Saturday, August 11, 2012

Gilding & Carving Tutorial

      At this years West Coast Framing show held at the Mirage here in Las Vegas I met several people in a class I took that were interested in a tutorial for Dutch metal or composition gold gilding.  Since the art market, along with almost every other one!, has changed and Diane's focus is no longer on painting I haven't gilded for a while -- until now that is so that I can have Ali's inspiration on some boxes I'm preparing for my upcoming box show.  Here's the final result:

Final Result
     The first step to this process was to create a pattern using Ali's picture.  Since I'm making a series of these and want to keep them somewhat consistent I decided to make a pattern.

     The pattern was made on 1/4" MDF and then attached to the Basswood that will become the lid.  Use two sided tape to do this.  Next was using a plunge router with a 3/16" bit to outline the profile.  You could just as easily use a V-chisel to carve this free hand but since I'm making multiples, like I said, decided the pattern was the best bet.  This is that result, I couldn't find a V-bit small enough so used a straight one instead.  A V-bit would have left a nice, tapered edge but by using a V-Chisel before removing the sides it worked just as well

Next came the chisel work.  I began cutting away from the pattern to the outside of the board using a #5/20mm gouge.  To prevent an accidental slip I prefer to work out from the pattern first if the grain of the wood will allow.

     After getting the bulk of the material out with the large, I switched over to a #3/10mm fishtail gouge. It's important to note that the blank is larger than needed so any tear out the occurs at the edges will be removed when the lid is cut to size.

     Now it's just a matter of refining the shape to suit your taste.  I want it to be recognizable as a cat but not be so detailed that it becomes too time consuming. One of the final steps to the carving process is to get rid of the "whiskers" along the edge of the carving.  Basswood tends to do that and I've found that a small, brass bristled brush works great to remove them.  You can pick them up at any hardware store, usually in the plumbing department.

     Here's the completed carving with the tools I used.  From the left there is a #6 V-chisel, then a #3/10mm fishtail gouge, a #8/8mm gouge, the brass bristled brush, and the #5/20 gouge.  Once I was satisfied with the carving the lid was lightly sanded with some 180 grit paper and cut to fit its' box.  The only thing left to do is cut a rabbet around the lower edge to fit into the box.  Then we're ready to do the gilding.
     The first step is to prepare the wood for the oil size.  It may be my age but I prefer oil based adhesives and finishes over water based ones so that's what I'm experienced in.  The first step is to seal the wood so that when the size is applied it won't soak into the wood -- you want the size to leave a film that completely covers the surface.  No film = no gold leaf!  Your best bet is to use Rolco Burnisher/Sealer but in a pinch you can use a spray can finish.  Krylon and Rustoleum have a primer that is sometimes referred to as Damp Proof Red Primer.  The advantage to spraying is that it's easy and doesn't require cleaning a brush.  The advantage of the Burnisher/Sealer is that it's a thicker material that contains clay. It won't penetrate into the surface of the wood as much as a spray will.  I was in a pinch and used the spray can this time and built up at least 5 coats.
     Irregardless of what you use, let it dry thoroughly before going on to the next phase.  You need to burnish the surface before you gild.  This can be done with 4/0 steel wool (I prefer Liberon oil free) and you'll see the surface get shiny.  Keep in mind that even with oil gilding it's your surface preparation that gives you the shine. The best way to clean any residue off is with compressed air.
     Now you're ready to brush on a very thin, uniform coat of oil size.  Follow the directions on the can but most have an open time of 1 to 3 hours.  For small scale work quick size is fine but when I do a frame I prefer slow set size which requires about 12 hours  before it's ready to work.

Applying the Size, Can you see the Burnished Effect?

     How do you know when the size is ready for laying the leaf?  I've heard this referred to as The Knuckle Test.

Knuckle Test

     After an hour or so, use your as shown knuckle above.  If the size isn't sufficiently dry you'll stick to it and leave a mark.  If, on the other hand, you do this and hear a squeak like sound the size is ready.  Pretty hard to describe but in grade school wasn't there at least one obnoxious kid who ran his thumb over the desk top and it sounded like something else!!  Well, my teacher said I was obnoxious when I did it.  Okay, ready to lay some gold.

     I've made what I call my leaf layer.  Here's what it looks like:

Leaf Layer

     It's a piece of 1/4" MDF which is very smooth.  Slightly larger than a piece of Dutch gold with the edges rounded over and then waxed.  The half round cut out at the top allows you to hold it easier,  Generally my thumb is on top and my tigers support the rest.  Similar to an artist's palette. Dutch gold, composition metal, schlag metal, is all the same.  The biggest difference with it over the water gilding method using precious gold leaf is that you can handle this with your fingers and it won't fall apart.  I start by laying a sheet of the gold on the leaf layer:

Beginning the Lay
     Go towards the outside edge and allow the leaf to extend off the layer. Use your fingers to gently tamp the leaf to the board or frame and now it becomes a dance.  You need to slowly pull back with your leaf layer allowing the leaf to settle upon the surface.  At the same time, smooth the leaf over the surface from side to side. If you pull back too quickly you'll tear the leaf; too slow and it'll bunch up and wrinkle.  I can lay full sheets but it's probably wiser to start with partial sheets until you get the hang of it.  Here I'm beginning the second piece, it's only a partial sheet:

Second Piece

     No matter how slowly you go you're bound to have faults or tears in the leaf.  This is especially true where you have edges like around the profile here:

Faulting or Tears in the Leaf

     Keep in mind that there is still size in those faulted areas, you can just take a small piece of leaf and tamp it down to cover them:


     When you've patched all you can, it's time to press the leaf firmly into the size.  I start out with my fingers and then end the process with a micro fiber cloth which also helps to remove any doubled up leaf or skewings.  Since this isn't real gold it needs to be sealed but before you do that let it dry overnight.  To take off some of that garishness that composition gold has the first step would be to lightly burnish the surface with 4/0 steel wool.  Be sure to get rid of any residue from that, especially if you use water based sealers or toners -- the steel wool will rust.
     I generally use shellac as a sealer because it's compatible with most anything.  You can pad or brush it on or; if you have it, use an air brush.  That's what I like to do because it eliminates any brush marks or puddling.
     Well, this ended up being quite lengthy and if you were able to see your way through it I hope it was beneficial.  You can get copper, aluminum, and even variegated leaf from suppliers like Sepp Leaf, Dick Blick, etc.  Let me know how this worked out for you.

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