Gilding process


We will now proceed in earnest to the serious work of gilding a picture frame.

1.-Commence by weighing out one ounce and a half of glue or gelatine. Put this into a cup and pour over it eight ounces of water by measurement. This of course vou will do with the aid of your graduuated glass mesure. Let the glue soak for several hours, and then set the cup in a pan of water and expose it to heat until the glue becomes perfectly fluid and completely melted. A teaspoonful of carbolic acid must now be stirred into it and , thoroughly inncorporated with it. The acid will preserve it, as already stated, from decomposition, and most effectually so and for any length of time. This glue should be strained before being used. Whenever a portion of it will be required for the preparations herein, described, it is well to take out as much only as may be wanted for use, leaving the balance untouched; as by so doing its purity can be relied upon, and besides, the oftener glue is melted the weaker it becomes.

2.-Lay down the frame which is to be gilded, back up, and, with a pencil, mark a line across the sections, if there be any, so as to be enabled to return them to their correct positions when ready to do so. Next, draw out tbe nails which fasten the sections togetber, and then take them apart. Now turn the sections face up and proceed to fill up any nail-holes about tbe corners, where tbe sides have been joined together, as well as all imperfections wbich may be found to exist. There are often fractures and indentations to be found, and these must be carefully repaired and the frame, or its several parts, made as perfect as can be. The joining at the corner must be filled up and made to appear solid.

3.-The preparation with wbich all this is to be done is made as follows: Mix some of the Paris white with just sufficient water to moisten it thoroughly, and then add enough of the glue which bas been described, and which has been melted for tbe purpose, to make the mixture into a thick paste. The Paris white might be mixed at once with the glue, but it does not seem to combine so well as when it has been previously moistened with water. It will be too lumpy and full of undissolved particles, unless mixed with tbe fingers; which operation would be generally objectionable. The paste should be just thick enough not to run.

4.-Now proceed to fill up the nail-holes, corner joint and all other visible imperfections with this mixture; either by applying it with a small bristle brush and laying on a sufficient quantity, until the required places are fully stopped up, and, when perrfectly dry, sand-papering them down smooth and uniform, or by applying it like putty, with the fingers. The latter method is not recommended, as it requires a peculiar facility in the management, which can only be acquired by considerable practice, and besides, it does not give as good results.

5.-After smoothing down the fillings-up, the flats and hollows of the frame should be gone over first with number 0 sand-paper, and afterwards with a moistened rag, and be rubbed perfectly smooth and even and until the surface appears polished.

6.-The frame will now be ready for the white coat, which must be prepared in the following mannner and then applied to the composition parts only: Soak some of the pipe clay in water, barely enough of the latter to moisten the clay thoroughly, and then add enough of the glue, already prepared and in so hot a state as to render it of the consistency of thin cream; and add also a teaspoonful of the ox-gall, to prevent pin-holes forming and to keep it from frothing. A little practice will be required to determine invariably the requisite consistency, but the above directions will give a satisfactory result. The object of these two preliminary white coats is to kill any grease which may still adhere to the moulding, and which would otherwise prevent the proper drying of the oil-size. They also serve to give a soft and smooth appearance to these parts. The mixture as described must be applied warm, with a bristle brush (number 4 will do for the purpose), to all the compoosition parts of the frame. Apply this mixture sparingly, but sufficiently to cover the parts completely, and be careful to avoid bubbles while applying it. When the first coat is perfectly dry, apply the second.

7.- When the last white coat is perfectly dry, two coats of clear size should be applied all over these portions which are to receive a coat of oil-size. Even where a portion of the composition is to be burnished, (which process is done in water,) it is better to go all over these parts with the clear size; but the hollows and flats which should be burnished must not be touched, if it be possible to avoid doing so.

8.-The clear size is prepared as follows: Take one part of the melted glue, as already prepared, and mix it with two parts of water, adding a little of the, ox-gall for the purpose already mentioned, and apply this mixture hot, when required, using a bristle brush for the purpose.

