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COMMON GILDING PROBLEMS & SOLUTIONS

Gold will not stick
  • If the gold lays down nice, but falls off when you touch it, (sometimes in large flakes) the cause could be not enough moisture. Try applying gold again; paying careful attention to how much moisture is in that area. You may even have to apply water with a paintbrush. (A common problem in low humidity - winter)
  • If the gold will not stick to the gesso, but the glassine does. Your gesso is too wet (either with too much water or honey) Wait a while for the gesso to dry out a bit and try again. If the problem was too much water, try not to get the gesso as wet next time. If the problem is too much honey (the gesso will be pliable when completely dry instead of hard and chalk like) sometimes a little bit of slaked plaster mixed into the gesso will remedy this situation.
  • If the gold will not stick no matter what you try. Larger areas can sometimes be painted over with size and patched with another layer of gold leaf. A small area can be painted over with shell gold. (You may not have stirred your gesso well enough and have a spot that is unable to hold gold or you may have gotten oil from your hands on the gesso.
Uneven surface texture
  • Bubbles in the gesso can cause pits and divots. Do not use gesso if it has a lot of bubbles. This sounds strange, but mix a little earwax into the gesso if you have a bubble problem. The earwax acts sort of like an antacid. Your only other options are wait for the bubbles to settle (if they ever do), or pop them.
  • Scratches, gouges and missed bubbles. If they cannot be sanded or burnished out, they should be filled in with more gesso, allowed to dry and carefully sanded again before laying gold. If they are missed, you can try to fill the area with more layers of gold.
  • Mottled appearance can happen if there is too much honey in the gesso or the gesso was too wet, but some gold stuck anyway. Try laying another layer of leaf over the mottled spot.
  • Any number of smudges and spots can occur from burnishing your gold while the gesso underneath is too wet. If you are burnishing and the gold is just rubbing off...stop!!! Put the piece away overnight and try again tomorrow. If the gold continues to rub off, there is another problem.
Cracks in the gold
  • Sometimes there are imperfections in the gold itself. Several layers may be needed.
  • The gesso may be too soft and the gold cannot stretch enough. Re-apply the gold and don't burnish with as much pressure.
  • The gesso may be too brittle. In this case the gesso is what is splitting apart, not the gold. You will usually hear crunching noises and feel the gesso breaking underneath the burnisher. Use a lighter pressure on the burnisher. Try to re-apply the gold over any existing cracks or patch using shell gold