Preparing Raw Wood for Gilding

Woodworks by John

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I've read the post regarding folks just using this forum without saying who, what, and where they are so let me give some background. I'm a custom furniture maker (woodworksbyjohn.com) and my wife is an artist whom I make frames for. I've been to the West Coast show in Las Vegas the past couple of years taking gilding workshops since that's where I live. I use 8/4 Basswood and create the profile my wife wants and sometimes apply compo. My question is the best way to seal the wood and get it smooth before I gild (not 23K gold, Dutch metal only). I've tried shellac but it seems rather thin. I've had success with brushing on an automotive type primer, then wet sand with 600 grit followed by an acrylic from Dick Blick which I also wet sand prior to applying the slow size for gilding. Any problems that you can see using this method?, is there a better solution? Also, as far as the compo goes is it best to lay it on raw wood or can I wait and put it directly onto the sanded primer. Any thoughts based on your experience would be appreciated. This year I'm signed up for the class by Eric Tollefson about using chemicals to create patina. Thanks for any advice or help you feel like sharing. John
 

JFeig

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The proper base for gilding is gesso. Gesso is a mixture of rabbit skin glue (RSG) water and whitting (calcium carbinate - chalk). This mixture is applied warm and then sanded smooth. If you are oil gilding, this gesso must be sealed to allow the size to lay on top vs being absorbed. Several coats of shellac is the traditional sealer.

The basic formula for RSG is:

16gm RSG (pellets - sheet - ground) this will vary according to humidity
6 oz purified water

let glue absorb water (overnight or 3-4 hours) then heat to approx 120° to allow for total mixing.


The basic formula for gesso is:

8 parts whitting
4 parts warm glue
2 parts water

blend and strain to remove any grit through a nylon stocking. Do not over agatate to create bubbles.

a prime coat of RSG over raw wood is first, then several thin coats of the gesso. DO NOT OVERBRUSH
 

Baer Charlton

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John,

Seal the bass with 1lb cut shellac and steel wool with "0000".

Lay compo. Seal with a couple of coats of rattle can shellac which is actually about 1.5lb cut, unless you have a gun.

SHOOT EVERYTHING YOU CAN

If you need gesso... 1 teaspoon of PVA, in 2 Tablespoons of water mix in about 1/4 cup of whiting. Or a creamy latex.... brush on.

This should sand easy. When all is smooth...

Rattle can red primer. Two coats, smooth with "0000".

Blow off completely. Apply size and guild.

Don't you just love it when someone speaks "knothead"? :D

The above is probably good to last into your grandkids lifetime...

If you feel the need to spend lots of time and create museum work.... refer back to Jerry's reciepe, or find the book on Divers Arts... writen in 1348..... Terry Hart or I can fax you the reciepe after you slaughter and cure the ox and rabbits....
thumbsup.gif
 

Terry Hart cpf

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I think for the type of gilding you're doing whatever works for you is fine. I would reccomend shellac as the final layer before your size though. If you are using acrylic just before the size that layer may be too soft and get kind of gummy. Get all your wood surface ready for gilding and apply compo last. Then what I would do is a lay thin layer of shellac over the compo followed by a little colorant ( acrylic or whatever you like) and then a final shellac before the size.
I do not reccomend the garlic and urine mordant.
 

Baer Charlton

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Jeez Terry, I was hoping he would try that route..... :eek:

Then we could look forward to a thread ranting about the smell strong enough to raise the dead urologist. :D
 

Lance E

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Liquitex makes an acrylic gesso also if you do not want to make it from the poor ol rabbit. I usually have a wee bit of brandy to pop with to keep the rabbit happy and lessen the probability of air bubbles. Once the gesso is on #0000 steel wool followed with a "coarse" paper towel for final smoothing before applying the seal (sometimes size directly onto the gesso).

Almost forgot... I usually apply compo directly to the timber for more "tooth" but would hit the area with #0000 steel wool first.
 

