Seeing the future through stained glass

Tom Farrell presenting pieces

By Korynn Burfoot

When Bill Allen began working on Cove Point, he never imagined part of his future would include exploring the art of making stained glass.

Bill started with the company in 1996 through the business group Evantage. Seven years later, he had transitioned into positions within the electric regulatory group and the gas regulatory group.

He later found his niche in 2008, when he became responsible for business development for the Cove Point LNG terminal and natural gas pipeline.

“My job consisted of creating, selling, and expanding gas and LNG related services,” Bill says.  

2011 was the beginning of a significantly new experience for Bill and for Dominion Energy with the launch of the Cove Point Liquefaction project – a $4 billion project to transform the Cove Point LNG terminal into a gas liquefaction and LNG export facility.

Interacting with new international customers from India and Japan exposed Dominion Energy to new cultures where, particularly for the Japanese, token and symbolic gift giving is very important.Bill Allen shaping stained glass pieces

“At each milestone of the project we’d try to come up with memorable gifts to commemorate the accomplishment.” Bill says. “I always knew we would need something very unique for the ground-breaking ceremony – stained glass seemed like a good choice.”

Bill knew it would be expensive to find someone to make five stained glass pieces, and he wasn’t having much success finding someone in the Richmond area to do the job.

Since he has a creative and artistic background, he thought he’d try to create it himself.

“I started stained glass specifically for the Cove Point Liquefaction project,” explains Bill. “I have always liked to create things, so I thought I could do it myself.”

Bill took matters into his own hands and enrolled in a local stained glass class that his wife gave him as a gift.

“I made one for myself first,” says Bill. “I was never certain about how it would be perceived but everyone ended up liking it.”

“Making stained glass is really tedious and time consuming,” explains Bill. “It’s like making a puzzle from scratch.

Bill starts with a software program that enables him to draw and print a pattern for the entire glass panel. Bill then cuts out an outline of each piece, places it on the glass and traces it.

But his work doesn’t stop there.Bill Allen shaping a piece of stained glass

Next he has to score the glass with a glass cutter, break the glass, and grind the edge of each glass piece to make sure that it fits perfectly with the adjacent piece. He then uses a special foil tape that is sticky on the inside and has copper metal on the outside to wrap each glass edge.

Lastly, Bill uses a soldering iron to melt the solder that will stick to the copper on the foil tape.  This last step binds all of the pieces together into one panel of stained glass.

“Each panel along with the wooden frame and light box took about 70 hours to put together. Fortunately I started 3 years ago. Because this was not on company time, it took a lot of nights and weekends.”

He contributes a great deal of his success with stained glass to his hobby of woodworking and building furniture – something that has been passed down to him from 2 previous generations of woodworking  craftsmen. He was able to create the wood frame and lightbox that the artwork sits in from scratch.

His vision for a unique and memorable gift at the ground breaking ceremony finally came to life. His stained glass gifts were presented to Dominion Energy’s customers from Japan and India at a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the commercial operation of the Dominion Energy Cove Point LNG Liquefaction project on July 26, 2018.

Bill enjoys stained glass making and has made five pieces so far.  He has one more to make that will stay at the Cove Point terminal.

“I like to build things that are unique and create things with an artsy flare,” says Bill. “I really consider myself to be more of a craftsman than an artist.  I think my dad and my granddad would have liked what I created.”