A gold leaf is a thin sheet of authentic or imitation gold that serves as an attractive coating for objects and furniture, such as a tabletop. It is easy to find gold leaf; all kinds of gold leaf are available in arts and crafts shops and in online stores. If you want to enhance the appearance and value of your tabletop, consider gilding it with fine gold leaf.
- Separate the areas to be gilded. You may gild the entire tabletop or just portions of it. Cover the areas that are not part of the gilding with masking tape, old cloth, or newspapers. Place newspapers on the floor underneath the table to prevent the gold leaf from sticking to the floor.
- Remove old paint and varnish. A gold leaf doesn't adhere well to tabletops with paint or varnish. Remove previous layers of paint and varnish by sanding or stripping. Apply a coat of sealant to make the surface ready for gilding.
- Sand rough surfaces. A gold leaf adheres best to smooth surfaces. Use sandpaper if the tabletop is rough. Apply gesso or plaster of Paris to make the surface smoother. Alternate gesso coats with sanding for a very smooth finish.
- Clean the tabletop. Make sure that the tabletop is clean and free from dirt and grime to avoid bumps and deformities in the gold leaf. Wipe the tabletop with alcohol using a soft, non-abrasive towel.
- Apply the bole. A bole is paint that is used as the basecoat for the gilding. Traditional bole may be used as well as acrylic paint or a colored primer. If the paint is shiny, dilute it with a matt solution. Apply one to two coats of this paint to the tabletop using a brush, and wait for it to dry.
- Apply the size. The size is an adhesive that makes the gold leaf and the surface stick together. Choose a size that dries quickly and lasts a long time. Brush the size evenly and avoid making runny buildups that will show through the gold leaf. Wait for the size to dry until it becomes transparent and tacky. Test the readiness of the size. Gently press against the size using a gloved hand, and pull your hand away. If you hear a clicking sound, the size is ready.
- Apply the gold leaf. Wear gloves and gently carry the gold leaf over the size. Use a brush to make it adhere to the size. Flatten out air bubbles and brush the gold leaf evenly. When the tabletop has corners or uneven areas, apply small sections of gold leaf and brush them on securely.
- Burnish or spray. Make the gold leaf shiny by burnishing it or applying a lacquer spray. These, as well as the bole and the size, may be found in the same stores where gold leaf are sold.
Read the instructions on how to use the materials properly so that you get the best results from them. Always handle every step with care, as gold leaf is very delicate. Don't rush results but allow ample time for each artistic process of gilding your tabletop.