Gold leaf on copper

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Joseph Tomer
Posts: 3
Joined: Sat Aug 08, 2015 4:33 am

Gold leaf on copper

Post by Joseph Tomer » Sat Aug 08, 2015 5:49 am

Hi all,

As my message count shows, I am the newest kid on the block! :) I am not a signwriter or anything, just interested in fine arts and gilding. I am not a native english speaker, so I hope you guys will forgive me if I ever sound rude or undereducated.

I have been reading this forum for quite some time now, and eventually decided to join since I am currently working on a copper sculpture that I want gold leaf gilded. However, I am not an experienced gilder and my first tests with LeFranc gold sizes showed unsuccessful. My problem is that the sculpture will need to be handled every now and then, so I need a harder size to prevent the gold from rubbing off. LeFranc is definitely too delicate for this purpose, as it lets me rub the gold off with my thumb. Also, I need a size with good sealing properties as I do not want any copper oxydation to show through the gold with time.

What do you think is my best option? Is there any gold size hard enough and airtight enough for use on copper? I figured that anything that sticks to a material as smooth as glass would stick to copper, but I might be wrong. Should I consider clear-coating my sculpture? Any other suggestions?

Many thanks for your input!

Joss

Dan Seese
Posts: 313
Joined: Tue Apr 13, 2004 11:29 pm
Location: Fort Collins, CO
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Re: Gold leaf on copper

Post by Dan Seese » Sat Aug 08, 2015 8:48 pm

Welcome to the forum, Joseph (Joss),
I've never applied gold leaf to copper but there are a couple of things in your question that I'll respond to:
1. First, if the sculpture will be handled, I think you need to protect the gold by clearing it. No matter how tough, flexible and long-lasting the size it, it won't protect the gold from being scratched off if it isn't clear-coated. I usually don't clear my gold, but in this case I would do so.
2. Second, since copper is going to oxidize when exposed to the air, you might consider a primer/sealer of some sort before you gild the piece. I'm not certain what would be the best product - maybe shellac - but I think you want to be sure no oxygen gets to the copper underneath.
3. Given those two factors, I think your last question might address both issues. In other words, if you clear coat your sculpture after you gild it, it will likely arrest any oxidation on the copper as well as give protection to the gold leaf.
Hope that helps and doesn't just confuse matters.
(Your English is excellent, by the way.)
Dan
"The lyf so short, the craft so long to lerne."
Geoffrey Chaucer (c. 1340 - 1400)

http://DanSeeseStudios.com
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Joseph Tomer
Posts: 3
Joined: Sat Aug 08, 2015 4:33 am

Re: Gold leaf on copper

Post by Joseph Tomer » Sun Aug 09, 2015 4:18 am

Hi Dan,

Nobody calls me Joseph... :) I realize I shouldn’t have put my full name, it only confuses people.

Thanks for your advice. It actually helps, as I’ve been considering priming the sculpture with yellow acrylic enamel or Rolco yellow burnish sealer. I’m not too sure about shellac, as I’ve already tried copal and it wouldn’t dry for some reason. Paraloid B-72 is also an option (used for conservation of bronze and copper coins in museums), even though I’m not sure whether gold size will stick to thermoplastic resin. Plus it’s not yellow.

You mention that you usually don’t clear your gold. May I ask what size you use? I’m pretty sure that the Statue of Liberty’s torch is not cleared either. I know it’s not handled much :roll: but I suppose it hails in New York too. Clear-coating the sculpture would be satisfactory in terms of durability, but it must remain my last option.

Joss

Joseph Tomer
Posts: 3
Joined: Sat Aug 08, 2015 4:33 am

Re: Gold leaf on copper

Post by Joseph Tomer » Tue Aug 11, 2015 1:36 pm

And what about gelatine size? Does anybody know if it works on metal?

Kent Smith
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Joined: Fri Dec 31, 2004 6:41 pm
Location: Estes Park, CO
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Re: Gold leaf on copper

Post by Kent Smith » Tue Aug 18, 2015 11:48 pm

Most gold domes as well as church crosses are copper and are gilded to minimize the oxidation. Although a good primer such as a pure acrylic is a modern substitute for shellac, most copper is best primed with a good coating of oil slow size. After a week, a second coat can be added upon which to gild. I suggest different color tints added to the size so you can tell how well each coat is covering. This is not a thick coating, just a good smooth coat, which a good quality lettering brush will lay down in about 2 mil thickness. Gold actually holds up well to the elements even round hail stones, it is the jagged ones that tear up the leaf and the copper sheets on domes as well. I only clear coat when the item is to be handled by human hands.

steve purcell
Posts: 2
Joined: Sat Apr 30, 2005 12:57 pm

Re: Gold leaf on copper

Post by steve purcell » Sat Sep 12, 2015 11:55 am

Hey Joss.
I've leafed and maintained several large (1 box or greater) copper sculptures. Our process has always been a light blasting or sanding, followed by a red oxide primer, thin coats of enamel, and finishing with a thin coat of tinted oil size, leafed at the last possible minute.
steve purcell
purcell woodcarving & signmaking
cape cod, ma

Joe Tomer
Posts: 1
Joined: Sun Sep 13, 2015 12:53 pm

Re: Gold leaf on copper

Post by Joe Tomer » Sun Sep 13, 2015 4:03 pm

Many thanks for your input guys!

Kent, what clear coat do you use when the item is to be handled? Doesn't gold look too plasticky when clear-coated? The thinner the better, I guess.

Steve, what brand of red oxide primer and enamel do you use? The brands I know are not suitable for copper.

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