I have long thought that being a gilder would be a fine way to make a living. It even sounds elegant, doesn’t it? But before I join the Society of Gilders, I want to try this ancient technique with faux gilt.
I can only imagine to what heights one’s anxiety would rise if using real gold sheets even with the gold hammered to a thickness of 1/300,000 of an inch. The composition gold sheets I used are 85% copper and 15% zinc. The sheets are as light as air. I picked up the first sheet with the fan on and the window open. Still, it worked, even if it did have one wrinkly spot. The directions are simple and come with the Mona Lisa Gold Leaf Kit I purchased. When gilding anything porous, one should first seal the surface, in my case cardstock, with a modern sealer for paper. When that is dry, paint the surface to be gilded with the adhesive, wait 30 minutes, close the window, try to float the gold leaf somewhere in the direction of what you are gilding, gently rub with a soft cloth and then apply the sealer in the kit with a brush. What brush you use makes a difference. A stiff brush gives the gilt a burnished finish while a super-soft brush, I used a make-up brush, results in a traditional gilt finish. Well, kind of.
One of my first-time experiments involved a pair of 1930s lampshades which were still with the lamps, but the silk had long since deteriorated. I used yellow cardstock and traced the shape of the lampshade frame, cut it out and followed the directions. It was very easy. The hard part was gluing the woven brass metal trim to the shade. I don’t like the shades with these pretty lamps and I think originally they must have had long bead trim to cover the sockets. They would be much prettier in silk. I’ll worry about that tomorrow.
I am pleased with the second part of the experiment and look forward to next spring when I can use the rest of the kit on selective parts of the exterior door surround. I gilded the finial on the top. It looks nice.
Are you wondering how things went outside with these sheets that are lighter than air? I had to go up a ladder to reach the finial.
I applied the adhesive, waited ½ the recommended time thinking it would dry quicker outside and when I got to the top of the ladder, the wind kicked up a flurry of swirling leaves and the four or five inch square of gilt stuck to the newly dried oil paint further down. You can’t get that stuff off newly applied oil paint. It is still there. I came up with a new idea though. I carefully slid the next sheet of gilt on to the top of a potholder, layered one of the dusted sheets protecting it from its neighbor on top and then put another pot holder on top of that. It was a little more difficult climbing the ladder while holding the potholders with both hands. I’m pretty sure this isn’t how members of the Gilder’s Society do it.
Gilding is a technique that takes years to master, but it can certainly be done in the DIY arena. To see how four other DIY gilders did, check out my friends at: Viva La Vintage For Your Home
and Loving Home