Carving and Gilding of Picture Frames

After the frames were carved and sanded the next step is to apply a coat or two of burnisher sealer.  This is the product you use in oil gilding that takes the place of multiple coats of gesso and then the actual clay used when you do water gilding with precious, 22kt. gold leaf.  As I’ve mentioned in previous blogs I used to use a product by Rolco but can’t seem to find that anymore.  The supplier I get my Dutch Gold from, L.A. Gold Leaf has their own line of the burnisher sealer available in red, yellow, and gray which is a good product.  After application you need to burnish it with 4/0 steel wool.  Oil gilding differs from water gilding in many aspects but one of the most important ones to consider is that oil gilding cannot be burnished like precious can — instead you need to burnish the sealer before applying the size and leaf. Another distinct difference between oil gilding with metal leaf and water gilding with precious leaf is that the leaf used for oil is much thicker.  The advantage that I see is that you can manipulate it with your fingers if you’re careful.  Precious gilding requires the use of a gilders tip to lay the gold on the frame.  A disadvantage is that it’s thicker so it’s difficult to lay in the recesses of the molding and tends to have more cracking issues.  I decided to go ahead and make a tutorial of the gilding process I use.  To lay the Dutch gold on this frame I found it best to lean it up and take advantage of gravity to lay it without having it stick before the gold was in the proper place.  Here’s the YouTube video: After the oil size is completely dry (24+ hours) the toning and aging process begins.  I start with using Liberon 4/0, oil free steel wool on the freshly gilded surface to cut down the garishness of the Dutch gold.  This is followed by two coats of clear shellac applied with an air brush.  The purpose of the shellac is to seal the gold prior to toning.  I let that dry overnight and then worked these frames with a casein wash followed by waxing to add a layer of protection.  The casein is water soluble so can be completely removed if you don’t like the effect.  My technique is to mix it up with distilled water, apply to one leg at a time and wipe off immediately.  One of the challenges I face is making new work appear as if its been around for ages.

Oregon Sunset

Oregon Sunset

Here is a picture of the first frame I did with this molding.  For it, I took my collection on nuts, washers, cotter pins, and other hard metal items that are on a cable and just beat the “you know what” out of the frame.  The burnisher/sealer used on this was the red and with all of the cracking on the various steps it showed through a bit more than I’d like.  I followed the same toning schedule mentioned above and used the Payne’s Gray and Titanium White casein for the wash followed by an application of Liberon Black Bison wax which is probably my favorite of all waxes. To illustrate the difference between a frame that has just  been oil gilded with Dutch Gold and that same frame toned down with its artwork installed I’ll leave you with these images.  All the work is done by my artist/wife Diane Eugster The title is April’s Offering; On the left is the freshly gilded frame, the right it has been toned with Payne’s Gray and Titanium White.

The title is Mending Her Shoe; On the left is the freshly gilded frame, the right it has been toned with Ivory Black and Titanium White.

The title is Japanese Tea Garden; On the left is the freshly gilded frame, the right it has been toned with Burnt Sienna and Titanium White.


About woodworksbyjohn

I'm a retired woodshop teacher. I build one of a kind furniture pieces and custom picture frames. You can see some of my currently available work, boxes, carvings through my Etsy store: Contact me about your project -- always up for the challenge of unique work.
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1 Response to Carving and Gilding of Picture Frames

  1. Pingback: Shop Happenings | Woodworks by John

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