Whynot

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Perhaps there are a few age old good reasons for which compo has always been laid on gessoed wood not directly onto the raw timber.
I walked on both roads and gave up the newer one.
When quality and endurance are of no concern, compo can be pasted on most everything masonite, plywood, corrugated cardboard, glass etc.

Being a cabinet-maker is a great asset and a fine edge to have over so many other smaller frame-makers. Why would you rather go "compo ornate frame", and compete with a plethora of industrially made ornate frame producers, when nobody else except another very good woodworker would dare compete with you in wood finishes and rare/exotic wood frame making? John, are you for real? When you can supply expensive, high quality hand made wood frames to a small but unsaturated market, you choose to make cheap, compo ornate, glittering frames and address a huge, very densely populated market instead? Perhaps Vegas with its vulgar taste is to be blamed in your case.

Oh, and drop the ****ing automotive type primer. That makes you look like a schmuck and your frame like a piece of Salvation Army panoply. Use gesso to prime the wood if of low quality or you want to gild it. Try to design your frames around your strengths and play with wood's shapes, grains, colors and finishes. Leave compo to carved wood imitators and to Chinese molding makers. Take my advice and you'll be happy I gave it to you.

[ 01-17-2006, 08:39 PM: Message edited by: Whynot ]
 

Woodworks by John

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Whew, first off thanks for all of your replies to date. Seems like I opened a can of worms and also some rivaleries among you!! WhyNot, the reason I'm doing the gold without a lot of carving is because that's what my wife and her gallery prefer (dianeeugster.net). I prefer the wood grain and texture but alas, must do what the public and she desires. I do agree with you about the vulgarness of Las Vegas and that's why we plan to relocate after I retire from 30+ years of teaching (18 quarters, but who's counting!!) Her work doesn't call for a lot of ornate carving and my market is mainly for her. Anyway, it does seem as if I'm on the right track and will stick to the gesso and shellac. If there is anything else you'd like to add, besides the ox urine, pig blood, newts eyeball, I'd appreciate it. John
 

Whynot

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Oil gilding with schlagmetal (metal leaf / imitation gold leaf) is no big secret. Just keep in mind that reflective surfaces would betray any possible imperfection. If you want to get some unblemished gilded surfaces you really need to putty, gesso and sand paper like a pro, then seal the surface and steal wool it (after fully dried) before cleaning and sizing it .
Any good art material store would sell you Rolco Gold Size (or any other brand name). This is a particular varnish that will allow for your foil to stick to the surface when uniformly brushed, in a very thin coat, onto the sealed surface. It comes as quick size or slow size. The first will cure within half an hour while the last will take 8-12 hours to do so. Go with quick size when you have small areas to gild. When the object to be gilded is large, you’d be happy there is available such thing like slow size, but one needs to provide for dust protection especially when working with slow size (you'll be amazed at how much dust any sized surface is likely to catch overnight). Don't try to use quick size for larger objects because the size will dry out before you can finish the job, and working in stages would leave conspicuous seams between adjacent areas that will persist and haunt you.
Beginners tend to lay down the metal leaf when surface is still somewhat tacky, which is wrong for the size beneath will stay gummy, scratchy and surface will look forever dull. That’s because, unlike genuine gold leaf, metal leaf is not permeable and the undercoat can't fully cure beneath. Enduring, bright and vivant metal leaf gilding is about laying and well pressing metal leaf in place when the size is almost dried and no longer obviously tacky to the touch.
If broken leaf looks objectionable to you, use a second leaf on top of the first one and press that “sandwich” hard onto the surface to be gilded. Later patching is less effective if any because those opened areas will soon be getting dried, greasy or/and dirty beyond repair. Resizing and patching on spots would always show up like raised areas of different texture and brightness. However, good finishers would make use of small size broken leaf spots which may pass for distressed areas and lovely patina.
Ultimately, “practice makes perfect” can’t be less relevant in gilding than it is in any other case. Good luck.
 
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