• Drew

Glossary for Gilding

This post is not intended to cover everything than can or should be used when gilding or sign painting, but is here just to give you a run down of some of the things I have referred to in writing these blog posts.


I will try to cover everything in what I think is a sensible order.


1 - Firstly I have a selection of brushes or quills which are mostly long bristle chisel style brushes, but I think I have one or two liner brushes. These are pretty much just a starter kit that I picked up, but signwriters do say that certain types of hair perform better than others.


2 - I mainly use One Shot Sign Painters paint which seems to be widely used throughout the industry although there are a wide range of products available. These are oil based enamels which can be tricky to clean, but it means that the paint is well suited to outdoor conditions. Lettering artist James Lewis uses water based paints with sign painting brushes to great effect, and it means that cleaning his brushes and looking after them is much easier, although his work would not be intended for permanent outdoor display.


3 - I picked up this artists trowel years ago, I think it is supposed to be for mixing oil paints for canvas on a palette, but I use it for transferring paint from the can into my paint cups. I also use those little wooden sticks that you can pick up at coffee shops to give the paint a mix after opening the can.


4 - The hand-held cowboy spurs are called ponce wheels, they are used for tracing your template and punching holes through it so that it can be pounced later. In my first project I actually put the holes in my template manually using a pin, but these pounce wheels can do the job, and probably faster too.


5 - A chalk pounce tool can be filled with chalk or charcoal dust and can be dabbed (pounced) over a perforated template pattern to transfer the design. I'm told that a sock is just as effective.


6 - Fuller's Earth is a kind of inert clay powder that binds to grease. I dust it over glass like I'm dusting for fingerprints. Steven Oxley who showed me the process only went as far as using Fuller's Earth and washing it off afterwards.


7 - Pierre D'Argent is a type of multi purpose soap that acts as a degreaser. It is possible that you would only need to follow one of these methods to clean your glass, but I needed to make sure that I had backup options. I have seen some signwriters use a tiny amount of this with water and a cotton rag to quickly dampen gold leaf that they wish to remove after a design is backed up, they then quickly buff the gold off using a dry, clean cotton rag removing the soap and water before it has too long to effect the design.


8 - Avery Dennison Surface Cleaner is probably not necessary, but I was using it daily when I worked for a vinyl company, so it seemed only right that I gave it a go on glass. I was also certain that it would not leave anything behind, unlike traditional glass cleaner sprays that can leave a film behind designed to protect the glass, but which actually hinders the painting and gilding process. The Surface Cleaner evaporates, but can be wiped with a good quality paper towel, but try not to get your hands on the glass when you do this or you will have to start again.


***Bonus note: I was talking with Greg Fuller our print technician about degreasing glass as the subject sort of came up when he was taking us through the principles of etching. Greg is of the generation that was trained in the trade of printing through the time served apprentice schemes and is adherent to the traditional methods of his craft, so in his own practice of etching as an artistic output he uses chemicals such as ammonia to degrease, he does however demonstrate the use of CIF to the students (which is safer), but he did say that if you get a potato and chop it in half, it can be used to degrease glass (and presumably other things too).

So don't worry about the fancy things on this list, there's always a workaround to things.


9 - Retractable razor scraper. Any razor edge will do. I use it to scrape across the glass once it has been cleaned just to take off any tiny bits I can't see, or bits that are stubbornly sticking to the glass.


10 - Gelatine capsules used for water gilding. Dissolved into heated deionized water.


11 - Metal cup used for mixing and heating water - gelatine mixture.


12 - Gilders mop used for applying water mixture to glass ready for gilding.


13 - Oil based size required for oil gilding. Oil gilding doesn't have to be performed on glass, it is effective for applying gold to other surfaces too. Oil gilding gives a matt effect on glass, but has a much shinier effect on other materials because you are viewing the gold as a top layer rather than having to view the gold through the glass and the oil size.

There are many drying times available so it is important to consider which one will be right for the job you are doing.


14 - Gilder's Cushion, this comes with a foldable hood which gives some protection from stray drafts when handling gold leaf. The surface of the cushion allows the gold to sit but not stick. The springy nature of the cushion allows the knife to press down onto the gold applying the pressure along the edge, it also works as a way of directing the flat edge of the knife under a leaf of gold without disturbing the rest of it.


15 - Gilders knife, this is a long, straight, flat blade which is used for manipulating the gold leaf as well as cutting it. It is important that the blade has no knicks which may cause the gold leaf to tear.


16 - Gilders Tip, this is used to transfer the gold from the gilder's cushion to the surface to be gilded. There's some debate as to how exactly the tool works, but the premise is this. Take the gilder's tip and run the bristles back and forth through your hair to charge the brush, then press the brush flat against the gold and transfer the gold. If the brush does not pick up the gold, another method is to put a very small amount of vaseline on the back of your hand, and charge the bristles against your hand in the same way you did with your hair.

The debate comes from the idea that the the gilder's tip receives a static charge, against the idea that it picks up a small amount of grease from the hair or the vaseline. Whatever the science is, those are the methods that work.


17 - Gold Leaf, there are many kinds of gold leaf, and those shown in the picture are 23ct Extra Thick loose leaf gold which comes in books of 25. The loose leaf easily slides out from the book (one of which is shown open) and can be manipulated on the gilder's cushion. I used the loose leaf for water gilding, but there is no reason it could not be used for an oil gild. I decided that the 23ct gold would give a pleasing mirror finish, and would suit water gilding in the loose form.

The other type pictured is 18ct Lemon Gold which is gold mixed with an amount of another metal, probably silver. As the name suggests, the gold has a slightly different colouration which I thought would contrast against the 23ct water gild, so I decided to use the 18ct as an oil gild and decided it would be best to purchase it in transfer leaf form. The reason for choosing transfer leaf is that it makes the process much quicker, the lower ct gold can stand up to the process more, and I didn't have to worry about getting the bristles of my gilder's tip stuck in the oil size and possibly ruining it.


There is so much more that could be covered or discussed, and I'm far from being an expert. This project and my essay has allowed me to see the tip of the iceberg of this fascinating craft that people pursue for a lifetime and still learn something new everyday.


I hope this glossary at the very least helps you to understand some of the things I have written about in other posts.


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