If you’re looking for a project that will allow you to be creative, it’s often a good idea to start with something in your home. For example, you can give an old picture frame new life in a variety of ways. One of these is to give it a golden finish, adding some luxury and antique character. It’s easier than it might seem and in no time you too may know how to gold leaf like a pro.
Gilding, as the practice is better known, is an age-old art. Paper-thin sheets of metal are used to cover an object and give it a metallic, shiny finish. In the past, people used real gold that could be close to 100 percent pure. This is expensive, though, so today alternatives are often prefer. These include something called Dutch gold leaf, which looks like the real thing but consists of copper mixed with zinc.
When you’re preparing to begin gilding, first get together all the tools you might need. These include sandpaper, painter’s tape, cheesecloth, soft paintbrushes and cotton balls. You’ll also need a bit of petroleum jelly as well as sealer, base coat, gilder’s adhesive, top coat and, if you prefer, glaze. Have a smooth, flat surface such as a tile or a mirror as your work surface.
First smooth the surface you’re planning on gilding and wipe away all dust. Then apply tape to the parts you don’t want to cover. Apply a coat of sealer to porous surfaces such as wood.
Next, apply the base coat. When it’s dry, apply the sizer. This is the special adhesive to which the gold leaf will stick.
The next step is to apply the foil itself. It’s easiest to cut it into smaller pieces and let these overlap as you apply them. Remove the backing and place the pieces on the flat surface. Lightly touch a cotton ball to the petroleum jelly and then use this to pick up each piece, which will stick to the cotton ball. Be sure to cover the entire surface and use small pieces to fill in any gaps.
Use a brush and the cheesecloth to smoothen the metal over the surface. Work carefully, since the foil can crease or tear very easily. Check that the seams where pieces are overlapping don’t show. Once you’re done, apply a top coat to seal everything in and finish it off with a layer of glaze if you prefer. Let it dry, remove the painter’s tape and you’ll have a shimmering golden object.
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