In the late-middle years of his working life, there was once a man who visited our studio. He knocked and walked in with a package, and here is what he told us concerning his apprenticeship and the problem he now had.

The story of an apprenticeship and a cut-line

“I left school at 14 and straightways took an apprenticeship with Bridgeworth’s, the window-makers (long gone now). This was in the 50s and they worked me hard and paid me even less. But as I say, why should they pay me at all when they were giving me my trade?

“I spent three years cementing except for one day a week when I was allowed out to learn fitting. ‘Course we fitted in all weathers, so I soon learned the reason my cementing must be good. And I also saw what happened when the windows didn’t fit – fault of someone’s poor measuring or careless drawing or bad making. And yes, mistakes happened; not all of them were mine. And when they did, we put them right together and often worked late into the dark hours when my schoolmates who had taken easy office work were all out dancing.



“Then three years’ cutting and leading except for one day a week when I was taught measuring and shown how to make a template and how to draw a cut-line, so sometimes I even worked on windows I had sized and drawn myself. And sure as sure, sometimes things went wrong. But now rarely down to anything I’d done. Even so we put them right together; this was just a way we had.

“Then three more years when Mr Bridgeworth had me organise the workshop for him, and schedule all the work, and oversee all the drawing, and be sure the glass was cut to size on time, and that it fitted well together; then leaded up and soldered and cemented and left to cure a full two weeks so as not a drop of rain could pass. And I’d take each window in ten and have the men drench it with water, and if one drop came through I’d throw out the lot of them and keep the men back till every last one was checked and patched.

Diamond quarries

Diamond quarries

“After that I left the city where work was growing scarce, and made my own way here [in the countryside] where the old life still counted.

“So I set up on my own and found good times these last 30 years, making quarried windows with squares or rectangles or sometimes even diamonds with a border running up and down each side.

“And what I’m saying is, I need your help, else I wouldn’t interrupt you, because I know how everyone who makes things with their hands is always busy.

“You see, I’m fine with squares or rectangles or diamonds; and people do know they must never bring painted work to me.

“But someone’s come and asked me for some daffodils. Coloured glass and leading is all they want, but if I tried to draw these daffodils – well, I can’t draw anyhow like you can: and the petals will be monstrous and the leaves will droop, and I should never forgive myself for even trying when it’s not something I ever could do well.

“And that’s precisely what I’m saying to you: will you draw my cut-line for me?”

Now he stopped.

So David said: “Have you the template? Then leave it here, and come back in an hour”.

Nearly 10 years ago this happened; I have a family now, and the world has changed more than I could ever think it might.

And just yesterday I was re-ordering the studio’s cut-lines when I came across the tube in which there lay our copy of these daffodils.

The original measured 360 mm across and 780 mm to the highest point of the arch.

If these daffodils are something you can ever use, then adjust them to your needs. (Be sure first to compensate for lens distortion by squaring up the sides.)

Like the man asked us for, it’s a lead-light cut-line: no painting at all. Take it here.

OK: those of you who don’t yet have this but want some painted daffodils, take them here. (Size is A4 / US legal.)

And when you want to paint, the written guides are here, the films are here.


Stephen Byrne