The Art of Gilding  

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W. H. Kemp

The Art of Gilding
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GILDING, and in particular gold leaf gilding, is an art that has been in existence for thousands of years, dating back to the times of the ancient civilizations of Egypt, Greece and Rome.

THE RICH AURA of gilded ornaments, frames, and other crafted objects has inspired many with the desire to understand, learn and produce their own gilded items. There are two main types of gilding: oil and water. The names imply the method by which the metal leaf is applied to a surface.

OIL GILDING is the more economical and simpler of the two methods. An advantage over the water method is that once an object is sealed so that it is no longer porous, the oil size can be applied as the adhesive for the leaf. The quick drying oil sizes generally cannot be sufficiently burnished, therefore one should use the slower drying size or utilize the water gilding method for higher burnishing qualities.

FOR THE MOST INTENSE BURNISHING, water gilding is the suggested method. It is more complicated and labor intensive. A gesso is first applied so that the overlying gold leaf may be burnished in such a manner as to press the leaf into the softer gesso substrate creating an even, polished appearance.

THERE ARE MANY TECHNIQUES that one can employ. Rolco's product data sheets contain enough basic information to get started but it is recommended that the beginning gilder obtain one of the many books written on this subject.

BEGINNING GILDERS should try the different methods on various materials using inexpensive composition (dutch metal, schlagmetal). One must use caution and try out various schemes before finalizing a gilding project. This is recommended as various sealers, paints and topcoats may not be compatible with each other and could cause difficulties with adherence and may cause other surface defects.

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