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Researching the Fortress of Louisbourg National Historic Site of Canada
  Recherche sur la Forteresse-de-Louisbourg Lieu historique national du Canada




A. Storm

May 1982

(Fortress of Louisbourg
Report H G 05)

Chapter VII


Whatsoever you would gild, must be first drawn with Gold size, according to the proportion of what you would have gilt, whether figure, letter, or whatever it be.

For Gold SIZE, take yellow oaker and grind it on a stone with water, till it be very fine, and afterwards lay it on a chalk stone to dry; this is the common way; or you may wash it, as it taught in the article Washing of Colors; for when 'tis washed to be sure nothing but the purest of the color will be used, and besides it is done with less daubing.

When the oaker has been thus prepared, grind it as you do other oil colors, only with fat drying oil; but it is something more laborious work, in that it must be ground very fine, even as oil itself; for the finer it is, the greater lustre the Gold will carry that is laid on it.

Here NOTE, that you must give it such a quantity of your fat oil, that it may not be so weak as to run, when you have laid it on; nor so stiff that it may not work well; but of such a competent body, that after it is laid on, it may settle itself smooth and glossy; which is a chief property of size.

When the Gold size has been thus laid on, it must stand till it is dry enough to gild, which is to be known by touching it with the end of your finger; for if your finger sticks a little to it, and yet the Gold size come not off, then it is dry enough; but if the color come off on your finger, then it is not dry enough, and must be let alone a little longer; for if you should then lay your gold on, it would so drown it, that it would have no lustre: but on the other hand, if your size should be so dry, as not, as it were, to adhere a little to your finger, then it is too dry, and the gold will not take, for which there is no remedy but new sizing: Therefore you must watch the very nick of time, when it is neither too wet or too dry, both extremes being unfit for laying the gold on it.

When your size is ready for gilding take your book of leaf-gold, and open a leaf of it; take it out with your cane plyers, and lay it on your gilding cushion; and if it lie not smooth, blow on it with your breath, but very gently, which will make it lie flat and plane; then with a knife or cane, or for want of that a common pocket-knife, (that bath a smooth and sharp edge, being wiped very dry on your sleeve, that the gold stick not to it,) cut your leaf-gold into such pieces or forms as you judge most suitable to your work.

When you have thus cut a leaf of gold into proper forms, then take your gilding pallet, and breathe upon it to make it dampish, that the gold may stick to it: With this tool take your gold up (by clapping it down on the several pieces you had before cut into forms,) and transfer it to your size, upon which clap it down as dextrously as you can, and the gold will leave the pallet, and stick on the size; which you must afterwards press down smooth with a bunch of cotton, or the bottom of a hare's foot; and thus you must do piece by piece, till you have covered all your size with gold; and after it is fully dried, then with your hare's foot brush off all the loose gold, and the gilding will remain fair and beautiful.

If the work to be gilded be very large, open your book of leaf-gold and lay the leaf down on your work without cutting it to pieces, and so do leaf by leaf, till you have covered quite over what you intend to gild: And if some particular places do miss, take up with a small bunch of cotton a piece of leaf-gold cut to a fit size, and clap it on, that the work may be entirely covered: And if the gold is to be laid in the hollows of carved wood, you must take it up on the point of a Camel's hair pencil, and convey it in, and with the said pencil dab it down till it lie close and smooth.

Note: That after your gilding is thus finished, you may, if you please, diaper or flourish on it with thin burnt umber, whatsoever shall be suitable to your design. The Umber must be tempered blat thin, so that the gold may appear through it. [1]

GILDING WITH SILVER: In laying on silver upon an oily size, the same methods in all respects are required as for gilding with gold save only in this, that the size upon which silver is laid, ought to be compounded of a very little yellow oaker, and much white lead; for the size being of a light color, the silver laying on it will look more natural and retain its own color better the whiter the size is.

Silver size is made by grinding white lead with fat drying oil, some adding a very small quantity of verdigrease to make it bind.

Note: That the common painters do now generally, the gilding, use more silver than gold, in most works that are not much exposed to the air, to which they afterwards give the color of gold, by means of the racker varnish; the use of which is now so common that if they gild anything that stands free from the weather, they only gild with silver, and so give it the color of gold with racker varnish, made with gum lake dissolved in spirits of wine, and laid over it.

A Guilding Cushion, a utensil generally made of smooth "rained basil skin, the flesh side outwards; this is to be nailed to the edges of a square wooden beard about six inches square, and then well stuffed out with cotton or wool very hard, plain, and flattish: Upon this gilding cushion the gold leaves are to be laid when you would cut them into such scantlings as will best fit the work you design to gild.

THE GILDING KNIFE, is a slip of the hollow Spanish cane, cut up to a smooth and sharp edge with a good penknife. This cane knife is accounted the best, because, if well made, it will not only be very sharp, but also cut the gold leaf more naturally than any other; for a steel knife, though it cut very well, yet the gold will stick to it, and so give you much trouble to part the leaf from it, except you are careful to keep the edge very dry, by continually wiping it with a clean dry cloth.

THE GILDING PALLET, is a flat piece of wood, about three inches long, and an inch broad, upon which is to be glued a piece of fine woolen cloth, of the same length and breadth. Upon this pallet do but breath with your breath, that the cloth may be made a little moist by it, and then if you clap it down gently upon the gold that is cut out on the cushion, it will stick to the pallet, and may thence be conveyed to the work you are to gild and lay down on it. [2]

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