9.-The next step will be to prepare, for the purpose those portions of the frame which reqnire to be burnished. They must be coated with from three to four coats of burnish-size. Those portions of the composition work which are to be burnished should have one or two preliminary coats of Paris White, applied rather thicker than the white coats of pipe clay; and these coats of Paris white are prepared in the same manner as are those of pipe clay. These coats, of course, must only be applied after the portions of the moulding which are to be burnished have been filled up and smoothed down. The filling up is done with thick whiting, and the smoothing down is to be done with a wet rag.

10.-Many gilders use, as a primary coating for the burnish-size, a preparation which is called yellow clay. This yellow clay is supplied by dealers, and is to be mixed in just the same way that the burnish-size is. It gives a more elastic bed for the burnishing process; but the same result may be had by giving an extra coat or two of the burnish-size. I do not recommend its use, particularly for beginners. It only serves to complicate a proceS8 that is already complicated enough.

11.-The burnish-size, as it is supplied by the dealers, is not in a condition to be at once used, but must be prepared for that purpose in the following manner: Take some of the crude burnish-size and mix it in a cup with water, add but little water at a time, and mix thoroughly, until the mixture barely drips from the spoon with which it is being mixed. Now add a teaspoonful or two of the hot glue already prepared. On stirring this up, the mass becomes very thick. Continue to add cautiously more glue until the whole begins to thin down, which it will do almost immediately. Perfect success in the burnish work depends almost entirely upon the proper mixing of the burnish-size. The various stages of the process must be invariably observed, just as they have been here described. If the operator exercises ordinary care only, he will rarely make a failure; though sometimes failure will occur, in spite of all precaution. This lot of burnish-size may be treated also as a stock to be used from as required. Owing to the carbolic acid which has been mixed with the glue, it will keep from decomposition an indefinite length of time. Without that antiseptic quality imparted to it it would spoil in a few days. As now mixed, it will be found rather hard for the final coat or two, and it must be thinned down with thinner glue, or simply with water, for these coats; but for the first two coats it will be about right, and it must be made thin enough to lay smoothly and evenly on the flats and hollows without clogging the brush. When applied to the ornamental parts, it may be applied thicker. This burnish-size must be strained through the strainer. These strainers are procured from the dealers in gilding materials. Of course, the size will not run through the strainer, but it must be worked through by means of a bristle brush. It may as well be said here that all preparations should be strained, so as to avoid any particles of sediment which may be in the materials.

12.-Two or three coats of this prepared burnish-size must now be applied to those parts which are to be burnished, using a round camel’s hair brush for the purpose. These coats must be laid on very smoothly and uniformly. The first coat will go on rather crudely, owing to the absorption of the size by the under surface i but the succeeding coats go on more freely. The size should be applied warm, not hot, and the brush used for the purpose should be stirred up frequently, so as to separate the hairs and allow it to work freely. The surplus quantity must be reemoved from the brush by drawimg it across the sides of the cup. The two final coats should be applied in the same manner, but the size used must not be so strong with glue. When the final coat is dry, it will then be ready for the application of the gold leaf.

13.-The burnishing of a frame is generally done before the oil gilding. The application of the gold leaf is made in the following manner: With the graduated glass measure, mix one part of alcohol with three parts of water. This solution, which is called gin-water *, is the medium by which the gold leaf is applied and affixed to those parts which have been coated with the burnish-size. Lay the frame in a convenient position to work upon it, and have the gilding cushion, the knife, the tips and the gold leaf conveniently placed for use. The customary way of proceeding is to blow from the book on to the cushion as many leaves as it may be convenient to use. Some expertness is required to perform this operation successfully, and I believe that the time required to obtain this expertness is employed to better advantage in removing from the book, with the aid of the knife, cut one leaf at a time, when it is required to cut one into a number of pieces or to cut the leaf as it lays in the book, either with the thumb-nail or with the knife. Of course, this will be a matter of choice with the gilder, as to how he will proceed and he will be altogether governed by the greater facility with which he can work with either method. When the leaf has been cut into the required size for use, lift, by means of the tip, first drawn across the hair or the head, a piece of the gold leaf, and, after wetting thoroughly with the gin-water the portion where it is to be laid, using a camel’s hair brush for the purpose, apply the gold quickly! There seems to be in the gold an occult attraction towards the gin-water for the leaf is at once drawn to it, and care must be exercised to have the leaf appplied at once as nearly right as possible, for where it goes, there it must remain. It must not be touched until dry although a cyclopredia informs us that the leaf must be pressed down with a camel’s hair brush. Such a proceeding would result in anything but a nice state of affairs, as anyone will find who might make the experiment.

