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Gilding on porcelain

Jeremy Woodoff

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Jun 30, 2002
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The question has been raised on this board before about whether there is a way to restore gilding that has rubbed off porcelain or china clock cases. Original gilding was fired on as a glaze, but I think at a lower temperature than the rest of the decoration, and it has a tendency to wear off fairly easily.

I recently discovered a method for repair that I think has potential. I made up some rabbit skin glue (used with clay for traditional water gilding, usually on wood), painted it with a small brush on an area of a clock case that was missing its gold, and quickly applied real patent gold leaf. After allowing it to dry for a few minutes, I brushed off the excess leaf with a soft brush and burnished lightly with a dry Q-tip. The result looks remarkably like the original glazed surface. The reason for this is that the glazed china under the gold is very smooth and the rabbit skin glue is extremely thin and the consistency of water. The surface brilliance of the gold is governed entirely by the surface to which it is applied, and the glazed china with a thin coating of water-like glue is a perfect, smooth surface.

There are a couple of problems with this method. First, the glue dries almost instantly, so you have to apply it to just a small area and then immediately apply the leaf. It may be possible to reactivate the glue with a light spray of water, but I haven't tried that.

A second problem is that since the glue is essentially clear, it is very difficult to see where you're painting it. It is possible after the gold is applied to scrape it off areas it doesn't belong with a sharp blade, but it's hard to get a smooth edge.

Finally, I imagine the resulting surface is pretty delicate and would easily rub off, since there is nothing protecting the leaf. Cleaning would have to be done very carefully.

Any comments on this process or suggested improvements would be welcome.

Jeremy
 
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Jeremy Woodoff

NAWCC Member
Jun 30, 2002
4,273
164
63
Brooklyn
Country
Region
The question has been raised on this board before about whether there is a way to restore gilding that has rubbed off porcelain or china clock cases. Original gilding was fired on as a glaze, but I think at a lower temperature than the rest of the decoration, and it has a tendency to wear off fairly easily.

I recently discovered a method for repair that I think has potential. I made up some rabbit skin glue (used with clay for traditional water gilding, usually on wood), painted it with a small brush on an area of a clock case that was missing its gold, and quickly applied real patent gold leaf. After allowing it to dry for a few minutes, I brushed off the excess leaf with a soft brush and burnished lightly with a dry Q-tip. The result looks remarkably like the original glazed surface. The reason for this is that the glazed china under the gold is very smooth and the rabbit skin glue is extremely thin and the consistency of water. The surface brilliance of the gold is governed entirely by the surface to which it is applied, and the glazed china with a thin coating of water-like glue is a perfect, smooth surface.

There are a couple of problems with this method. First, the glue dries almost instantly, so you have to apply it to just a small area and then immediately apply the leaf. It may be possible to reactivate the glue with a light spray of water, but I haven't tried that.

A second problem is that since the glue is essentially clear, it is very difficult to see where you're painting it. It is possible after the gold is applied to scrape it off areas it doesn't belong with a sharp blade, but it's hard to get a smooth edge.

Finally, I imagine the resulting surface is pretty delicate and would easily rub off, since there is nothing protecting the leaf. Cleaning would have to be done very carefully.

Any comments on this process or suggested improvements would be welcome.

Jeremy
 
N

newcat

Sounds good to me. many use the gel caps for sizing. Many porcelain restorers will spray coat the finished work with clear acrylic spray to provide some protection.
The NAWCC Library has a class room handout that Lee Davis uses in his classes. He is a master at this work.
 

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