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Applying Gold Leaf

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  • Applying Gold Leaf

    I have to apply gold leaf to some very unorthodox table legs. I have never used gold leaf before and I am wondering how steep the learning curve is.

  • #2
    Re: Applying Gold Leaf

    First, sand your piece to final stages.
    Applying gold leaf means learning the art of gesso. First, apply the glue, let it tack, then carefully apply the leaf bit by bit with a soft-bristle brush. Let the leaf float onto the gesso/glue. Don't worry about the large bits that go flying away. Let your natural hair brush pick up the sheet and apply it. Don't touch the sheet with your hands. A very soft, open-bristle brush works best. You really just want the brush to pickup the gold leaf sheet, and act as a transport medium between the book of sheets and your project. Keep breezes to an absolute 0, and don't get distracted.

    If you're concerned, buy a book of gold leaf and a bottle of "sizing" which is actually gesso/glue. Some places may actually call it gesso. Find a small cull piece in your shop somewhere, and apply the glue to it. Let it sit. Let it sit a bit more. Really. The gesso is weird stuff...once it's set, take your book of gold leaf and your brush to the project piece. Open the book. With your brush, and ONLY your brush, pick up a bit of the first leaf. Don't worry...the stuff is gonna go flying because you have to use a VERY light touch. Now...leaf on brush...preferably a big piece...approach the workpiece carefully. With an easy stroke, let the piece of gold leaf sheet settle on the gesso'd workpiece. You are allowed at this point to blow on the sheet to settle it onto the gesso. One breath, and one breath only. Now...pick up another bit of the gold leaf with the it onto the gesso'd workpiece next to your first one. And so on...while the piece of gold leaf is on your brush, you must not breathe. You must fully and completely concentrate on getting the gold onto your workpiece. Then you may exhale onto the workpiece, thereby settling you newly-placed gold leaf onto the piece.

    It's really a fun process once you learn it. Your first trials will be difficult and will yield typically a rather bumpy, wrinkled gold piece. With time and practice those wrinkles and bumps will disappear. Rather unlike ourselves, this process, over time, yields a very smooth surface.

    You can cover/finish the gold like you would any other wood surface. Do NOT sand the gold area before putting on your first coat, however.
    Last edited by VASandy; 06-24-2007, 02:12 AM. Reason: trying to make what I posted make sense.
    I put it all back together better than before. There\'s lots of leftover parts.


    • #3
      Re: Applying Gold Leaf

      Agree with Vasandy. It's fun stuff. In my experience, I've had success with using an imitation gold color paint (a goldish colored yellow) as the sizing. Would mix turpintine in it for a medium and to get a workable consistency. The coloring of the paint helped hide the pin holes which will happen. Also real gold leaf is extremely durable in an outside environment. I have signs out there I've done, 15 or 20 years old and still holding up to the elements. For interior use I've had success with an imitation gold leaf, a plastic product I believe, comes in books just like the real stuff only much less expensive. Speaking of cost; check out a sign supply outfit versus a craft or art supply. For me burnishing was always the most important process, didn't want to scratch the gold, used a very soft, sable etc., 1" brush.
      Have fun with it!