Gilding Equipment


The materials needed for gilding are varied but they are readily available from craft shops due to the increasing popularity of this time honoured decorative technique.

Bronze, aluminum and silver powders: these can be mixed with varnish or blown or brushed on to size. They can be used to color design work, or on small objects with fine detail.

Gesso: this fine chalk powder is the key ingredient of gesso solution. White or colored ready made acrylic gesso is also now available.

Gold leaf: gold leaf is available as loose or transfer leaf. Both types come in books of 25 leaves. Gold leaf is available in many tones, weights and thicknesses and is classed in carats.

Gold and silver paints: these are made in the same way as liquid leaf but from cheaper materials. They are useful for decorative painting.

Liquid leaf: this mixture of metallic powder and deep red primer can be used to cover a wide variety of surfaces. It comes in many shades.

Methylated spirit (paint thinner): this spirit is used to clean brushes after using polishes and some oil based primers. It is also used to dilute gilding water and for distressing gilded surfaces.

Oil paints: there are many different types of oil paints. The more expensive they are the more intense and fast the colors.

Rabbit skin glue: this comes in granule form and constitutes part of the mix for gesso and gilding water.

Red oxide metal primer: this primer is the ideal base coat for metal before applying paint or substitute leaf. It prevents rust and allows paint to take to the surface.

Dutch metal leaf: this looks like gold leaf but is much cheaper and is made from a copper and zinc ahoy. It is available in 15 cm/6 in square sheets.

Shellac and polishes: this is used to seal and protect gold but be aware that they will affect the color.

Silver, copper and aluminium leaf: 15 cm/6 in square. Buy in hooks of25 to 500 loose or transfer leaves.

Spray paints: oil and water based, these come in a vast range of colors including tones of gold, silver and metallic copper.

Talc: used in a pounce hag to make sure that the area is clean and that the leaf will adhere only to the sized areas. Water-based size: a fast size that sets tacky after 15 to20 minutes. It can be used for oil gilding and with bronze powders and substitute leaf.

Waxes: clear and colored waxes are available and are used as sealants or to protect gilded objects. Use colored waxes to subtly change the tone of a gilded object.

Some of the equipment needed for gilding is specialized but once you have bought them, they will last for a long time provided they are looked after properly.

Agate burnishers: these are made from a small piece of agate mounted in brass on a wooden handle and are available in various sizes and shapes.

Bain marie (double boiler): used for melting beeswax pellets, ready made gessos and sizes. You could improvise your own by placing a saucepan over another one containing plenty of boiling water.

Brushes: different brushes are needed for different purposes. Before you start a project, ensure you have the following: badger brushes for softening glazes and varnishes; bristle and decorator’s brushes in varying widths for applying paints and varnishes; gilder’s tips to pick up real gold leaf before applying it to a surface; sable brushes for detailed painting, and stippling brushes for taking dust off glazes.

Cloths: cotton rags are the best type of cloths for use in gilding and producing other decorative finishes. Small cotton dusters are ideal for gently burnishing delicate surfaces.

Cotton balls: use these for pressing real gold leaf into place and for small cleaning jobs.

Gilder’s knife: used to cut loose-leaf.

Gilder’s pad: a soft pad surrounded by a screen of parchment or a similar paper screen to shield delicate gold leaf from drafts.

Gloves: use disposable gloves for smaller decorative gilding jobs.

Glues: epoxy resin glue, rubber based glue and white glue are all useful in decorative work.

Mask: always wear a face mask when working with bronze powders, sprays and some oil based glazes.

Measuring tools, pens and pencils: these are necessary for positioning and measuring when stenciling and doing decorative painting.

Natural sponge: used to produce a variety of decorative finishes.

Paint kettles: available in metal or plastic for mixing paints and glazes. Oil-based paints and glazes should not be stored in plastic.

Sandpaper: comes in different grades for smoothing as well as producing an adhesive key for finishes. Wet and dry sandpaper is the best type for use on furniture and other items to be gilded.

Scalpels and craft knives: collect various types for decorative work.

Stencil card: this specialist card made from manila and coated in boiled oil is used for making your own stencils.

Wire (steel) wool: comes in different grades for smoothing and providing a key for finishes. It is also used for distressing gilded surfaces.