and Composition Gold Leaf
Oil size method -
The design for these sconces
where inspired from antiques
seen in a Tuscan Villa. Cast
in plaster, they are gilt
using Dutch Gold (or
composition leaf) and
antiqued to match an
existing antique chandelier.
Though Dutch Gold is not
genuine gold, rather a
composition of metals;
primarily brass, the final
appearance is a
objects into heirlooms.
The process known as Gilding simply
means the application of
copper leaf to a surface that has been
properly prepared with an adhesive known as 'gilder's size'.
Cover working surfaces and floor areas with
drop cloths or newspaper.
2: Remove dust and dirt with a tack
cloth and prime
as needed. In this instance we are using
Fresh Start Alkyd
Primer. Refer to
the artSparx basic preparation resource for
additional tips and techniques….
Prime the object
allow to dry.
3: Once the primer is fully dry, you are
ready to apply the base color for your leaf.
Traditionally a deep terre cotte color is used,
such as Benjamin Moore color # 2090-30.
base color is also referred to as the 'Bole'
color. Traditionally, bole was made from clay.
Today paint is
One can experiment with different colors
and your choice will affect the overall
appearance of the finished product. For example,
the traditional terra-cotta color adds warmth to
both gold and silver leaf. A black 'bole' color
creates a hard, cold look - often appropriate for
Art Deco pieces, and the like. A yellow
'bole' color evens out the overall appearance,
and diminishes any cracks or 'holidays' on the
Apply your 'size'. Size refers to the adhesive
used to adhere the leaf to a surface. There are
different kinds of size adhesive dependant on
the finished look you desire. For most common
gilding practices a 3 hour, 'quick drying' size
is all you will need. It is an oil based product
and can be cleaned with mineral spirits. Apply
carefully and evenly, working the size to an
even film as much as possible. When competed,
clean your brush with mineral spirits.
A fully 'sized'
sconce. Keep an
eye out for
applying 'size' to an object that is ornate or
has decorative features that are raised, pay
attention not to 'pool' the size in the crevasses.
Work it out evenly so the size dries evenly
over the entire piece.
Do not apply the leaf until your adhesive
'size' is at the proper 'Tack'.
This is an important phase, and determining the
proper tack will result in the professional
finish your are after. As your 'size' dries it
naturally goes from a wet to a dry state. The
proper time to apply your leaf is when the
'size' is not wet but 'tacky', just before it dries
completely. 3 hour 'quick drying' size comes to
'tack' in approximately 1.5 to 2 hours, reaching
full dryness at around 3 hours (hence it's name
'3 hour quick drying size').
The gilder testing
Use the back of your knuckles to
test for the proper 'tack'. If the hairs on your
fingers slightly tug then your tack is ready.
Alternatively, you can very lightly drag your
knuckles over the surface. Don't apply any
pressure. If you hear a 'squeaking' sound, then
you are ready to apply your leaf. If it is
clearly quite sticky, wait a while longer and
test again. Don't worry, with some practice, you
will learn the subtleties of determining the
proper 'tack' to begin gilding.
humidity: Your adhesive size can dry at
varying times due
conditions such as
heat and humidity.
Therefore, it is
important to keep
an eye on the
drying process. If
you leaf to soon,
the leaf will get
sticky and sag,
and the size may
never get a chance
to dry out through
the leaf. If you
wait to long, the
size will dry up
and your leaf will
adhere to the
firmly and carefully.
Attach leaf to
After the leaf is laid on, rub
thoroughly over paper to insure adhesion. Avoid
touching the leaf with
Gently remove the paper, leaving the leaf
on your surface.
Holidays. Fixing them.
A 'holiday' is a
gilders term that refers to an area were the
leaf did not initially adhere. Simply use some
left over leaf and apply to area.
are caused by
First, in the
leaf just did
not stick to
fresh leaf and
the 'size' in
step 4, you
missed an area
leaving a bald
there is no
the leaf to
After you have
'size' to the
with a small
allow to come
to 'tack' as
apply leaf to
Step 8: Burnishing
and finishing off
Using fresh tissue paper, rub the surface
gently and evenly. This insures all the leaf is
properly rubbed down, with no air holes.
Using a soft
Using a soft gilders brush, such as fox
hair or rabbit hair, brush the surface removing
any loose leaf (known as skewings). Cotton
balls may also be used. Do not use regular painters
brushes, such as bristle, or synthetic fibers,
because they will scratch the leaf and dull the luster
of the finish.
Sealing with Varnish
Protect the leaf with a coat of
oil based varnish,
and air. It
also acts as a
brush with the
is an important step. If you were to apply an
antique glaze over untreated leaf, the leaf
would become stained and dull, losing the
highly reflective quality of genuine gilded
Antiquing and aging your leafed surface.
On a palette, mix some acrylic
Raw Umber with Raw Seine. You can experiment
with the proportions. 2 parts Raw Seine to 1
part Raw Umber will work fine. Dilute with
Apply over surface, smoothing
out as you go. In case the glaze 'beads',
allow to set momentarily then smooth out as
Using a dry rag, buff up
'high' points, allowing the recesses to remain
darker, mimicking the processes of time.
leaf and clean
Step 12: Dispose
of used material appropriately.
Style design features
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decorative paint and glazing