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  • Writer's pictureDrew

Aiming for the Gold Standard (round 1)

I decided that I wanted to try a few different techniques for my gold sign, the first being water gilding which gives a nice mirror like finish to the gold, and the second is oil gilding which gives more of a matt finish.

To incorporate both styles, I decided to attempt what is known as the Boston Style which involves having lettering outlined in black, with an inner line of water gilded 23ct gold, and an internal oil gild which I will do in 18ct lemon gold.

Gold leaf is an extremely delicate material to handle, especially when it comes in the loose leaf form. The slightest breeze or breath can cause the leaf to fly away or bunch up. I bought myself a gilders cushion which works as a pad for preparing the gold, and comes with a small wind break to prevent drafts. I also bought a gilders knife which has a straight blade with a smooth edge. With a little practice the gold becomes easier to work with, but it is still tricky. I started by laying the leaf flat on the cushion and cutting the gold into strips to gild, but later decided to lay the leaves as whole pieces as it was much less fiddly.

When the gold leaf has been laid out and cut to size, a gilders tip is used to pick up the gold and transfer it to the surface to be gilded (I have written a glossary for gilding which can be found here). Water gilding relies on the surface being prepared with a mixture of deionised water and gelatine, which acts as an adhesive. When the gold is applied, it will have wrinkles in the surface, but as the water on the glass runs down and dries it pulls the gold flat against the glass using the capillary effect (it's amazing to watch). The process is repeated time and again until all the parts on the glass that need gold have been covered.

I wasn't sure on the correct drying times for the gold, so I decided to leave it overnight. I fully expect to have to go in again and cover up any 'holidays' which are small gaps in the gild.

Note: it's a good idea to have a dedicated space for gilding, or signwriting; but if you're like me and have to get things out and pack them away every evening, be careful not to cause any damage to your work, and keep handling glass to a minimum to prevent having to clean it over and over and over.

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