How to gild furniture

Written by sandra rousseau
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How to gild furniture
Gilding can turn Grandma's boring old chair into an elegant work of art. (Hemera Technologies/PhotoObjects.net/Getty Images)

Gilding, also called gold-leafing, is the art of applying a thin layer of metal to a solid surface. While the term 'gold-leafing' refers to gold, the term 'gilding' is used to describe not only gold leaf but silver, copper, bronze or any metal leaf. Gilding furniture is not difficult, but, like many crafting techniques, requires patience and practice. It also requires tools and supplies. The investment of time and expense is worth it, as gilding can transform your most humdrum piece of furniture into a shining work of art.

Skill level:
Moderate

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Things you need

  • Dust sheet
  • Painter's tape
  • Fine-grit sand paper
  • Tack cloth
  • Paint brushes in various sizes
  • Burnish sealer
  • Reddish-brown matt or satin acrylic paint
  • Sizing
  • Gold leaf transfer paper
  • Gilder's brush
  • Metal-leaf sealer

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Instructions

  1. 1

    Place a dust sheet on your work area. Use painter's tape to mask off any areas of your furniture that you do not want gilded.

  2. 2

    Sand your furniture lightly to dull glossy surfaces and remove imperfections. Clean sanding dust off with a tack cloth.

  3. 3

    Apply burnish sealer with a paintbrush. Let it dry per the manufacturer's instructions.

  4. 4

    Apply a layer of bole with a paintbrush. When artists first began gilding furniture centuries ago, they applied "bole," which was a thin layer of clay. Today, clay bole has been replaced with a layer of reddish clay-coloured paint. Allow the paint to dry.

  5. 5

    Apply the sizing to your furniture with a paintbrush. Sizing effectively is adhesive to which the metal leaf adheres. Allow the sizing to dry slightly, so that it is not wet but is tacky.

  6. 6

    Place a sheet of gold-leaf or metal-leaf transfer paper onto your furniture pieces. Make sure you have paper side up and metal side down. Carefully, but firmly, rub the paper side with a gilder's brush or your fingers to transfer the metal from the paper to your furniture piece. Carefully lift the paper off, leaving the metal leaf adhered to your furniture. Repeat as necessary to cover all areas, overlapping as you go.

  7. 7

    Burnish the metal leaf on more by using the burnishing brush to gently apply pressure directly to the leaf on the furniture, especially into any nooks and crannies or intricate detail.

  8. 8

    Touch up any areas that you missed, or where the metal leaf did not adhere well.

  9. 9

    Apply metal-leaf sealer with a paint brush. This is a clear topcoat that protects and adds durability to your gilded furniture. In the case of genuine silver leaf, sealer protects it from tarnishing. Allow the sealer to dry completely.

Tips and warnings

  • While bole is traditionally reddish-brown, it does not have to be. The colour of your bole affects the colour of your finished product, so experiment and choose the base colour you prefer

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