Gilding – A Not So Practical Guide

Lockdown created more than its fair share of problems, as I’m sure we can all agree.

One issue I hadn’t considered however was the amount of restoration classes I would miss, and subsequently have to catch up on in a relatively short space of time.

The course (which I mentioned in my last entry), has mostly been focused on furniture restoration, but was set to involve a few classes on oil and water gilding; a particular favourite of mine.
I find the subject of gilding incredibly fascinating, not least because of the mastery of technique involved, but also because its preservation of a tradition spanning centuries and cultures alike.

The first thing I have to make clear is that fact that a one week intensive course on gilding does not a master make! It is a particularly technique oriented practice, and takes more than just knowing how…. My teacher said he was still learning after decades in the field, which doesn’t bode well for me!


I’m not going to spill all the gilding secrets here, but I can share a few images from my week, and spare you all from the more technical side of things.

Here we have some of the tools most needed in gilding; Various Gold powders used in gilding techniques

• ‘Practical Gilding’ by MacTaggart, one of the best small books (more of a pamphlet really) on gilding.
• Gilder’s Cushion
• Gilder’s Knife
• Gold Leaf (usually 23.5ct to 23.75ct- 24ct gold is too fragile for gilding purposes!)
• Squirrel Hair tip – there are other tips of hair and sizes, all for different uses.

To the right are a few different gold powders, also used in gilding, but more commonly with lacquerwork in Eastern gilding techniques.


Tools Commonly used for gilding

Applying Bole to A Gessoed Surface

To the left here is little excerpt from my notebook, the beginning of my sketches of the best brushes and tools to use during the gilding process – and to the right we can see one of the brushes in action while I apply some yellow bole to a gessoed surface!