14.-Never retoucb tbe gold until dry. If the leaf cracks on going on, which it will do in inexperienced hands, do not mind it, but proceed to lay the gold where required. On moistening with the gin-water, be carerul not to touch gold already laid, but wet close up to and adjoining it, and let the next piece of leaf lay or lap a little over the first. The moisture runs from the one into the other and makes the junction, when dry, complete.

15.- When the lay is completed and dry, proceed to patch up any cracks and imperfections. This is done by using the num ber 6 or 8 lettering pencil, and with its long and flexible point, filled with sufficient of the gin-water, wetting the cracks and imperfections one by one and applying pieces or the gold leaf of the reo quired 8izes to cover them up completely. These pieces at once adhere to and join the lay perfectly, and, when they come to be burnished over, never show in the least where they have been applied, unless the burnish-size is too harsh and hard. In this case, the double layer of gold is brought out.

16.-In about an hour or so, for the flats and hollows, and rather longer for those places where the moisture settles and collects, and consequently remains longer, the lay will be ready to be burnished. The burnisher should be held at an angle, not too perpendicularly, and applied to the gold, finishing as you go along, and burnishing only a small piece at a time. Burnish right over the leaf, just as it has been laid. without brushing off the loose gold leaf.

17.-Burnish over the loose and the firm gold together. Sometimes, and most generally, there will be imperfections in the burnishing when first completed. These may arise from imperfect adhesion of the leaf, or from the leaf rubbing off when the burnish-size has been made too strong with glue, and so the surface has become harsh and hard. These imperfect places may be repaired by simply rubbing them with a wet rag to remove any leaf still adhering, and, when dry, going over them vith a thin coat or two of burnish-size and relaying them with gold; but using the least moisture possible, or otherwise a stain will appear around the edges where the moisture has settled. Of course, such places must be reburnished. No moisture should ever be allowed to get on the leaf where another piece of gold leaf is not at once affixed as otherwise a stain will be made which will mar the uniform purity of the burnish.

18.-Sometimes the surface will chip under the burnisher, particularly about an edge or corner, when too much pressure is applied. This may arise from seveeral causes, but most generally does from the fact that the first and second coats of size have not been of the proper strength, and consequently have a tendency to crumble when the burnisher is applied with more than ordinary force.

19.-In very warm weather, gilders are in the habit of putting a piece of ice in the gin-water. The object of this is not particularly clear. It is claimed for it , however, that it causes the gin.water to lay better on the surface of the burnish-size. If a chip should occur in a prominent flat, there is no remedy but to wash off the gold leaf with a wet rag, and down to the hard finish, and to re-do the side entirely over. When not too prominent fill up the chipped place with Paris white, and when dry, scrape smooth with a penkife, and after giving two or three coats of burnish-size, re-lay the gold alid reeburnish. Be careful, when burnishing edges and corners, to bear as lightly as possible with the burnisher, in order to avoid chipping.

20.-Marks in the burnish sometimes appear which seem to be stains, and which branch off in many ways. Such defects are most probably caused by the gin-water being too strong.

21.- The next step will be to apply the oil gold-size to these parts which have been left bare of gold and which have been thoroughly sized with the clear size. It is customary to previously go over with clear size these places which have been toucbed with burnish-size and which have Dot received any coating of gold, otherwise the oil-size would he absorbed and would leave no tacky surface to which the gold leaf would adhere. Sufficient of the gold-size should be taken from the can containing it, after first stirring the gold-size up thoroughly, so as to mix it completely with the oil which generally settles on top of it. A piece of tin or glass is the best thing to work from, and the bristle brush with which the size is to be applied should be well rubbed on it from time to time, to distribute the size thoroughly through the brush. The size must be applied thoroughly to the frame, not too freely, so as to run and settle in hollows, but just enough to cover the surface with a complete coatting. Be particular to work the size into all corners and crevices. The brush should not at any time be overcharged with the size. If the size is not evenly distributed over the frame, those places where it settles will simply coat over with a film, leaving the size underneath still fluid, and when the gold comes to be rubbed in with the blender, the film will quickly rub off, and the gold leaf will consequently not addhere. If any of the oil-size has got upon the burnished parts, which in spite of all care will occur at times,it must be rubbed off with a chamois-skin and if such places are still dingy after the oil gilding, they will admit of considerable polishing with the chamois.

