Home & Garden Television
Beveled Glass Boxes
Carol Duvall Show : Episode CDS-1652

June 7, 2004

Learning a craft directly from master artisans, using tools that have been around
for centuries, working for years to perfect every small aspect of a craft and
keeping an art form alive--these are all things that apply to Robert Stewart. He
works in fine-art glass, hand-beveling sections of glass that, when combined,
create beautiful and sculptural art boxes.

Each box begins the same way, with a design from which a pattern is made.
The pattern is very important for the mathematics of the piece; if one section is
even slightly off, the panels won't fit correctly and the piece could be ruined.
The pattern is then used to cut the sections of glass. Each section is then ground
with a rough grinder. At this point the angle of the bevel and the shape of the
piece are created. This grinder is a large plate of steel with a rough face that
works almost like a sander on wood. The glass then moves to another level of
grinding, a much smoother grade that refines the bevels and removes the marks
left by the rough grinding.

The glass moves to yet another level of grinding; this time a grinding stone is
used. This particular stone has been used for glass work since 1906, and it
removes all the grinding marks. From the stone, the glass pieces move to a cork
wheel to remove all the stone marks, and from there, it moves to a felt wheel--
the final level of refinement. Each level takes the glass one step closer to perfect
and is worked by hand.

With all of the glass pieces finished, it is time to construct the box. Solder is
used to not only provide the skeleton of the box and join the glass, but Stewart
also uses it decoratively, adding custom edges or other interest to the piece. A
patina is then added to the metal and the piece is cleaned, finishing the box.
Hand beveling glass is an art form that has almost died out; Stewart is one of the
few artisans left. His tools come from various countries and range from 50 to
100 years old. These tools aren’t made anymore, so Stewart has had to get
them from families that have passed them down through the generations. His
work feels as timeless as his tools. They evoke a feeling of sculpture, even
though they are working boxes, and each one shows the care and time that this
man has put into them.

Robert Stewart
Cary, Illinois
Phone: 847-639-3017