Gilding, Silvering and Bronzing, edited by Bernard E. Jones, 1918
This 1918 book covers the gilding and silvering of wood and other materials using silver and gold leaf, chemical gilding of metals, the gilding and silvering of metal and glass as well as an excellent section on metal coloring and patination recipes.
Edited by Jones the work is compiled from multiple authors and experts in the ‘Work’ magazine.
This is the most thorough book I’ve come across when it comes to applying gold and silver leaf, but it goes far beyond that into the chemical application of gold and silver to metals, glass, silk, cloth, making bronze paint, gilding books, lacquer and laquering techniques.. The chapter on coloring metals is worth the whole book, with unusual and hard to find recipes.
Unlike today, gold leaf was readily available in different alloys and colors, deep gold, lemon, pale, red, medium, white. Gold leaf came in different types, including on a roll with a waxy side built in. It came in rolls of different thicknesses used with a roller to make perfect stripes and lines.
Many base metal alloy leaf types are detailed. It is noted that aluminum was being preferred to silver because it did not tarnish. The use of colored lacquers over leaf (and metal surfaces) is addressed. Testing gold leaf can be done with copper chloride, imitations are blackened, higher gold content is unaffected.
Recipes for gessos, clay undercoating, and many types of oil sizing are given. Many are linseed oil based. Water sizing is surprisingly made by boiling scraps of parchment (sheepskin) with water, creating a kind of gelatin. Boiling scraps of buffalo hide is also recommended. Other recipes for different problems include isinglass among others (especially for gilding on glass).
All the tools for gilding are pictured and well described. Badger hair, camel hair and other exotics (In Germany they use squirrel ear hair brushes). The procedures are described in immense depth and detail. The older methods took time, a day or more in drying the sizing before applying the gold, though faster methods are detailed. Using aluminum as a first layer and gold as the top layer is mentioned.
Burnishing techniques and tools are well described. Gilding on glass has its own extensive chapter, with subtle, complex tips and tricks. There is a rather unsafe use of hydrofluoric acid that would need a lab and fume hood today – if at all. We might substitute sandblasting.. A chapter on renovating previous gilding work is interesting and unique.
There is a chapter on gilding and enameling an entire room. It is clear paint technology has come a long way since then.
The chapter on chemical silvering of glass and other surfaces is very good with lots of various precise recipes. The techniques are detailed and include oddities like silvering onto painted glass for a more complex image. (a note is that silvering makes surfaces ready to conduct electricity – great for electroforming). A chapter on silvering pastes, that plate silver when rubbed onto metals covers lots of options and approaches, more than I have seen in one place before.
Rolled gold is addressed as a lead-in to recipes for solutions that plate gold chemically onto metal surfaces. The section on mercury gilding should be ignored today except as a historical description. It is however quite accurate.
The chapter on metal coloring is really excellent. It was called ‘bronzing’ at this time. Black nickel plating solutions are dealt with. Blackening, deep browns and green solutions for brass, copper, steel and silver are detailed. There is a lilac color on brass I’ve never seen before. Etching cast brass to expose the crystals as well. ‘Royal Copper’, deep reds on copper, as well as a series of greys, dark blues and browns are addressed. Molten saltpeter is used in one approach.
Platinum and palladium solution recipes are given for silver coloring. Slate green for silver is based on iodine and postash. There is a shocking uranium solution for getting bright red on silver – never heard of this one either, and it sounds really dangerous. In general you have to apply some critical thought to some of these recipes with arsenic, bromine and some other nasty chemicals showing up in some of them.
Iron and steel coloring, browning, bluing, greening, blackening is covered in depth including rarities like ‘Bower-Barfing’, a steam finish for steel that is beautiful and durable. Tin finishes too, crystallized, blues and more. A section on making gold paints (like grinding the gold) and many substitutes is great. There is a chapter is about applying gold to book covers. The last section deals with lacquers in great detail and with many recipes.
This is a superb book!
Charles Lewton-Brain© 2011
File Size: 8.60MB, 166 Pages