Now you're ready to gild. First, prepare your tools and work area. You don't need a lot of tools and materials:
- gold leaf (obviously)
- a knife for cutting the gold leaf into managable pieces. The knife should have a long, straight blade
- ethanol to degrease your knife
- a surface for cutting the gold leaf on. I'm using a cork trivet from the gardening store
- one or two brushes for transferring the gold leaf pieces to the object. These are special brushes called "Gilder's Tip" made of very soft squirrel hair
- a bushy squirrel hair brush called "Mop" to brush away excess gold leaf and kind of "polish" the gold
Here's my work place:
Cork trivet, kitchen knife and gold leaf. Gold leaf is usually sold in little booklets containing 25 sheets of gold leaf, measuring 8cm x 8cm.
Note: There are special gilder's knifes with perfectly straight blades and leather cushions called "gilder's cushion". While I don't doubt that these work better for cutting gold leaf, an ordinary kitchen knife and a cork trivet have worked fine for me so far (and are way cheaper, of course).
First, thoroughly degrease your knife with ethanol:
Gold leaf will stick to any traces of grease, and we will use the knife the transfer the gold leaf from the booklet to the cork. Therefore the knife blade must be absolutely grease-free, otherwise the gold leaf will stick to it and won't come off again!
When you're done degreasing, let the blade dry.
A word in advance about handling gold leaf:
Close all windows to avoid draft and breathe carefully. A gust of wind or even breathing heavily can easily blow a piece of gold leaf away.
Now open the booklet with the gold leaf to expose the first sheet:
On one end of the leaf, carefully slide the knife blade under the leaf:
This takes a bit of practice. You might have to wiggle the blade a bit to be able to slide it under the gold leaf.
Once you've slid the blade all the way under the leaf, carefully lift the knife:
Slowly and carefully transfer the leaf from the booklet to the cork trivet:
Place the gold leaf on the trivet and carefully move the knife out from under leaf:
This is actually the hardest part of gilding. But don't worry, it isn't all that difficult. You might destroy one or two pieces of gold leaf until you get the hang of it.
As you can see I tore the leaf when transferring it to the cork, but that's not a big problem.
If the gold leaf doesn't lie nice and flat on the cork, you can carefully and very softly breathe at it from above. In case it is badly tangled after transferring it to the cork, you can most of the times slide the knife under it at some spot and either pick it up again or try to untangle it as well as possible.