How To Handle Gold Leaf.
Imitation gold leaf is considerably thicker than 23 carat
gold leaf, which is so thin it is semi transparent, this makes a great deal difference when it comes to
handling the leaf. But the principles are pretty much the same whether you use imitation
gold leaf or genuine gold leaf, the techniques and tools and equipment are the same.
You do not need a lot of
equipment to be able to gild successfully, but learning how to handle gold leaf can be a problem for the
A gilding cushion and
a gilding knife, are the only major items, the other materials,
Vaseline, cotton wool, pumice powder and the imitation gold leaf itself are economically
One hint, if you can find a
straight edged cutlery knife from the 1950's you will have found a very good potential gilding
To apply gold leaf you must
first learn how to handle it. I have provided here a step by step illustrated method which follows. This subject is
also covered in detail in my manual How to Achieve Antique & Other
Distressed Finishes to Imitation gold Leaf
Scoop out about half a
teaspoon of pumice powder with your gilders knife and put it on the cushion. It is vital that your cushion is
free from any traces of grease and the pumice acts to degrease the cushion
The gilding knife
should not have an extremely sharp edge or it will cut into the leather of the cushion, rather it should be
slightly rough. Using the gilders knife spread the powder over the surface of the cushion, use the edge of the
knife, not the flat blade, and gently scrape the powder back and forth so that it covers the entire cushion.
This will remove any traces of grease from the cushion.
Wipe the blade on the cushion to remove the powder from the knife, then
brush of the surplus powder from the cushion again with your gilders knife. Take some care that you remove
traces of pumice powder from your knife by wiping the knife on the cushion.
Open your book
of leaf and insert the blade under one of the leaves of gold.
Some gilders learn how
to gild using a shield around the cushion to prevent drafts from blowing the leaf around; I prefer to have a
space where no drafts can get in. I suggest strongly that you put the cat out when gilding, they can be far
Gently lift the leaf of gold over to your gilders
cushion and lay the leaf out as flat as you can, practice will make you perfect at this.
If the leaf does not lie down perfectly flat, you can
gently blow down onto to the surface of the leaf; your breath should flatten out any irregularities.
I would say that this is flat enough for you to work with. What we do next will depend on what we are gilding; I
am preparing to apply gold leaf to the edge of a picture frame so I need small pieces of leaf to work
If you are
going to gild a large flat surface you may decide not to cut the leaf into smaller pieces, generally I have
found that when you apply gold leaf, smaller pieces are easier to handle, but were
I about to
gild a large flat surface I might cut the leaf into four to work with or even work with single
piece of work I am going to apply gold leaf to the edges of a frame so
I am cutting up the leaf into smaller pieces, this frame is simple for the purposes of illustration but of
course if you are dealing with a complicated surface smaller pieces will help you anyway. Gently draw your knife
through the leaf exerting a moderate pressure while doing so, if the edge of your knife is sharpened correctly
one cut should be enough to cut the leaf.
Here you can see all
the separate pieces of leaf cut up and ready to use.
Next put a dab of Vaseline on the back of your hand a smear it over your
hand in a circular motion to distribute the grease all over the back of your hand, we do not want blobs of
grease left, rather a thin film should be distributed over surface.
Get a small pad of cotton wool and press it lightly onto the back of your
hand which has the grease on.
With the lightly
greased pad of cotton wool you will find that you can now easily pick up the pieces of
There are other ways to handle imitation gold leaf, but this is easy and
If you have greasy skin you may find that rubbing the cotton wool pad
down the side of your nose will pick up enough grease for you to pick up the pieces of gold leaf. All this did
for me was to give me a sore nose, but I have seen it work with some people, I just mention it in
OK, I spent some time illustrating how to handle gold leaf because it
is important to be able to do it properly. The rest of the process's are simpler by comparison. Next let's
have a look at the adhesives used in gilding.