Gilding Onto Leather - A Simple Technique

 

Gilding Onto Leather

gold leaf techniquesGilding onto leather is different from gilding on wood or other surfaces.

 

There are many different types of leather, from the soft, flexible vegetable tanned leathers used in bookbinding, to hard chromium tanned leathers used in briefcases and saddlery.

 

With regard to bookbinding, in general the gilded decoration you see on a modern book will be either gold foil or gold leaf, genuine gold leaf is reserved for the real quality leather bindings, and gold foil for cheaper work.

 

For those whose interest lies in bookbinding there is a fully illustrated step by step method showing the gilding process in full.

 

Both methods of gilding onto leather involve the use of heat activated adhesives, gold foil has a built in layer of adhesive on the carrier film.

 

In traditional gilding on leather, the heat activated adhesive takes the form of either the whites of eggs or a shellac based adhesive.

 

First the adhesive is applied and allowed to dry, then the leaf is laid over it. Heated brass tools in the form of lettering or decoration are then pressed down onto the gold foil or gold leaf. When the surplus gold leaf or gold foil film is removed the letters or decoration are left in gilt.

 

gold leafYou can of course use imitation gold leaf when gilding leather, it has the advantage of being very cheap and is good to practice with, though the work has to be sealed with lacquer after gilding.

 

If there is a secret to success with gilding on leather it lies in understanding and working with the 3 variables involved, they are; Heat, Pressure & Dwell.

 

The heat of your tools is fairly critical for success, also how much pressure you apply and how long you stay in contact with the work are important and can best be learned by good instruction and a little trial and error.

 

With other leathers such as the type of sheepskin you might encounter when recovering desk tops, I suggest either using gold foil for cheaper work and 23 carat gold leaf on a paper carrier for best work.

 

Saddlery leather or briefcase leather is best treated with a shellac/spirit based glaire (adhesive.)

 

Some materials are called leather just because they are made from reconstituted leather shavings held together with a form of resin, I suggest using gold foil for this type of material.

 

As you have seen, when gilding on leather different methods need to be applied according to the leather.

 

Go to gilding supplies.

 

Generations of bookbinders have made their own parchment papers and imitation vellums, we show you how.

 

 

EVERY MONTH I SEND OUT A NEWSLETTER WHICH AIMS TO BRING YOU INTERESTING ITEMS CONCERNING THE WORLD OF GILDING AND RELATED CRAFTS. IF YOU WOULD CARE TO SUBSCRIBE PLEASE JUST MAIL Richard at gold-vault@orange.fr and put "gold-vault" in the subject box.

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edenworkshops
 
Hi there, I've been browsing your wonderful website and I can't wait to have a go at some of the techniques you explore on there. Your manuals are definitely the best Iv'e found on the internet. 
Seb Dale 
  
I just want to salute your generosity in giving away your gilding knowledge. Excellent guide books,  I was not able to find such a simplified explanation in any book at the local library. 
Ghassan Haddad 
  
After looking at various sites and suppliers on the net, your site is just wonderful - clear, accessible, descriptive and demystifying. Thanks so much for making your knowledge available! Liz 
 
You did a brilliant job of mentoring me through my project, it turned out very well, I am extremely happy with the results.
Brendon
 
Your manuals are excellent. I easily worked my way through your gilded manuscript project and the result is now framed and hanging in my living room. Thank you.
Pauline