Lines in Gold Leaf


Grumbler in Training
Jan 10, 2005
Hi, we just started doing our own framing and received our first batch of mouldings with gold leaf. On the flat areas of the moulding is a hairline crack in the gold leaf that appears every 6". Is this normal with leaf? Any tricks on how to remove or soften the line so it's not so noticeable? Thanks
Hello, aeg, and welcome to the Grumble.

Leafed frames often have those "lines" which can be considered a design feature. If this line appears at regular intervals it is supposed to be there. It is caused when the leaf is laid down onto the frame and the sheets are overlapped or not butted.

Heck, it IS a design feature - if they want totally smooth leaf they do totally smooth leaf!

So don't bother to try to "fix" it - it ain't broken!!! (although "broken leaf" is yet another type of leaf application!).
Every six inches is so you know you got metal leaf instead of real gold leaf which is every 3.25". :D

Design feature. Welcome to the G.
This is an inherent quality of oil gilded (matte gilded) work. The leaf is laid on a slightly tacky size (varnish) and adheres to this. When the loose scraps are removed, this "crack" is there, similar to the lines between sheets of wallpaper. Since the leaf only adheres to the sized surface, and not to any other leaf it overlaps, you will get this slight line.
In water gilding, a similar effect called "lay lines" occurs, but in that case, the lines are caused by a double layer of leaf, where the individual leaves overlapped. This is often accentuated by rubbing down the gilding to make these lines stand out as a design element.


It is good to see another gilders comment.

"in gold"

As an additional comment, sometimes these lines are simulated to make it look as though rel leaf was used even though a continious roll of hot stamp material was actually used to to the finishing or even a sprayed on material. :(
I've had a few - a very few - customers object to the seams in burl veneered frames. The spacing is such that it often doesn't show up in corner samples, so it's a good idea to have a wall model or two if you like using the burls.

The fake leafed frames with pseudo-seams are some of the butt-ugliest mouldings around.
"...Like gold to airy thiness beat..." (John Donne).

What a wonderful and apt description of what gold leaf is and used as a simily in this English poet's prose.

The cracks and imperfections in real gold and silver leaf are considered beautiful unless they stand out like a scar. These sound like a design element because of their regularity.

If a customer objects to hairlind cracks in leaf frames it is time to put on your educator hat and inform them of the leafing process and that these minute fissures are normal and considered beautiful by those who understand the process.

This of course assumes that they art not scraches or disfiguring marks.

If they still don't get it, send them to WalMart to buy some bright gold glossy spray paint and it'll fix the problem...they are probably already quite familiar with where the nearest WalMart is. :D

Dave Makielski

PS: Alright, alright, alright already!!! If I offended any WalMart shoppers I'll admit that I even go there too.
"Every six inches is so you know you got metal leaf instead of real gold leaf which is every 3.25"

If the lines are 6" apart, and it is not real gold, what exactly is it?
It is what is known as Dutch metal or composition gold, actually an alloy of copper and I forget what else just now. It will tarnish over time, unless protected with a finish coat of lacquer, varnish, etc. Not used for water gilding.

Thanks for all the great feedback. It's nice to have a prepared answer just in case anyone asks.

The lines do look better once the frame was assembled. I stopped at a few local galleries and most the gold frames had similar traits. Some of the frames looked as if the line had been rubbed or buffed out to make it less obvious. The problem I saw with rubbing/buffing is that it altered the frames surface finish and at different angles was much more noticeable than just a hairline crack.
Most gilding in synthetic gold leaf (dutch metal, Shlag metal, composition leaf, etc) is 85% copper and 15% zinc and has the designation of "2 1/2"
# 1 = 90% copper
# 2 = 88% copper
# 3 = 82% copper