22.-The coat of oil-size must now be allowed to dry. The time required for this purpose depends alt~ether upon the drying quality of the size. It is gederally made to dry in about ten hours and to retain its tacky surface for several days. It is well to allow it to stand for, at least, from twenty to twenty-fonr hours; particularly in the winter time, as the more thoroughly dry it is, the brighter will the gilding appear when completed. When this coating of oil-size has dried sufficiently, it will be ready to have the leaf applied. The leaf, as it is applied, is pressed down gently with a pad of cotton batting. When the frame has been completely covered, take a soft fitch blender and with it distribute the gold thoroughly into corners and depressions. Be careful not to rub too hard, or the gold will be either rubbed off or assume a greasy appearance. If this be all properly done, the gold will have almost as bright and polished an appearance as if it had been burnished.

23.-After dusting the frame well, to remove as much of. the dust and particles of leaf as possible, proceed to give these portions only of the frame which have been gilded in oil a coat of finishing-size, which is prepared in the following manner: Take one part of the melted gelatine or glue, as already prepared, and add to it four parts of water. Now, with a camel’s hair brush, apply this finishing size, hot, or nearly so, very sparingly, but very thoroughly. This finishing size may be colored, if desired, so as to deeppen the shade of gold; using for that purpose, dragon’s blood, gum gamboge or aniline yellow. Only one coat of this size should be applied. This finishinggsize serves to give a uniform appearance to the gold, slightly matting the metallic lustre of it, and having the effect also to absorb and remove the loose goldddust and particles still remaining. It also protects the surface from becoming dingy lrom smoke or other impurities which frequently prevail in rooms.

24.-If it should be desired to render the appearrance of the gold still duller or more matted, a very thin coat of the ormolu, which is hereinafter described, should be applied instead of the finishing-size. The more matted the appearance of the surrounding gold, the brighter and more lustrous will be the burnished part. This is altogether a matter of taste and fashion, sometimes a preference for one effect and sometimes for another, prevailing with the public.

25.-Before the application of the finishing size, any imperfectly covered places must be regilded, using for a size the Japan gold size. This size sets in about an hour, and for that reason is preferable to the ordinary oil-size. The places to be regilt should be first gone over with shellac varnish. Whenever gold is to be regilt, it must be gone over with shellac, as otherwise it will have a greasy appearance.

26.-Old frames that are to be regilt, should be first washed clean and free from dirt, and then be given a coat of shellac before the oil-size is applied. ~here any burnish has been, it must, of course, be wadhed off before the reburnishing can be done. Some gilders use shellac varnish in place of the clear size, to size the frame for the oil gilding. It works well enough on the composition parts, but on the flats and hollows it dries so rapidly that it leaves ridges and inequalities to such an extent that the smoothness of the work is spoiled. For quick work, however, and by using the shellaevery sparingly and giving two coats of it, very good results are to be had.

27.-Flats are generally matted. Occupying, as they do, a prominent and conspicuous position, being next to the picture which is to occupy the frame, they reequire to be very perfectly done, and they are therefore done in water-gilt, and subsequently matted with a coat and sometimes with two of ormolu. The flat to be matted is proceeded with as follows: After all imperfections have been removed, it must be rubbed smooth with very fine sand paper and polished with a moist rag. Three coats of burnish-size are then applied very evenly and smoothly to it, avoiding all marks of the brush where possible; or two coats of yellow clay, prepared in the same manner as the burnish-size, and afterwards two coats of burnish-size, are given. When the final coat IS sufficiently dry, the flat must be polished with a piece of coarse paper, or it may even be burnished, when time is no object. It the inside edge should be intended to be burnished after being laid in gold, that part must not be polished, nor receive tbe coat of very thin glue water, which is to be applied after the polishing process to all that part which is to be matted. This coat of glue water must be applied very evenly and freely to the flat, avoiding bubbles if possible When dry, the flat is all laid in gold in the same manner proceeded with when laying the gold for the burnish work.

