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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One thought on “Experiments in gold leafing/gilding leather – Part 1

  1. I’ve tried the pseudo gold and have to second your opinion there.
    I didn’t know about the guilders knife. Instead I had a fan paintbrush. A couple flicks through my hair and it had a static charge to hold leaf while I positioned it. On top of that, I could actuallu see where I was placing it.
    I love that you did systematic experimentation. Good job.

    Like

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