Now that you have seen the many ways people use chicken wire glass, we thought it would be interesting to take a step back and look at the origins of this amazing product.
First, we need to start with chicken wire itself, which was invented in 1844 by British ironmonger Charles Barnard. The son of a farmer, Barnard wanted to help his father by finding a way to keep wayward chickens from fleeing the coop.
Inspired by the cloth-weaving machines common in his home town of Norwich, Barnard developed a way to manufacture a mesh fence out of thin, flexible galvanized steel wire twisted into hexagonal patterns.
The idea took off and a company was born. Barnard, Bishop & Barnard later produced and sold chain-link and other types of wire fencing internationally.
Chicken wire is used today to build cages for small animals or to protect plants from hungry squirrels and chipmunks. Creative people have adopted this versatile material in dozens of other clever ways, including making sculptures, baskets, picture frames and even chandeliers.
As for embedding chicken wire in glass, we need to go back to 1894. Coca Cola was sold in bottles for the first time and the Tower Bridge in London opened for traffic. What is the significance of these two facts to chicken wire glass? Glass-enclosed rooftops became trendy, raising concerns about breakage and safety.
But innovative glass manufacturers managed to come up with a solution. The Pilkington Group, headquartered in St. Helens, United Kingdom, was among the first to manufacture chicken wire glass that year.
The process consisted of sandwiching steel wire mesh between two separate ribbons of semi-molten glass and then passing “the sandwich” through a pair of metal rollers that squeezed the wire and glass together. The temperature at which the wire is embedded in the molten glass ensures cohesion between the metallic netting and the glass, and the two materials become as one.
This marriage creates a glass of extraordinary strength. A quarter-inch-thick piece is just as strong as a half-inch-thick piece of ordinary glass. It will not shatter like plate or skylight glass, thus it is often used for overhead work where falling shards would create danger.
In addition, chicken wire glass is a good fire retardant; the wire mesh keeps glass shards from falling, thereby preventing flames from spreading.
It is practically burglar-proof and missile proof, which is why you’ll see chicken wire glass used in schools, banks, museums, prisons, airports and jewelry shops. You can also find it in interior glass screens, partitions, balustrades, display windows and showcases.
Beyond its practical safety benefits, chicken wire glass is valued for its beauty. Chicken wire glass can be made with a maize-like design, ribbed, rough-rolled or as a clear polished plate. Dimensions vary. A piece can be 1/4, 3/8 or 1/2-inch thick, up to 40 inches wide, and up to 100 inches long. The wire is so thoroughly covered that rust or corrosion are highly unlikely.
Additionally, this type of glass intercepts 99 percent or more of incoming ultraviolet rays, protecting furniture near windows from discoloration caused by exposure to direct sunlight. If you don’t like shutters, this is the glass for you. It also provides good sound insulation.
If you feel like chicken…
If you’re interested in incorporating chicken wire glass in your renovation or building project, check out our inventory here. And lots more info on our specialized glass site.