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)


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.


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.




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



Alligator skin tie clip

Here is a fun little project I decided to attempt for my supervisor at work.  He came in my department last week with his tie flapping around and laying backwards.  I teased him that he needed a tie tack.  This gentleman went alligator wrestling last summer and so I thought it would be a neat/fun project to attempt to make him a tie clip with alligator skin.  So… I ordered the stuff and it came today.  Here is my first attempt which I am actually pretty pleased.  It took me about 2 hours to finish and about $10 in materials.

My first step was to collect the materials I would need.  Needles and thread, a super sharp sewing awl, contact cement, some scrap leather to mount the thin alligator hide to, a knife, the alligator hide, and the tie clip.

I simply cut a piece of the scrap and alligator hide to the same size a little bit wider and longer than the tie clip and glued the two pieces together.


I then used the awl to punch the holes with the leather being held in my handy stitching horse.


Then I used the contact cement again to glue the tie clip to the back of the two pieces of leather and began sewing in a way that criss crossed back and forth across the tie clip to keep it secure.




After some black dye for the back side of the veg tan leather and some edge finishing by gently sanding the edges flat with my dremel and then burnishing the moistened edges with my edge burnisher to get them smooth… We have a really sharp looking alligator skin tie clip.  ^_^  I think it turned out really well!  I am excited to give it to him tomorrow.



Clamshell gauntlets, part 2

Here are the final steps I took to make my gauntlets.  So far we have patterned, cut, formed, stained and wax hardened the heavy leather.  We then riveted and sewed the pieces together to form the gauntlets.  The next steps are to add straps, add padding, and sew the gloves in.

I have to admit that I wasn’t happy with the orientation of the thumb pieces.  I ended up drilling one of the rivets out and rotating the thumbs a bit to make the space between the thumb and fingers so a piece of rattan can be held more easily.

Anyway, what I did last night was start by adding a strap across the palm.  I just used some scraps of flexible chrome tanned garment leather.  We will see if it can hold up to the abuse.  I simply cut a strip, drilled holes for the stitching, and used a blunt harness needle and some of the waxed, braided nylon thread to saddle stitch the strap to the glove on each side of the palm.

Before sewing the glove in, I cut some strips from the black 6mm yoga mat I have for padding.  I duct taped it into the glove behind the palm, thumb, and fingers.  I really love this yoga mat for padding.  It is anti-microbial and excellent at absorbing force.  I just ordered a mat off Amazon.com and it is going to last me for quite some time.

Next I sewed the gloves in.  I really like how this part turned out.  Initially I was concerned that the gaunlets were too floppy and didn’t stay in position.  Sewing the gloves in really added stability to them and makes me much more comfortable in wearing them.

Really, I am quite satisfied with how they turned out.  We will see how they perform on Monday’s practice. 🙂






Clamshell gauntlets, post 1

Greetings all!

I am attempting to make a set of gauntlets for myself so I can begin to learn spear and possibly polearm.  I requested a pattern from a friend who had a set that seemed easy and reduced the size by about 20% because my hands are much smaller.  I cut the pieces (Making sure to flip over the hand and thumb pieces on the second piece for the right and left hand) from a piece of heavy saddle skirting that I had laying around.


After cleaning up the edges and scraping the flesh side down, soaked the leather for a minute or so in water and then I molded them to my hand roughly and let them dry atop our dehumidifier.  I am sorry but I forgot to take a picture of this stage.


After they dried, I stained them a flat black color with Tandy professional water based dye.  For hardening, my waxing process is descrbed below:
1. Gently melt canning wax in a junk pot on a stove covered in tin foil to catch the drips.
2. Warm leather on tin foil covered trays in an oven set to the lowest setting it will go.  I think mine is 200 degrees.  Make sure the leather is quite warm all the way through.
3. Take the leather out of the oven and paint the wax on each side of each piece with a junk paint brush.
4.  Put it back in the oven and watch it until all the wax has soaked in.  Repeat the above steps several times until no more wax soaks into the leather.  You can also just dip the pieces into the pot of wax instead of painting.  It is faster this was but you have to be careful not to get too much wax on the pieces or the wax won’t soak in.  It will pool and harden on top of the leather instead of inside it.

Leave the waxed pieces to harden overnight (or at least for a couple hours).  In the morning, your leather should be hard like plastic with a nice waxy, silky sheen to it.


The leather I used was Tandy crappy leather and was an inconsistant thickness.  I was unhappy with the hardness of my pieces and since I am kind of fond of my hands not smooshed, I recuited my machinist brother to whip out a couple pieces of aluminum to reinforce two of the hand pieces.


Anyway, the next step is to sew and rivet the pieces together.  First I sewed the cuff to the palm.


I used the smallest drill bit I had and just drilled a series of wholes in each side to be joined.  Then, using two blunt harness needles and some waxed, braided nylon thread, I sewed the pieces together with a stitch similar to saddle stitch bbut that creates an “x” on one side and straight lines on the inside.  I also had to restain the wholes I drilled with black dye to make them not stand out.


Next I worked on riveting the moving pieces to the cuff.  I am using copper rivets purchased from Brettun’s Village and a little bit larger drill bit to drill the holes.



They look pretty good so far!  I am pleased.  Time for bed though.  Thanks all for looking ay my very first post.  I hope to document all my crafting adventures here!  Don’t forget, I am open to commissions, if you need anything made!