How to Burnish Gold Leaf

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Burnishing can emphasize areas of a certain object. It will make it glossy and reflective. Burnishing gold leaf is pressing the leaf so that it conforms to the surface underneath it. It is also another way of transforming regular objects into something extravagant. Gold leaf can be applied to many surfaces like metal, paint or even wood. A good burnish will have an even appearance and will not have any scratches. It adds brilliance and texture to surfaces and objects.

Things You'll Need

  • Low-tack painter's tape
  • 220-grit sandpaper
  • Tack cloth
  • Gilding primer/sealer
  • Adhesive sizing
  • Paintbrush
  • Leaf paper
  • Gilder’s brush
  • Cotton balls

Cover working surfaces and floor areas with newspaper or drop cloths. Tape off any areas of the object not to be gold-leafed or gilded.

Lightly sand the surface of the gilded object with 220-grit sandpaper. This is done to remove any blemishes on the area. Remove sanding dust with a tack cloth.

Apply a gilding primer/sealer to the metal using a paintbrush. Once the piece is completely coated, allow to cure for 24 hours.

Apply the sizing or adhesive to the cured metal on the gilded area with a paintbrush. Sizing refers to the adhesive used to adhere the gold leaf to a surface. Allow the adhesive to dry for three to four hours.

Remove a single sheet of gold leaf transfer paper carefully from its packing. Gently apply the gold leaf to your surface. Using a gilder’s brush, rub over the back of the paper. Remove the paper by pulling it off carefully.

Burnish the applied gold leaf using a gilder’s brush to remove excess gold leaf and polish the surface. You can use a cotton ball to rub it for a final burnish.

Apply acrylic topcoat using a paintbrush to the gilded and burnished piece if it will be used handled often. This is necessary to ensure durability of the leaf.

Tips & Warnings

  • Applying antique glaze to your leafed surface adds character and Old World charm.
  • The proper time to apply your leaf is when the "size" is not wet but tacky, just before it dries completely.
  • Do not touch gold leaf with your fingers. Use gloves if necessary.

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