Colyton House Gilding 




workshop & sales number: 01630 654087

Front Door Logo to airy thiness beat.....John Donne

 antique mirrors ~ conservation ~ restoration ~ gilding

A Layman's Guide to Gilding







This is glue size (we use rabbit skin) mixed with a spoon of whiting, then applied to the wood whilst hot, opening the wood grain.  The size is a primer which provides a key for the gesso.  




Joints are reinforced with silk, reducing the tendency of the gesso to crack as a result of any movement.




A mix of whiting (calcium carbonate or calcium sulphate), water and rabbit skin glue.  Approximately 8 layers are applied on flat panels, less on curved or detailed areas so as not to obliterate the detail, then rubbed down with wet linen to provide a mirror smooth surface.




Bole is coloured clay and rabbit skin glue mixed to a creamy texture.  Colours vary according to age and country of origin.  At least 4-5 layers are applied on top of gesso, rubbed down when dry with fine steel wool, then polished with a bristle brush.  Bole provides an exceptionally smooth surface on which to lay gold, it brings out the lustre of the gold and it allows water gilded areas to be burnished.  In areas to be oil gilded, yellow bole is usually applied as it is a useful colour to have in the deepest recess where it’s difficult to gild.



- Cannot be damaged with water.

- Can be used indoors and out of doors.

- Cannot be burnished.


SIZE (or mordent)

Glue manufactured to have different drying times e.g. 3, 12 or 24 hours.  A dust free environment is essential.



Either transfer or loose leaf can be laid.

Oil gilding can take a long time to become tough (sometimes months!) and generally has a more matt appearance than water gilding.



The finest gilding finish can only be obtained with the traditional Water Gilding technique.  It is the most challenging and time consuming method in some respects, but the end result is the finest and provides the most beautiful finish.

- Has a greater lustre than oil gilded areas.

- Usually used on more high quality goods.

- Can be burnished.



This is distilled water, alcohol and rabbit skin glue, painted generously onto the bole.



Loose leaf is laid whilst the surface is still generously wet with gilding water.