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More on edge gilding of books, hand and machine

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Dear Randy,
Another possibility for you might be mechanical gilding. Harcourt Bindery in
Boston sells a small electrically heated gilding machine which uses foil. I
own one, it's great for work where cost is a real issue, and Swift in
Hartford, Connecticut sells a real gold foil 'specially made for edge g
ilding, though Harcourt's dyed aluminum foil is quite nice, though a bit
bright and hard looking for my taste. In my experience any foil can be used
with the machine, adjusting for temperature with the machine's settings. It
looks like a gilding wheel on a handle, but the wheel is a 2" wide aluminum
and rubber roller. It does edges wider then 2 inches, of course.
I used to use Marchetti, now in Brooklyn, NY?, for mechanical edge gilding,
but the machine costs what a few Marchetti edges does AND of course there is
the convenience of in house gilding. The machine and the use of foils (golds
and other coloured) offers it's own potentials. If you don't know Sam
Ellenport and the Harcourt Bindery, you should. They've a web site.
But to your hand gilding. Your Bible sounds like a modern India paper. These
can be notoriously difficult to gild by hand, having to do with the hard
sizing of the thin paper, but are imminently gildable. The ground applied in
gilding serves several purposes: one is too alter the colour of the gold leaf
(red bole for warmth, graphite for a colder gold), another is to fill the
pores of the paper, giving a harder smoother surface to gild, and yet a third
is to slow a bit, but not too much, the absorption of the size into the paper
while the gold sets. In my experience, India papers don't require a heavy
ground. You might consider painting the edge red with a good watercolour to
which you can add a very small amount of paste or methyl cellulose, the
pigment acting as a sufficient ground on the sanded, smoothed surface of the
already hard sized paper. Also, in my experience, a starch size (made like an
old fashioned pastewash for leather before tooling) does much better on India
papers than eggwhite/vinegar. Don't know why. Lastly, dusting the pages with
talc can obviate sticking problems at the page edges.
If the gold is rucking up in cutting, I'd suspect oil or minute burrs on the
knife edge which catch and tear at the leaf.
To clean off an edge, rather than resanding/scraping, usually the gold can be
wiped/rubbed away with a damp soft cloth. Especially if done shortly after
gilding. Over time, some grounds or sizes (egg white among them) can become
less soluble. Too much size or moisture repeatedly applied can cause pages to
want to stick together at the edges, cause tide lines in older paper, even
producing waves along the edge. So make sure to rub the edge dry with a soft
lint free cloth between efforts.
As to the paper backed goldleaf, it works with Richard's reactivated sizing
method. If you try it with a wet, liquid size (eggwhite/vinegar for example)
the liquid will strike through the leaf, binding it to the tissue it places,
leaving moisture spots on the gold (impossible to burnish out), and creating
huge problems and a mess to boot! I buy my leaf, all types, from Art
Essentials of New York; they fairly consistently seem to have the best
prices. And great service.
Lastly, an idea I stole from Townes is his use of a saliva laden brush,
rather than size, to lay a second layer of gold. It usually dries really
fast, so you need to be prepared for burnishing almost immediately. Hope this
helps, good luck, and have fun. When you're ready to toss the burnisher
across the shop, it's time for a brief holiday from edge gilding! Best

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