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Furniture Restoration: Gilt, Ormolu And Painted
Gilding is attaching gold leaf to a prepared surface and rubbing it into place. Gold leaf will not fade – it lasts for years, giving a true golden look to any wood, metal or plaster base. The lavish and decadent lives of yesteryear found the need to have almost every piece of furniture they owned gilded, really evident in the 17th and 18th centuries all over the world. Today, these precious pieces still have the same charm, but for entirely different reasons: being antiques.
Old gold leaf antiques can be cleaned with water containing a few drops of ammonia. The new gold leaf can be purchased in single sheets or in transfers that have a fabric backing. Transfer sheets are much easier to use than plain sheets. When applying gold leaf to a restored area, make sure the surface is clean and dry. Paint the base with Japan Gold Size and let it get “sticky”. Place the sheets in place, overlapping slightly at the edges; rub them carefully, following the direction of the overlap, with a clean cotton cloth until the edges are evenly blended. The trick is to put the sheets on the surface when the size has reached the correct degree of “grip”. If the size is too wet, the leaf will wrinkle; if it’s too dry, the blade won’t stick.
Today the value of antiques will depend on whether pure gold leaf or wax gilding was used, as was a common practice to reduce the cost of making a fine piece of furniture. The other popular alternative, gold paint, while simple to apply, produces a rather garish finish and lacks depth. Wax gilts, available at most art stores these days, come in many shades of gold. They are ideal for touching up damaged gold leaf and for applying a broken gold surface over white or colored paint. They are simple to apply, ensuring that even the most unskilled restorer can restore their award-winning antique piece. The wax fault can be easily removed with a turpentine substitute, so it’s a good idea to protect it with a cover of alcohol-based clear varnish. Another alternative is liquid leaf, again easy to apply. It can be painted or drawn with a pen. It is brighter than gold leaf and does not have the same “antique” finish as wax fault, so larger areas may not have the desired effect, especially when restoring your antique piece.
The ormolu is bronze, cast into decorative shapes that are gilded with gold leaf and attached to parts of the furniture. A form of decoration that developed from ormolu is brass alloy, with the same appearance as gold. The surface of the ormolu was often understood because the brass sweats through the gilding. Clean it by gently brushing the surface with warm water and soap containing a few drops of ammonia. To remove any stubborn dirt from the surface, add more ammonia. Always wear rubber gloves for this work.
To restore faded or damaged painted antique furniture, scrape the paint down to the surface and fill any deep scratches or holes with plastic wood or polymer texture paste. Rub the area with fine sandpaper and paint again, using the matching artists’ oil colors. To achieve a matte finish, use only base paint; cover it when dry with a good quality matte varnish. Small areas of old paint texture can be blended using a white base coat as a base. Apply matching colors with artists’ oil paint, which should always be a shade lighter than the original. When the paint dries, it should match the original shades. A varnish can be applied; however, it is best to varnish the entire area rather than the retouched area. This will give your old piece a uniform overall texture. The new gloss can be a bit too shiny when dry; if so, rubbing it gently with steel wool will give it that old aged look.
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#Furniture #Restoration #Gilt #Ormolu #Painted