Oil gilding is the process of using an oil-based size or ‘mordant’ to adhere the gold to the surface. This is the gilding that should be mastered by an amateur before they move onto water gilding or glass gilding, as the handling of the gold and application here is much easier and so will provide a solid foundation to your learning.
There are several types of oil gilding and a wide selection of metals are used including gold, platinum, silver, copper and aluminium. Oil gilding is without doubt the easiest process of all. In theory, you can oil gild any object that you can paint, but it is especially fitting when wanting to gild a metal object. Also, if the object is to be outside in the elements, or is in a damp atmosphere, then oil gilding is the only choice.
When first learning to gild - and as a decorative finish in its own right - cheaper and thicker leaves of metal can be used before the advancement onto gold. With this in mind, I have included three projects in the oil gilding category, with each project advancing your learning.
The first project is an introduction to metal leaf and its application using an easy technique. For this, I have gilded a carved wooden horse head with copper. This project involves the use of copper sheets and because of the thickness of the leaf, the application can be made by hand. The copper is then treated with chemicals to create a Verdigris or tarnishing effect.
The second project is how to completely gild an item in gold-leaf. This technique ensures there are no misses or holes. Of all the gilding that is completed, this is without doubt the most popular form of gilding. The entire surface is gilded, such as a picture frame. For this example, I am using 23.5 karat loose gold-leaf and am gilding a small cast iron doorstop.
The third technique uses what is known as a localised gilding technique. This will show you how to oil-gild certain select areas of a project. This can be found a lot with furniture, where the finials, or decorative elements are gilded on their own. In this case, it is picking out individual daisies in a resin frame that I purchased from paper-chase.