28.-The best plan to lay a perfect flat is to double-gild it, which consists in simply laying on anotber coat of gold after the first bas dried. The first coat when dry, as well as the second, must be rubbed smooth with a wad of cottou batting. Care must be exercised during this process, in order to avoid, as, much as possible, disturbing the lay. To lay a second coat over the first, the gin-water must be washed over at once, so as to avoid washing up the gold leaf.

29.-After the gold has been rubbed smooth with the cotton, a coat of ormolu must be applied to the unnburnished part, to impart to it the matted appearance required. The ormolu should be applied warm and by means of a camel’s hair brush, and tbe application must be very nicely and carefully done.

30.-The following is tbe manner in which the ormolu is prepared: Take a teaspoonful of either the tincture of gum bennzoin or of white shellac varnish, and mix it in a cup with about twice or three times its bulk of the highest proof alcohol. Now have ready a hot solution of glue or of gelatine, of about the same strength as that of the finishing size. The quantity should be about oneehalf a teacupful This must be poured quickly and aU at once into the solution the gum benzoin or of shellac, and the result will be a perfect emulsion of the gum, which will be of a milky white appearance. This, of course, should be strained, and is to be appplied as already described. If the first coat should appear spotty and streaky, a second one will be necesssary. In applying either the finishing size or the ormolu, it is well to have a lump of alum convenient, to which, from time to time, the brush may be appplied. This will, in the case of either, cause it to go on in a hetter manner and to lay more evenly. The ormolu, as prepared by the above method, will keep for any length of time. It may also be slightly colored, if it be desired to give the gold a deeper tinge.

31.-The frame will now be about finished, as far as the gilding is concerned. The sections must now be returned to their respective places and securely nailed together. The outside edge of the frame, if it has been burnnished, will require no further preparation, but if it has been gilded in oil, or if it has simply been laid in water, it should have a coat of white spirit varnish applied with a camel’s hair brush. This coating of varnish will render the layer of leaf sufficiently hard to be handled without injury to it.

32.- When the edge has not been gilded at all, it is the practice to give it two coats of yellow ochre, mixed about as strong as those of the pipe clay and applied with a bristle brush. The yellow ochre should be strained before being applied.

33.-Before anything has been done to the frame, and after the sections have been taken apart, it is well to protect the outside corners with pieces of wood securely fastened to the back. This will prevent them~ from being injured while being gilded. Gilders generally suspend a frame when not being worked upon, to some projection, to keep it out of the way of injury; but, with the corners protected, it may be stood anywhere with safety.

34.-In the foregoing description of the process of gilding, the burnished part has been described as being done before the oil gilding. The oil gilding may, however, be done first and the burnishing afterwards. This manner of proceeding is generally practiced in Europe, but not so much in this country. However, when much burnishing is to be done, this method is recommended. All those parts of the frame which are to be oil gilded must be coated with the oil gold-size; and wherever this size has got upon places to be burnished, it must be scrupulously wiped off. Then, after the size has set and before it has been gilded, all these parts which are to be burnished must be gone over with a coat or two of pipe clay, to which has been added an extra quantity of ox-gall, in order to cause these coats to lay perfectly over any spots which the oil-size may have touched. Then apply the burnish-size, as previously described. When burnishing, be very careful not to touch with the burnisher those parts which have been oil gilded, and do not burnish too close to them.

35.-Sanded work is used very much in combination with composition on picture-frames. The sand,or crushed quartz, is made to adhere by means of glue. . Such sanded work must have a very thorough coating of Paris white before being gilded. 36.-Plain wood, where the grain is to be shown aferbeing gilt, must be well treated with shellac beefore having the size applied

Editor’s note: A previous owner changed this to five parts of water.