Time to shine met metal leaf!

Time to shine with metal leaf!

Gilding with metal leaf may seem like a complex technique at first glance, but it is certainly not. In this article we explain everything you need to know about applying meatl leaf!

1. Well begun is half done

You don't need that much material in your toolbox to get started right away:

  • Metal leaf of your choice: gold, silver or copper
  • Gold Size
  • Paintbrush
  • Clear wax

The secret is in the preparation. Before gilding, make sure the surface you are working on is perfectly smooth. After all, imperfections become even more visible once you have gilded the surface. It is therefore advisable to gently sand the part you want to gild with some high-grit sandpaper (>180). Wipe the surface afterwards with a clean cloth.

2.Gold Size

You can then start applying the glue. Use a small flat brush to apply the so-called “Gold Size” to the places you want to gild. “Size” is an old English word for “glue,” so “gold size” actually means “glue for gold.”

Do not use too much glue, as this will take a longer drying time and you run the risk of dripping. Immediately wipe away any drops in places where you don't want gold with a little water.

When you have applied the glue in all places, place the brush you used for this in a jar with water. The glue dries quite quickly, which would make the brush unusable if you do not immediately immerse it in water. Because the glue is water-based, the brush is very easy to clean with water and possibly a little soapy water.

If you want to gild a large project and are working in sections, you should also place your brush in a jar of water in the meantime. When you move on to the next part, simply squeeze the brush dry with your fingers and you can continue applying glue.

The glue you applied to the furniture initially has a white appearance. Then the color changes to purplish blue and finally the glue becomes a clear color. The transparent color indicates that the glue is sticky. As long as the color is still blue, the glue will stick less well, which means the metal leaf will not adhere properly. Only when the glue is completely transparent (approximately after 10 to 15 minutes) can you start applying metal leaf.

3. Time to shine!

When applying the metal leaf, it is useful to rub your hands with a little talcum powder. The talcum powder ensures that you can easily hold the leaves without tearing.

After all, metal leaf is very sensitive and will break quickly if it sticks to your clammy hands. This is especially risky when you use metal leaf without transfer leaves, as you have to grip the metal leaf directly.

If you want to apply narrow strips of metal leaf, you can cut the leaves into the correct size with scissors. This way you will have slightly less loss at the end of the journey.

You will then apply the metal leaf to the clear glue. You hold the transfer sheet and try to touch the metal leaf itself as little as possible. You place the metal side of the sheet with the bottom side down on the glue, so that the transfer sheet is at the top. As soon as the metal leaf makes contact with the glue it will stick. You can then no longer move it.

Gently press the metal leaf onto the glue with your fingers and remove the transfer paper. Then take another metal leaf and follow the same steps. To ensure a good connection of the gold, it is best to overlap the leaves slightly each time.

You will probably miss some pieces along the way, because your metal leaf will gradually develop some cracks or you have not been able to get into all the details with your metal leaf due to the relief of the wood carving, for example. Then tear off small pieces of metal leaf and gently press them onto the places where there is no gold on the glue yet, until all the sticky glue is covered.

Then take a clean, dry brush and make a sweeping motion over the entire metal leaf surface. With the brush you try to press the metal leaf a little better against the glue and the furniture so that it adheres well, and on the other hand you want to ensure that too much of the metal leaf does not flake off. Brush away any loose bits of metal and keep any large loose pieces for the next project.

Keep repeating these steps until the entire surface is gilded.

4. Finishing and protection

When you're done, you still need to protect the metal leaf with a layer of clear wax or varnish. This extra protective layer ensures that the metal leaf does not discolour over time. So it is a very important step that you should certainly not skip.

Clear wax will cause the metal leaf to become slightly duller, but this actually makes the appearance closest to real gold. If you want to dampen the shine a little more or give the piece of furniture an older look, you can use dark wax on top of the clear wax.

And you're done…!

Back to blog