How to Gold Leaf Furniture

Updated February 21, 2017

Gold leafing is an ancient art form. Solid gold, beaten to fine sheets and applied to furniture, brings out the carefully carved details of the piece. Whether dealing with wood, plastic, glass or metal, the placing of gold leaf, or gilding, is possible as long as the furniture is smooth and clean. Gilding a surface is a slow process that requires careful applications at each step. The result is an untarnished surface of gold that will enhance any piece.

Cover the surface of your work area with dust sheets to prevent stains and damage.

Clean the piece of furniture using a cleanser specially formulated for the furniture material. Lightly sand the surface of your furniture with 220-grit sandpaper to remove any scratches or gouges. Remove any sanding residue with a wax-embedded tack cloth. Line the area that you're gilding with a low-tack painter's tape to protect surrounding areas during the gilding process.

Prime the gilding area by brushing the furniture with a layer of burnish sealer formulated specifically for gilding. The sealer makes a surface smooth enough to attach the gold leaf, as well as hides any faults in the furniture. Choose among the three primer types, each of which creates a different tone: yellow primer presents a brassy tone; grey results in a cooler tone; while red primer will create a warm tone to your gold leaf. Wait one hour for the primer to dry.

Apply the three-hour oil-based adhesive size to the gilding area. The size is the type of adhesive used in gilding, with three-hour oil-based size used for both interior and exterior furniture. It dries to a tacky state after about three hours. Spread the size using a sponge, applying an even layer that produces a visible film on the furniture. Wait three to five hours for the adhesive to cure into a state in which it remains sticky, but not wet. Test the state of the adhesive by tapping it with your knuckles. It should not seem disturbed or rub off when tapped with your knuckles, but remain sticky to the touch.

Apply the gold leaf to the furniture by sticking the leaf to the adhesive. Remove a leaf sheet from the gold leaf book. Attach the leaf to the surface of the furniture with gentle pressure. Use a gilder's brush to rub lightly on the back of the protective paper, pressing every portion of the leaf onto the adhesive. Gently peel back the protective paper, revealing the attached gold leaf.

Rub the gold leaf with a gilder's brush to burnish the metal. During the burnishing, check the furniture for any missing leaf sections and place individual pieces torn from a leaf sheet over them to complete the coverage. Give the adhesive one week to cure fully.

Brush the gilded surface with a protective acrylic topcoat formulated for use with gilding. The clear topcoat protects the gold leaf from chipping off the surface of the furniture through normal wear and tear. Allow the top coat to dry for the manufacturer's suggested drying time before using the furniture.

Remove the painter's tape to expose the clean gilded edges.


Gold leaf attachment is only possible within four hours of the adhesive curing to a tacky state.

Things You'll Need

  • Dust sheets
  • Furniture cleaner
  • Sponge
  • Water
  • 220-grit sandpaper
  • Low-tack painter's tape
  • Burnish sealer primer
  • 3-hour oil-based size adhesive
  • Gold leaf book
  • Gilder's brush
  • Gilder's acrylic topcoat
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About the Author

Larry Simmons is a freelance writer and expert in the fusion of computer technology and business. He has a B.S. in economics, an M.S. in information systems, an M.S. in communications technology, as well as significant work towards an M.B.A. in finance. He's published several hundred articles with Demand Studios.