[Scriptoris] Gold leaf questions

letebts@earthlink.net letebts at earthlink.net
Wed Dec 4 23:37:16 PST 2002

On Tue,  3 Dec 2002 14:33:04 -0600 Star Signet Herald
<star_signet at ansteorra.org> wrote:

> Ok, so where can I get the gold leaf?  Who has
> the best prices?  Who has the
> best reputation for quality?  Can I get it
> on-line?
(My lonnnnnng reply follows. Be forewarned!)

Here are two places to get gold leaf:
Wehrung & Billmeier Co.
1924 West Eddy St.
Chicago IL 60657
(773) 472-1544
Note: W&B are traditional goldbeaters, beating with heavy mallets small
nuggets of gold which are each placed between uterine leather sheets, or so I
was told by someone who knows. Dick Blick gets his gold there, I believe.

Second place:
John Neal, Bookseller
PO Box 9986
Greensboro NC 27429
800-369-9598 or 336-272-6139
FAX 336-272-9015
www.JohnNeal Books.com
email is   info at john nealbooks.com
Note: John Neal Bookseller is an extensive source for supplies, illumination
and how-to books, as well as gilding supplies of all kinds, paints, paper,
nibs, and walnut ink (from England), etc.
Good supplier. (He sold my last book til it went out of print.)

Additional thought for a supplier, but not gold:
Kremer Pigments, Inc.
228 Elizabeth Street
NY, NY 10012
kremerinc at aol.com
Source for "dry pigs," as the trade calls it (dry pigments) and sandarac, if
you plan on working on real skins. Excellent department for period pigments
for restorations on frescoes world wide, including the good Fra's spectacular
blue. Catalog is good reading and has much to drool over. My poor copy is sooo
> Can I get the size from the same place?  Is
> this the same stuff they used in
> period?  Or is it different now?
Size can have a number of sources, usually the same places. As a glue/binder
it can be made from offcuts of vellum/parchment, rabbit skin, and fish. The
fish glue is also called "seccotine," and is the one you want to buy if your
want to make your own period gesso.
> Can I get glair already made?  Or do I have to whip that up myself?
> of whipping up.... How do you whip it up and
> how long will it last?
Glair doesn't last more than about three days in the refrigerator if covered,
say in a 35mm film case.
Meticulously wash out a copper (beats better)
bowl, but stainless will do, so no oils remain or the whites won't beat
properly. Equally meticulously separate an egg, or two,
and drop into the copper bowl, the white, which is untainted by the least drop
of the yolk.
Beat with meticulously cleaned beaters-no oil!- until totally dry. A teacher
of mine held the bowl upside down over her head to show how dry to beat the
whites. They stayed in the bowl.
Cover the frothy whites and leave on kitchen worksurface overnight. Verrry
carefully decant (pour) the "weep" that accumulated in the bottom into your
clean 35 mm film case. Your glair is ready to mix with colors that are light
or are of the blue family.
The yolk doesn't have to be tossed to the cat.
After separating the egg(s), gently roll the yolk in a paper towel to dry it.
Verry gently pick it up so it forms a teardrop shape. Holding the sagging yolk
over a container, pierce the bottom of the yolk with a scalpel blade. Presto,
yolk with no membrane to fool with.
This is a good binder for "dry pigs" in the yellow or red families. A medium
red pigment becomes a vibrant scarlet when you add the yellow yolk.
You will have to work with the proportions. You don't want so much egg that
your paint cracks on drying, but you will need enough to keep the paint from
powdering off later. If you have to thin it down, use only distilled water.
(God knows what the City has put into your drinking water that might react
with the pigments or binder.)
> Aren't there gold leafing brushes out there?
> How are they different from my
> paint brush?  What are they made of?  Can I >get by with using just tweezers
and a prayer?
There are gold leafing brushes, but they are shaped like a Japanese hake
brush, wide, flat, and somewhat fluffy. I believe the best are of sable. They
are used for picking up large pieces of loose gold leaf. For smaller pieces,
such as half-inch squares, just touch your fingernail to the oily part at the
side of your nose and nudge with your nail tip a corner of the square to lift
the gold for being laid down to gild with it.
Important note: besides your base and itself, gold will stick to anything
oily, including fingers. Be "Detective Monk" clean!
> What exactly is a guilding knife?  And where
> can I find it?  Do I have to have
> it?  Can't I just use something that will work
> roughly the same way?
A gilding knife has a completely horizontal blade that is not really sharp, so
it doesn't cut the cushion over time.
If the squares are not oversized, a very dull knife that doen't have a curve
in it should do. I wonder if a long spatula might serve as well?

The trick is to have no oils from other uses or body oils from your hands.
Store your "gilding knife" away from anything that might scratch the edge or
get oil on it. I made a case for mine, as well as for my burnishers.
To use the knife on loose gold that has been carefully laid-out on your
gilder's cushion and shielded from drafts by a 3-sided screen (cardboard?),
gently place the knife edge across the loose gold and slightly "saw" the gold
apart. Make a tic-tac-toe series of cuts for your gilding project. Smaller
pieces are more easily manipulated.
> What is a guilding pillow?  how was it used?
> Has anyone out there used one?
> Do they work?  Is it worth my money to use?
The pillow is excellent for cutting loose gold only. Scissors do well for
patent gold, since it is stuck to a paper. Use a real sable brush and a baby
food jar of distilled water to wash the remains of your shell gold out and
retain it.

I made my gilding pillow from a shallow-napped fake suede square stretched
over quilt batting padded on top of a wooden board, then pulled around to and
stapled on the bottom. You will want a "giving" surface, but one that isn't
mounded in the middle. Again, keep the gilding cushion away from hands and
other contaminants, even when you are making it. I keep mine wrapped in silk.

> Ok, so I really do know the answers to some(but
> not all) of these questions,
> but I was asking for those who might want to
> know and would enjoy
> experimenting.

Lady Lete Bithespring
PS to the Star Signet: if you want to post the earlier message I sent you
about gold, please feel free....  Lete.

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