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Re: [BKARTS] gold leaf question

I'm not sure what you mean by the leaf "flaking off".  If you are
talking about the leaf flaking off while your laying it on, then your
problem is too little grease (petroleum jelly) - although it doesn't
take very much to adhere temporarily the leaf.

If you are talking about the leaf "flaking off" after the tool has been
put down, then your problem can be two or three-fold.  I would suggest
that you use albumen crystals or powder.  Mix the crystals in
five-to-one proportion with water.  Shake it lightly - not so much that
you make meringue - and let it sit overnight.  Strain it through some
of that foam which is used to filter window air conditioners.  It's not
critical to use the foam, I just find it to be a good filter and
reusable.  You could strain it through filter paper, but that doesn't
improve your glaire - it just takes more time.

The next step should be pastewashing your leather.  If it's goat, put a
little vinegar in your pastewash - calf or vellum just require water,
although on second thought some vellum is a bit greasy and will need a
vinegar wash.  (Your pastewash should be the consistency of whole milk
or something like that.)  Here's the point missed by most manuals on
goldtooling. -  (Most of the manuals are/were written for the Continent
or UK.  There the humidity is much more constant that it is in North
America.) - Moisture content in the leather is the most important
factor in gold tooling.  You must learn by experience/feel how much
moisture is in the leather, and, therefore, how much pastewash/glaire
to apply.

Two anecdotes come to mind:  Marianne Tidcombe recounts in The
Bookbindings of T. J. Cobden-Sanderson (pg. 12), quoting
Cobden-Sanderson, "I have in the last few day taken to practise
'finishing' again, and after one complete failure found out the cause
of it, and the condition of success.  I have been told that each stage
must be dry before the next is proceeded with - a most equivocal and
misleading statement.  It were of little use to moisten the leather if
it is to be allowed to dry again!  Rather free of surface wet.  The
formula, then should be, 'dry, but not too dry', and of tools, 'hot,
but not too hot'.  The next reminder of just how crucial leather
moisture  is comes from talking to an old German finisher when I was
first starting out.  He told me that finishing was a wet process.  I
couldn't really understand what he was talking about, because I hadn't
done much tooling at that point.  But he was dead right.  It is a wet
process, but, as Cobden-Sanderson points out, not wet on the surface.
Also, I remember reading an old bookbinding manual, 17th or 18th
century - or maybe someone told me that they read it - that advised not
tooling more than a dozen spines at a time.  Now this should put things
in perspective.  Older buildings, before the invention of insulation
and Tyvek and before HVAC systems were introduced, were terribly damp.
One could get away with glairing up half-a-dozen spines, laying on
leaf, and tooling them at one go.

Glaire should be applied in thin coats (two coats is sufficient for
most goat and three for most calf) and palm off the streaks or puddles
which might form around the bands or other projections.  Lay your leaf
on when your hand slides across the leather and doesn't "stutter" or
grab due to surface moisture.  "Tool temperature is important - but
there's a little leeway here - a moderate hiss - and I can't rightly
describe a "moderate" hiss with audio help - will suffice when you
start putting the tools down.  Temperature will have to be regulated as
moisture content lessens.  For example, if you're building up a pattern
of tooling on the spine, then your tools will want to be hotter toward
the end of tooling than when you began, etc.

Wipe the excess off with a gold sponge (the Brits call it a gold
rubber, but be careful when asking for one of these over here!) and
clean the excess gold off with a bit of cotton (I've found Webril wipes
to be the best) and lighter fluid (refined petrol)

Not to discourage you, but it will take you a good year or two with
CONSTANT practice to become a proficient finisher.  Different leathers,
different ambient temperatures and humidities, different tools,
different typefaces, different patterns, etc.


Wes Baker

On Feb 19, 2005, at 7:52 AM, Carole Vanderhoof wrote:

I am doing hand tooling on calf using egg white.  I am having some
trouble with the leaf flaking off.  Now, I know that the problem could
be anything from the glair being too dry to the tool being too hot, so
I am trying to eliminate the causes.  But first I'd like to know if I
have the best gold leaf for the job...I don't really understand what I
am buying... can someone tell me exactly what kind of gold leaf you
get and who you buy it from? I don't mind the price if I can get good
results.  So what thickness, etc. should I be getting?

     The Bonefolder: an e-journal for the bookbinder and book artist

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    The Bonefolder: an e-journal for the bookbinder and book artist

            For all your subscription questions, go to the
                     Book_Arts-L FAQ and Archive.

                 Both at: <http://www.philobiblon.com>

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