An alloy of Copper and Zinc = Brass

You obviously are a virgin framer (which is OK, that's a line all of us had to cross it in order to become real framers). At this point you are safe doing a few things:
1. Assume that every repetitive "imperfection" that you noticed with your moldings is there by design. Don't question it.
2. Assume that beauty is being predetermined, pronounced and offered, as a package, by each and every supplier of yours. Just price differs and, as you know, you get what you paid for.
3. Hire a part/full time experienced framer and stay really close to him until you understand what is it that he's doing, when and why.
At this point you may know considerably less about framing than your potential clients and this is not a good start for a new gallery owner (for in this business word of mouth travels faster and further than expected).
If you are reluctant of asking for help another framer in your area, this forum is an excellent source for you. But, my, you have EVERYTHING to learn. Good luck to you!
You need a mentor very-very badly. Some framers here have mentor vocation. They love to answer technical questions and teach others what they learned over decades of practice hands on. It's yours to find one. (How much they posted compared to how long they've been around could be a good start).
We know that it takes many years to become proficient in framing so elaborate high-end frame jobs are still sent to a pro. We still have a lot to learn but already know some thanks to the Grumble. I must say that the Grumble is so invaluable that we haven’t felt like "virgin framers" for well over a week.
Hey aeg, just remember that the dumbest questions are the ones you don't ask!!! I have been framing since 1969 and I am proud to say I am still asking really dumb questions! And someone here on the G is always kind enough to take the time to answer!

LOL! Ron!

He-he-he, that formula (posts/year) puts you in pole position with Baer as a close second

I do believe that most talkative grumblers make best mentors because they proved to be very good communicators and have much to contribute.


Framer’s is a very resilient form of virginity. Why do you think we've congregated on this forum if not to get comfortable over slowly losing ours? ;)
But just to be fair, I'd say that your question deserves a moment of celebration for it will be remembered for years to come as the most innocent one in the history of this forum. I really can't imagine of any other one that would convincingly beat yours. But, hey, we all started from level zero, asking what we feared to be the dumbest question. Until now I hold the title with asking grumblers for news about a framer friend of mine whose name I forgot to mention. But you topped me and ...made me jealous! ;)
Whynot, it's not a dumb question as you suggest. The frame samples and catalog pictures we have don't show any lines in the gilt and this is our first time working with this type of frame. The replies to the question are very knowledgeable and I'm sure beneficial to novice framers. Yours is the only off-topic reply in this thread. If this continues, I think you should be demoted to just a "Grumbler" for bogging down the threads.
Originally posted by aeg:
Whynot, it's not a dumb question as you suggest.
You're right. It's the dumbest one, in my humble opinion, unless Framar was right and then it's next to it. But that's OK with me and everybody else, I'm sure. Let's not argue over so little of an issue. Why don't we let it rest for now and revisit this topic a bit later, say in about two months from now?

The frame samples and catalog pictures we have don't show any lines in the gilt and this is our first time working with this type of frame. [/QUOTE]

That's exacltly my point. Soon you'll discover other frames with same guilding traits.

The replies to the question are very knowledgeable and I'm sure beneficial to novice framers. [/QUOTE]

All of us in here are hoping to learn some every day.

Yours is the only off-topic reply in this thread. If this continues, I think you should be demoted to just a "Grumbler" for bogging down the threads. [/QUOTE]

I am but a grumbler anyway, do I look like a general to you? OK, ok, I am a precocious grumbler, I must admit that much, but who's perfect nowadays? ;)
Loosen up, aeg. This is a place in which teasing has not been forbiden as yet. Nor has asking innocent questions. We are safe, aren't we?

Here's a little (true) story about gold finishes on frames and the folks who should KNOW better.

Several years ago I ordered some of those fabuluous Arquati acid-washed frames - the nice wide ones! My supplier pnoned to tell me they didn't think they had enough footage to complete my order because "the finish was all ruined!" This person went on to explain that the moulding looked all blotchy and awful and she even went so far as to check with the guys in the back room for their opinions.

Everyone agreed the moulding was ruined. Well - I was in desperate need for these frames to complete a huge order and I told them to send it anyways - I figured I could always "faux" the finish to match the samples - I am pretty good at that!

When the chops arrived - guess what - they matched my corner samples perfectly - a nice acid-washed leaf finish with hints of black and verdigris and blues.

It was obvious to me that the folks in this place had NO IDEA what the moulding they were distributing was supposed to look like!

I was very relieved however to complete my job without further problems - and I muight add that this distributor is no longer with us! LOL!
I'm thinking of changing my company's name to Free Ltd. This way I'd be able to sell you some Free samples. Any encouragements, Ron? ;)