In April of 2011, a customer brought in a beautiful shade that was in desperate need of repair. The shade was likely an import, but the pattern was intricate and the glass was very nice. However, the construction—at least from a structural perspective—was lacking the proper reinforcements necessary to hold its own weight. As we have seen in previous examples, the heat cap on imports can be a weak point. Unfortunately, the integrity of the entire shade begins with the strength of the connections at the cap. Without solid connections, the solder won’t stand a chance over time. Even worse, a shade this size with inadequate reinforcement wire will pull itself apart.
In this example, the solder was attached only at the edges of the brass heat cap. Because the shade had no wire to reinforce its structure, once these tiny contact points cracked around the cap it allowed the rest of the shade to move and deform. Copper foil had pulled completely away from the glass in many places. Miraculously, not a single piece cracked, but the huge gaps left the shade slightly misshapen and in no condition to place upon a lamp base without catastrophic results.
We immediately removed the cap which was practically dangling by just a few pieces of foil and solder. Next, we carefully removed any loose pieces of glass and cleaned the adjacent pieces of any hanging bits of foil and solder. Complete disassembly was cost prohibitive, but we could get away with restoring the pieces we removed. They would have to be re-foiled and soldered back into place. But, before we could reassemble them, we needed to coax the shade back into its original shape. To do so, we placed it upon a fiberglass mold. With gentle pressure, we were able to bend and somewhat reverse what time and gravity had done. New solder and reinforcements would hold the shape and maintain its structure.
With the loose pieces re-foiled and using the fiberglass mold for support, we re-positioned each piece of glass and reconstructed the top of the shade. It was finally time to address the heat cap. We polished the cap down to bare brass to get good adhesion with the solder and ran a thick bead around the inside. Yet, even this would not be enough to prevent the problem from recurring. We attached 14-gauge copper wire to the heat cap extending down into the shade itself to help support the shade’s weight. Bending the wire strengthens it as well as allows it to be positioned around the pieces so as not to cast a shadow from the inside.
With the assembly complete, the shade was cleaned and new patina was applied to darken the fresh solder to match the rest. Overall, it was a good project and another shade was saved. See the process below and click for larger images: