Oil gilding is perhaps the easiest process of all. In theory, you can oil gild any object that you can paint, but it is especially fitting when wanting to gild a metal object. Also, if the object is to be outside in the elements, or is in a damp atmosphere, then oil gilding is the choice. The following is a demonstration on how to oil gild a small metal object (for the purpose of this exercise, a cast iron door stop). All pictures can be enlarged by clicking on them and then using the browser back button.
For this exercise, you will need the following equipment:
Gilders tip (preferably squirrel hair)
3 hour gilders size (oil)
A book of gold leaf
A small metal object
First, you will need to prepare the object in question. Although anything can be gilded, you must ensure that the object is in a sound condition. The size that will be applied is like paint in that if it can be painted, it can be gilded. Ensure that the surface is clean, dry and free from grease. Remove any defects, rust or flaky paint and residue. Clean in warm soapy water if necessary. You can gild directly onto bare metal and if possible, this is the best surface. It must be noted, that any bits, cracks or contaminants on the surface WILL show up through the gold, so good preparation is vital.
Okay, once you piece is ready, you will need to apply a single coat of gilders size to the surface. For this exercise I have opted to you use Charbonnel 3-hour clear size. The time means that after application, gold is applied up to three hours later. The longer you can wait, the better the finish - although if it dries, you will be back to square one! I find about two and a half hours is sufficient. To test the tackiness of the size, use the hairs on the back of the finger. Ideally, the size should be at a point about 30 minutes before completely drying.
Starting in a corner, or appropriate area, lightly place the gold on the tip onto the size. The gold will stick to the size and leave the tip. At this point, be careful not to let any of the hairs on the gilders tip touch the size. If you have some gold leaf residue staying on the tip, there may be a little too much Vaseline - in which case rub the tip through your fingers to dissipate. If there are recesses on the object you are gilding, try to put the gold into these areas. However, in most cases, the gold will bridge these but can be filled in later.
Continue to apply gold to the entire object surface. You should not be too concerned with waste of the gold and should allow the pieces of gold to overlap sparingly. I would say that on decorative areas, you will easily use twice the amount of gold than the surface area. On smaller areas, or where there is a lot of recesses, cut the gold into smaller pieces. Continue doing this until the entire piece has been coated with the gold leaf.
Now that the piece is covered in gold (and looking like the picture on the left) it is time to skew it. This involves lightly brushing the gilders mop over the surface, to remove any excess gold. The generosity of overlapping will really pay off here because this process will also push the excess flakes into the crevices and hollows of the piece and will fill in any gaps in the work. Do this in a light circular motion. Take care that the bristles do not come out of the brush and stick to the size. I usually place large pieces of gold in various areas as added extra filling, ensuring complete coverage.
At this point you should be finished! If there are any gaps in the piece (perhaps where there is a missed spot of size) you should go over with a thin artist’s brush and spot gild these areas with the same techniques used. You must always be careful with the gilded surface as the size doesn’t ever truly dry because it can’t get into contact with the air through the gold, so to some degree it can be scraped off. However, after a few days it will be quite firm and should be able to be handled carefully.