perfect glass like today, so I guess the spinning process resulted in it being wavy.

  17. I purchased a 1955 house with wavy glass in 9 of the windows. I get frost build up on 3 storm windows, when the wind blows. The storms must be a bit newer because they’re metal, with non wavy glass. I assume
    the air leakage is with the storms, but honestly I can’t see where they’re leaking air.

  18. What about cleaning the old glass? I had a contractor clean my antique glass with newspaper and vinegar and water and I’m convinced the paper scratched the glass. Could that be possible? I want to warn people away from this if true.

    1. Paper won’t scratch the glass. I recommend cotton cloths and windex or a basic cleaner like vinegar. More than likely once the Windows were clean the scratches that were already there were just more apparent.

    2. As a stainglass restorer , I can assure you that this a good way of cleaning old windows. Those scratches were there before or appeared in the restoring process for a reason or the other .

  19. Excellent email Scott! I am myself a stain glass and old vintage windows and doors; always thriving for the authentic style. Tx for your work.


    1. Hugo. I am trying to find information about some vintage sash wooden windows I just purchased w unusual etched privacy glass. Do you know where I can find information on them They are 4 pane and 44″ x 33″ and very pale blue w a design like lines going one direction and the next line going opposite direction. This repeats all the way down the window on one side only. Other side is not etched. Thanks for any assistance. Jeanie in C Fl

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