You don’t see much of it these days, but if you have some around your house, you might want to hang on to it. The old-fashioned wavy glass with its blisters and imperfections is being sold by some specialty manufacturers for five times the cost of regular glass.
Why would people pay more for glass that doesn’t give you a perfectly clear view? As in antiques, the flaws add character, and if you’re restoring an old house or trying to get that traditional feel, a charmingly distorted view might be the perfect final touch.
From the 1850s to the 1920s, cylinder glass was the most popular. A glassmaker would take a big blob of molten glass on the end of a 6-foot long iron pipe. Swinging the heavy blob over a pit, he’d twirl and blow a big bubble in the glass, creating a 7-foot long cylinder. Once this cooled, glassmakers cut the cylinder lengthwise. They then took these cupped sections, reheated them, and flattened them with an alderwood flattener.
Considering the process, it’s not surprising the finished product had imperfections. And knowing the work involved, you can see why it’s valued today.
Machines took over in 1905, but the basic technique stayed the same till the 20s, when drawn glass and automotive plate glass reduced flaws. By 1958, float glass virtually eliminated any imperfections.
Of course, this old glass doesn’t provide the insulation and energy efficiency of today’s high-tech windows. If you’re trying to preserve it, you’ll have to play close attention to caulking and weather stripping. And to keep the glass warmer in winter, you’ll need to install storm windows. Or attach unobtrusive plexiglass sections to the window frame.
And if you see old windows getting trashed, check out the glass. It might make a good investment.