Gilding course: 4 – Gold and real silver leaf

Gilding course:  4 – Gold and real silver leaf

This is video number 4 of the gilding course
made by Rinaldin. The complete course is made up of 11 videos
plus an introductory video. I’ll talk about gold leaf and real silver
in this video The gold leaves are made by a traditional
process of thinning metal. They are 8 x 8 cm in dimension and are held
in booklets of 25 leaves. How pure gold is is valued in carats.
If gold is 100% pure then it’s said to be 24 carat.
The gold used in gold leaves is usually 22 carat. Real silver isn’t as malleable as gold and
is there impossible to reach the same thinness of gold. Silver leaves have a 9,5 x 9,5 cm dimension
and are also held in booklets of 25 leaves. Silver, unlike gold, is subject to oxidization.
The leaves therefore have be stored in a closed container.
After having been applied they have to be protected with a varnish. After having applied the bole you can proceed
with the application of the leaf. To apply the leaf on the bole the latter has
to be slightly wet. A special liquid called “gouache” is used
for this. To make the “gouache” I use the same glue
I prepared earlier for applying the gesso and add some normal fresh water. The ratio
is 100 grams of water for every 10 grams of glue. The percentage of glue can be more if thick
leaves, such as the silver leaves, have to be applied. I also add a few drops of alcohol to reduce
the problem of the water making droplets on the bole. During the whole process I keep the “gouache”
warm in a pot with warm water. Before I apply the “gouache” it’s advised
to incline the frame slightly so that the “gouache” doesn’t end up on the previously
applied gold leaves. The “gouache” is brushed on right before the
application of the leaf. It’s immediately absorbed by the layer of
bole and gesso and can therefore be applied generously, otherwise the leaf won’t stick. A brush with skunk bristles is advised for
this process. These are the brushes with skunk bristles
suggested by Rinaldin to wet the bole with. To apply the gold leaf you’ll need the cushion
and knife. The cushion, where the leaves will be applied,
is made up of a little board of about 15 x 25 cm, padded with wadding and covered in
leather. It could have a parchment paper protection. The protection is advised if the application
of the leaf is done in a place where there’s a draught as it could make the leaves fly
away. There’s a belt underneath to allow the gilder
to hold the cushion in his hand whilst he’s working, like a painter would hold his palette. As you can see there’s another way of placing
the thumb for the left handed. The gilders knife is needed to cut the gold
leaves on the cushion. It has to be sharp enough to cut the leaf
but not too sharp to cut the leather covering of the cushion. You have to be careful to not touch the knife’s
blade with your fingers. The skin’s oiliness would attract the leaf
while you’re cutting. Rinaldin provides these cushions and this
knife: To lift the gold leaf and place it on the
frame a special gilders brush is used. It’s a flat brush with squirrel hair. Rinaldin provides three gilders brushes in
different sizes. I now lay the leaf on the cushion.
This is the easiest way for a beginner. I then cut the leaf with the knife to the
size I need it. To lift up the leaf the brush has to be slightly
greased. You can therefore apply a light cream to the back of your hand and pass the brush
over it. Before laying the leaf down on the frame you
have to wet the area where it will go with the “gouache”. I bring the palette closer to the gold leaf
so that about 1 cm of the outer edge of the leaf comes out of the palette. At this point the leaf is drawn to the palette
due to its greasiness and stays stuck. I now apply the gold leaf on to the area which
I previously wetted with the “gouache”. I use the “gouache” to wet some more before
applying another leaf. I then apply the next leaf overlaying the
one I previously placed. It’s interesting to observe how the most professional
gliders do the processes of cutting and applying the leaf on the frame. I’ll show you some examples: Another example Ancora un altro esempio…
And one more example… If the leaf is applied without having been
previously cut then it isn’t necessary to place it on the cushion. It can be directly transferred from the booklet
to the frame as you can see in this video. You can notice how the gilder manages to cut
the leaf with a kind of blade which is placed on the smallest finger. Only after an hour from the application of
the leaf can we brush. This is the process with which all the pieces of overlaying leaf
and pieces which didn’t stick to the frame are removed. The brushing is done by rubbing the frame
gently with a very soft brush or with a piece of material or velvet. These are the brushes which are needed for
the “brushing” and are provided by Rinaldin. They are very soft brushes made with cut skunk
hair. They can also be used to remove any potential
air bubbles which came about under the leaf. It’s possible that there’ll be some areas
without any gold leaf on it after the brushing and there you’ll have to do some repair work. I wet the remaining uncovered bole with the
“gouache” again and apply a fragment of leaf with a brush for the repairing. This is a very small brush made with squirrel
hair. Rinaldin provides these brushes for the repairing
and the application of leaf fragments: At the end you’ll be able to collect all the
remaining fragments of leaf from your work surface.
You might need them for some particular gilding. Burnishing consists of polishing the leaf
and this is done with some special tools: the agate burnishers. Various forms and dimensions of these exist
and they’re chosen based on the shape of the frame or of the object which you want to burnish. The point of the burnisher is made of agate
stone. Agate stone is fragile and breaks easily if
it falls. The burnishing is done a few hours after the
application of the leaf. The agate stone has to be rubbed against the
frame various times until the wanted polish level is reached. It’s advised to start with a light manual
pressure and then slowly increase it. To reduce the friction from the burnisher
on the leaf, before you burnish you can apply a thin layer of wax which has to be removed
after the burnishing. These are the burnishers provided by Rinaldin. You can find all the gilding products on the


  1. Well done.A fantastic film, a pleasure to watch. Some different techniques that I have not seen or done. The waxing prior to burnishing. What kind of wax are you using? How much pressure was the gilder using?I use alcohol on my gesso as a fixative. The glue/water method is new to me. Thank you for posting. I will watch all your other films

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