Gilding is the application of
thin sheets of gold or other metal alloy such as copper
or silver, to a surface. The sheets are hand or machine
beaten until they are extremely malleable and thinner
than the thickness of tissue paper. Gilding was often
used as decoration on book covers or picture frames
in the past, and gives a look of richness to objects.
When applied to finely detailed, carved leather the
effect can be quite striking.
You will also need an adhesive
or glue to stick the leaves to the leather. This glue
is called size. A commercial-based size works perfectly.
In addition, cheesecloth or other lint-free cloth, a
stiff artist's brush to apply the leaf and some Q-tips
to remove excess gold leaf are needed, as are a pair
of square-ended rather than pointed tweezers for moving
and positioning the bits of gold leaf.
Dye The Leather First
An antique finish like Leather
Glow can be applied at the end. It gives some luster
and contrast, and takes away from the shine of the gold
somewhat. Avoid solvent-based finishers and choose one
specifically designed for gilding. A leather top-finish
like Super Sheen can be applied to the carved leather.
If this is your first attempt at gilding, you might
want to practice on a piece of scrap leather first,
just to get the feel of it.
Apply the under-finish only to
those areas that will receive the gilding. Go slowly
and carefully here. If you make a mistake, wait until
the under-finish is tacky, and then gently scrape it
off with the point of an x-acto knife. Wait until the
under-finish is completely dry before applying the size.
Glues vary in the length of time
they require to achieve a tacky state and remain workable,
and this time is generally indicated on the tube or
bottle. When gilding a small carving, you probably need
glue that is tacky within an hour and remains workable
for another twenty minutes or so. Use a small brush
to apply the glue only to those areas that received
the under-finish. Then check for tackiness, bearing
in mind that the glue might reach that state earlier
than indicated on the bottle, depending upon environmental
variables such as heat and humidity.
Go for the Gild
Now it's time to apply the leaf.
Wash your hands to remove any oils that can affect adherence,
and carefully lift the sheet with the tweezers and your
hands. Do this in a draft-free room, as the leaf is
thinner than tissue-paper. If you need to trim the sheet,
use a dull butter knife or your finger nail, placing
the leaf on a pad of buckskin. Then take the sheet and
apply it over the area that has been sized, patting
it down with a wad of cheesecloth, gently at first,
then gradually increasing the pressure, pressing the
leaf into the carving.
Use an artist's brush to tamp
the leaf into the detail of the carving. A stiff brush,
¼ to ½ inch wide works well. Pay attention to the edges,
making sure they are well tamped down for a nice finish.
You can brush the excess bits of leaf away, saving them
in a jar for touch-ups later. Brush along the edges
until all the pieces that didn't adhere are swept away.
The Final Touches
You can now rub the gold leaf
with a soft cloth to bring out the burnish and smooth
any wrinkles. Once the glue is completely dry, you can
rub the gilding a little more vigorously to achieve
an antique appearance. This will rub away some of the
gold leaf, revealing the sizing and antique under-finish.
Don't overdo it though, and rub only on the high spots
of the carving by rubbing in a line across those high
parts and ridges. An antique finish can then be applied,
followed by a lacquer or clear finish to protect the
leaf from wear and tarnish.
Tools to Use
* Gold (or other metal alloy)
* Antique under-finish
* Antique finish (Leather Glow)
* Leather top finish (Super Sheen)
* Cheesecloth or other lint-free
* Square tweezers, artistâ€™s
* Lacquer or clear finish
* Dull butter knife
* Dye the leather to be gilded
and/or surrounding areas
* Apply an under-finish to the
areas to be gilded
* Apply glue to the under-finish;
wait until tacky before gilding
* Pat the gilding down, gently
at first, then more firmly into the carving
* Buff the gilded area with a
* Apply an antique finish, followed
by a lacquer
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