Good-As-Gold Picture Frames

Cover all or part of a basic wood picture frame with Sepp’s new variegated gold leaf to create gifts with the Midas touch.

Gold, aluminum, and copper leaf and gilding kits have been around for years and proved a novel way to enhance the beauty of practically anything made of wood, plastic, or metal. This year, gilding kit maker Sepp Leaf Products, Inc. introduced its new line of variegated leaf, shown on the frames below. Like its other tissue-thin leaf products, variegated gold leaf goes on easily and flawlessly, making it perfectly suited for even the rank beginner. To put it to good use, we designed a simple 6½ x 8½" picture frame (for 5 x 7" photos) that you can build from scrap and adorn with variegated leaf. Need a quick and simple project for your holiday gift-giving, something with real pizazz? Here it is!

Make it happen in six easy steps

1. First build the frame. Unless you already have a frame or other project you wish to apply the gilding to, construct the simple and strong frame design on page 12. (Poplar is a good choice if you plan to use paint.) Machine the parts as dimensioned and join them using splines as shown or go simple with glue and nails.

2. Sand and seal the surface. Sand the frame working from 180 through 600 grit. Why the fine grit? Because any bumps or surface imperfections will show through the gilding. Wipe the surfaces clean and apply stain and finish to the frame if you plan to accent only a part of the frame with gilding. If doing this, wait until the finish cures and then mask off the ungilded areas. Hands-on consultant Mike Shaffer recommends Scotch Satin tape for this. If gilding the entire frame, seal it with lacquer, acrylic, water-borne lacquer, shellac, polyurethane, or Mike’s preferences, Zinsser Sanding Sealer or latex semi-gloss paint. Lightly sand the cured sealer with 600 grit and wipe clean.

3. Apply the glue size. Mix the size well, then spread it on the area to be gilded using the natural hair brush (Photo A). See the Gilding Kit and other supplies on page 12. You want the thinnest possible layer. Thin with up to 10% water if needed. Mike likes to go with overlapping crisscross strokes to avoid long brush streaks which could show through. Wait for 10 to 15 minutes or until the size becomes tacky. Use this time to clean your brush with soap and warm water.

4. Add the gilding. Now, slip on the cotton gloves in the kit to avoid discoloring the gilding with skin oil and fold your cheesecloth into a small pad. Holding the leaf book over the sized frame, peel back the first sheet of tissue to expose the leaf and then carefully slip it out and gradually lay it on the surface using a gloved finger (Photo B). Gently press the leaf onto the surface with the pad. Continue along the surface one sheet after the next, separating the leaf as needed into two pieces by clamping both halves with your fingers and applying light pressure to tear it. 

5. Buff and repair the gilding. Gently buff out the gilding with the pad, using a back and forth motion to remove the excess leaf (Photo C). If working with molded or routed profiles, such as the rabbet or chamfer shown here, dab the gilding into tight corners and crevices using a small china bristle brush (not included in the kit). Use loose gilding flakes to piece in areas you missed. The cover up will instantly blend into the surrounding gilding for a flawless look.

6. Protect the gilding with finish. Wait overnight for the gilded workpiece to dry. Then seal it with lacquer, shellac, or another high quality finish. Note that the finish will slightly affect the appearance of the gilded surface. Next, gather a piece of glass, glaser’s points, backing, and just the right photo to make your frame complete.

About The Kit And Variegated Gilding

Sepp offers a Basic Gilding Kit with all the items needed to successfully apply gilding: 1) Imitation Gold Leaf, 2) Cheesecloth, 3) Natural Hair Brush, 4) Mixing Sticks, 5) Gilding Size, 6) Cotton Gloves and (not shown) 600-grit Wet/dry Sandpaper. 

Other items used for gilding include: 7) Clear Finish, 8) Acrylic Clear Coat, 9) Leaf Adhesive, an oil-based size for indoor or outdoor use. 10) Books of Red, Blue (shown), and Green Variegated Leaf, and Imitation Gold, Aluminum, and Copper Leaf are available separately as well. Each leaf type comes in books of 25 leaves that measure 5½ x 5½".

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