Experiments in gold leafing/gilding leather – Part 1

I have been working on an ongoing project to discover exactly what the best way is to apply gold leaf (real gold) to flexible leather projects with a sealant that will keep it flexible but protected from scratches.  Gold leafing is an art all on its own.  A few reference I have found are:

Gilding Leather Carving

Gold Leafing Technique

Gilding on Leather

Most of the resources (except the first one) was about gilding on leather book bindings which is pretty different from gilding tooled veg tanned leather.

I started with picking up a few supplies.  I bought some patent gold leaf (the leaf is gently adhered to tissue paper which makes it easier to work with) from amazon , got some cotton gloves to keep the leaf from sticking to my skin (jury is out on whether these are actually helpful or not), a makeshift gilder’s knife (a butter knife from my kitchen), and an agate burnisher (also unsure if this is necessary at this point.  Haven’t had much luck with it)

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I also picked up two different gilder’s sizes (adhesive).  Mona Lisa from Amazon and Kolner Miniatum.  As well as four kinds of sealants based on my research and browsing the hardware store.  I also tried regular Resolene leather finish on another attempt.

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Some test samples of leather gilding combinations.

1. Mona Lisa Gilding Size and Spray Polyurethane
2. Mona Lisa and Leak Seal
3. Mona Lisa and Pledge Floor Finish
4. Mona Lisa and Polycrylic
5. Miniatum and Leak Seal
6. Miniatum and Polycrylic
7. Miniatum and spray polyurethane
8. Miniatum and acrylic resolene

The miniatum won hands down for beauty. The gold was so much smoother and more shiny. It looks like liquid gold on the leather. The Mona Lisa Gilding size was flatter and the gold was dull and not as impressively shiny.

As far as the sealers go… Leak Seal is right out because it causes the gold to bubble. I gave up on the floor finish because I didn’t like how you have to apply it and it didn’t make a very resilient finish. The spray Polyurethane worked well but I don’t like the fumes from applying it. It needs several coats but I was pleasantly surprised that it remained flexible and didn’t crack when I flexed the leather. Resolene worked as well but many coats are required to project the delicate gold from scuffing. I think the polycrylic worked the best. It actually enhances the shine of the gold, is easy to apply, requires only a few coats, and remains flexible and doesn’t crack.

Also, as a side note… don’t bother with fake gold leaf… it pales in comparison with real gold leaf. The fake gold leaf looks ok until you compare it to real gold… The real gold just blows you away with it’s beauty.

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example of fake gold leaf below…  Still shiny, but not near as vibrant as the real gold leaf.

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Squire’s Belt Step-by-step

February of 2016 I was offered a squiring by Sir Devon of Ayr which I accepted.  Around the same time he had offered to another friend who also accepted.  For this friend and myself, Sir Devon and I wanted to make nice dress belts for court and more functional belts for fighting.  I haven’t had the chance to work on mine but here is documentation of the process of making the other.

My first step was to interview the recipient about what he would like.  We discussed that he finds oak leaves and hedgehogs important to him and intends to incorporate them into his device when he gets that far.  I also suggested an idea that I had had about putting a sequence of devices from any affiliations he has as sort of a unique “gate address” as it were.  His affiliations would be the Middle Kingdom, Pentamere, Barony of Andelcrag, Canton of Three Hills, and, of course, his new knight, Sir Devon of Ayr.  That is 5 affiliations plus two blank ones to fill in later (presumably for a Laurel and Pelican should he decide to go in those directions.  The blank two could be for whatever he so chooses and I could add them later.

With that information I began the designing process which took some time.  I submitted several renditions to him and had him choose the one he liked most.

I started with a fantastic quality, extra long Herman Oak 1.5″ strip.

Once I got the design tooled and the base red color stained, it was time to paint the design.  I use Angelus leather paints (Amazon link).  I have had very good luck with these paints.  They dry flexible so are fantastic for leather since they don’t crack or flake off.  They are designed for fixing scratches on shoe leather so they are very resistant to scratching off.  They are also water-based so they are easy to clean up and they also mix well together so you can mix up whatever colors you want.

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I used black antique gel from Tandy to highlight the hedgehogs and leaves.  After that I ended up going back and highlighting the leaves with a lighter green so they didn’t seem like a black hole compared to the rest of the design.  The antique really darkened them a lot.

I purchased a replica, period-accurate buckle and belt end and attached them with the included rivets.  I then burnished the edges.  As a final design step, I decided to gold leaf around the edges of each device.  You can see the results of that in the final pictures below.  I finished the belt with many layers of Resolene to protect the design and then a few layers of Carnauba Cream to give it a nice smell and buffed it to a shine.  The finished product is below.  He beamed when I gave it to him.  I kept the final design and results hidden from him until the squiring ceremony and also whipped up a little linen bag for him to store it in and protect it.

 

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A couple small projects

I have been working on one big project for quite a while now and took breaks here and there to do some fun smaller items for friends.

My good friend and squire brother Thelvald was in for a surprise this last Pennsic.  Nobody realized he never got his Award of Arms even though he has been playing for many years.  Many of us decided that that needed to happen at Pennsic.  We all sent in recommendations and I volunteered to make a circlet for him along with a local Baroness/laurel who offered to make a scroll for him.  Here is the circlet that I created.  It was a quick project but very rewarding.  I simply took a strip of medium leather (probably 6 or 7 oz.) and used a backgrounder to make the stars.  Then dyed it black and coated it several times with Carnauba Cream.

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The next project was a gift for a new friend who just started in the SCA a few months ago.  She has been doing an awesome job so I decided to make her a little something.  It also allowed me to practice with paint on leather and the gold leaf process I have been working on.  Here is a picture of this beauty.  I am very happy with how it turned out.  The design has special significance to her.  Yes, that is really 24k gold leaf.  I will be having several posts about my explorations into gilding leather.  It is a practice in and of itself with little documentation that I can find online.

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The last project I will document here is a set of circlets I made to donate to the largess coffers of their Majesties of the Middle Kingdom.  There was a challenge set forth to be met at the fall crown tourney a few weeks ago.  The challenge was to make a dozen pieces of largess to donate and the one that got the most votes from the populace would get a prize.  Here is my entry.  I didn’t win but I did get quite a few votes so that pleased me.  Overall, it wasn’t about winning, it was simply about supporting the dream.

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