For our menus, rather than printing anything out, my future husband and I bought antique windows to display the bar and dinner menus.
I am super super-pleased with how well this turned out. So I thought I'd share the step-by-step method…
Step 1: Find antique windows, then purchase and take home said windows, once you convince your partner that it's a good idea. (This might involve bribery.)
Step 2: Realize the glass is too thin and fragile to work with. Have your partner point out that the glass is easily replaceable. Then get plexiglass pieces cut to size.
Step 3: Remove the old glass from the frames. NOTE: pay attention to how the old glass is sealed into the frame. You will likely need to duplicate this when you replace the glass.
Step 4: Print various font examples and begin working on the font style and layout. Use a dry erase marker to approximate size and placement of words.
Step 5: Carefully re-write the menus using Sharpie oil-based paint markers in various colors. I used black, silver, and white, because those matched most easily with the rest of my decor, and were easily visible on the plexiglass. Add little cute pictures because you think it “needs something.” Allow to dry for 24-48 hours. Helpful tip: if you mess it up, you can wipe it off with alcohol wipes and start over!
Step 6: It is now time to prep the frames to receive new glass. PLEASE ensure that you are using a heavy-duty mask and gloves when working with antique windows, as there is a high probability you will be handling lead-containing paint. I
stole acquired N95 masks from work — they are used to prevent the spread of tuberculosis, so I figured paint dust wouldn't get through. I wore gardening gloves for the sanding, and regular rubber gloves to apply sealant.
- Use a wire brush to remove all dirt, dust, old insect nests (true story), and all other large particles and debris.
- Lightly sand the entire frame, to remove flecks of paint, smooth rough edges, etc. You aren't trying to sand them down entirely — just make them smooth and clean so that you can seal them.
- Wash the frames with mild soap and water. Again, just for dirt removal. Allow them to dry completely before the next step.
Step 7: Time to seal the frames. You don't want to be handling, or having others handle, potential lead-containing paint. You also want to maintain the integrity of the original paint and character of the frame — that's why you bought it! Sealing it with a clear coat will do all of this. Pick a clear coat of your choice — I used a satin finish, so it wasn't shiny, but also not quite matte. I used a spray polyurethane because I've worked with it before, I know how to use it, and spray is easier than something you have to apply with a brush. I imagine you could use just about anything that performs basically the same function. I used Minwax Helmsman Spar Urethane.
Step 8: Spray/paint the frames as directed on the sealant of your choice. I applied three coats, with the recommended dry time, to each side of both frames. It took essentially the entire can to do. I placed them on cardboard boxes to spray. Allow them to dry for the recommended drying time. I left mine for 48 hours, mostly because I got busy.
Step 9: Time to place the glass into the frames, and seal it so it will stay. I used Dap 18285 Dynaflex 230 Premium Indoor Outdoor Sealant. I chose it because it went on white, then dried clear, so I could ensure I had a nice thick seam, but it wouldn't show once it cured.
Step 10: Place the windows in the frame, lining them up appropriately before you start sealing. My windows had slight inconsistencies due to age-related warping, etc, so it was important that I made sure there were no gaps between the glass and the frame at any point before I started. You will need to seal the windows so they don't fall out, so make sure you pay attention to where the edge is compared to where you seal. For example one of my windows was made so that the glass was behind the lip, and then I sealed behind the glass. The other window was made so that the glass was in front of the lip, and then I sealed in front of the glass. When you are working with the windows, you will see what I mean.
Step 11: Apply the sealant based on the manufacturer's instructions, using a nice thick seam and paying special attention to the corners, then smooth it out. There are tools for this, but I just used my fingers. Damp paper towels will remove whatever excess you smear around.
Step 12: Allow to cure per the manufacturer's instructions. I left my windows in a cool, dry place for about 48 hours. Then you're done!
Step 15: Display them at your wedding!