Gold leaf is gold that has been hammered into extremely thin sheets and is often used for gilding. In the sign making industry gold leaf is used to finish carved letters. It can also be used on glass, this technique is knows as glass gilding. Gold leaf is available in a wide variety of karats and shades. 22-karat yellow gold is the most commonly used. Alternatively there are other leaf metals available for use, such as palladium, white gold, yellow gold, and variegated leaf.
The application of gold leaf, known as gilding, is an ancient art which is currently experiencing a revival. Gilding services are now in high demand. Despite it’s long history the actual techniques and applications have never changed. In days past one would learn this craft through apprenticeship with a master gilder. This is still common today as the knowledge is passed down from one sign maker to the next.
Types of Gold Leaf & Alternative Metals
Leaf of every kind is supplied in books, each of which contains 25 sheets. 500 books to a pack. Each sheet measures 3 and 3/8 inch square. The thickness of gold leaf can be as low as .0000035 inches. Some alternative metals such as aluminum are less expensive. Because of this the sheets can be as large as 5 and one half inches square and somewhat thicker that gold. There are many different type of gold leaf available:
XX Gold (23 karat) – This gold also know as deep gold is commonly used for glass gilding an surface gilding. Lemon Gold (18 karat), Pale Gold (16-Karat), and White Gold (12-karat); these alternative shades of gold leaf can also be used for glass gilding and surface gilding on carved signs. Silver Leaf is available but it is not something we use because it tends to tarnish quickly. Palladium Leaf and aluminum serve as a great alternative to silver. Also many types of white gold will due if they are white enough to resemble silver. We also use variegated leaf which is made of copper alloy. The material is oxidized to create random colorful patterns and blends. Variegate leaf can be red, green, blue, and purple.
Karat Weights / Alternative Metal Leaf
- Karat Weights – 24K / 23.75K / 23.5K / 23K / 22.5K / 22K / 20K / 19K / 18K / 16K / 13.25K / 12K / 10K / 9K / 6K
- Colors – Yellow Gold / Orange Gold /Platinum Gold / Red Gold / Florin Gold / Dark Yellow Gold / Champagne Gold / Moon Gold / Light Yellow Gold / Citron Gold / Green Gold / Lemon Gold / Light GreenGold / Caplain Gold / White Gold / Rosenoble Gold / American Gold
- Platinum Palladium Silver
- Variegated Leaf – Red / Blue / Black / Green / Pink / Solid Black / Asia Red
Gold Leaf Signs Everywhere!
We design and manufacture custom gold leaf signs of every sort and variety, offering only the best materials available to our customers. We create dimensional sigs from many different materials. Granite, signfoam, cedar and other types of exotic lumber are available. We can sandblast letters into granite for your community entrance sign or office park. We manufactured sanblasted HDU Signs and Routed HDU signs as well. We can even make HDU signs with v-cut incised lettering, or sandblasted cedar signs. Your dimensional sign can also be mounted with custom iron scrolls and brackets. We also offer on-site gilding services for sandblasted lettering into existing granite and stone. We also manufacture pin-mounted dimensional letters which can be cast or cut with a water-jet. Any of our dimensional signs and letters can be finished with 23 karat gold leaf to create the perfect gold leaf sign for your community or business!
From start to finish, we bring your ideas to life. Give us your sketch and let us do the rest. We’ll design your perfect gold leaf sign. Your home or business will stand out from the crowd. Draw in new customers with a beautiful gold leaf sign on your shop window. Impress your guests at home with traditional gold leaf numbers on your glass transom! Let us install a fantastic dimensional sign for your business or community and we’ll finish it with 23 karat gold leaf by hand!
Surface Gilding Tools & Techniques
We like to use gold leaf on every sign we create, whenever it is appropriate. We can apply it to any surface; wood, metal, or HDU (SignFoam). When we are working with wood, first the wood must be prepared. Cedar is always stained first, while teak and mahogany are cleaned and varnished. Surface gilding is probably the easiest of all of the techniques we used to apply gold leaf.
What is Gold Leaf Size? The first part of this process is known as for sizing. Size is similar to paint or varnish but it is more suitable for gold leaf application because it dries slowly, providing extra time for the gilding process. Once the size has been applied to the surface, we wait until the tack is suitable for application of the gold leaf. The tack of the size is very important. As the size begins to dry it becomes tacky and at this point we are ready to gild. If we apply the gold too early it will sink into the size and will not have a lustrous finish. If we applied our gold leaf too late we run the risk of it not sticking very well to the size. There’s a trick for knowing when the size is just right and ready for gilding. Touch the surface of the size with your knuckle. It should be sticky but there should be no size on your knuckle. If size comes off on your knuckle then the surface is not ready yet!
Fantastic Glass Gilding!
Let us gild your transom at home or the window at your specialty shop or restaurant. Glass gilding will dazzle your guests! Passers by will notice your shop and come in for a look about. Pedestrians will stop to take a look at your menu when the gold leaf logo in your window catches their eye. Glass gilding is the best way to attract foot traffic from the walkway in front of your store. Gold leaf immediately conveys the guartentee of high quality products and services to your potential customers on the street.
First the glass is cleaned well with a razor blade and bon ami, which is a chemical free cleaning powder which will not scratch surfaces such as glass. That’s why we like to use it for prepping windows and transoms. We have developed new unique methods of glass gilding which add value to the finished product and save time as well. Glass gilding is a time consuming process, we are constantly experimenting with new techniques that save time when we gild.
To apply gold leaf to glass, as with any surface, first we must apply the size. In this case our size will be mostly water with a small tab of gelatin dissolved into the water. The water is heated mildly with sterno which helps the gelatin to dissolve evenly into the water. Allow a few minutes for the water too cool down to room temperature before you apply it to the glass. We use a spray bottle to apply a fine mist of size to the glass. Sheets of gold leaf are applied to the glass immediately after the size. The size will dry and then the gold will be polished. There is really no way to get a perfect gild on one pass so at this point we reapply the size and begin again. Usually two layers of XX gold leaf will do. There will still be some small pin holes to patch. This does not require a full third pass. Those pin holes can be sprayed with size and small gold leaf scraps will cover them adequately. Once the gold leaf is dry it can be polished with soft cotton and then it’s ready for the backup paint.
There are many different methods of backing up. Traditionally one would use a silk screen for a complicated logo, or a pounce pattern for something simpler which is usually the case. The pattern can be used to apply a this outline of the letters to the gold leaf and then the letters can be painted by hand. The backup paint must dry completely before the excess gold is eradicated. We use a soft bristle brush, rubbing the glass around the letters in a circular motion to remove the excess gold leaf from the glass. Rub too hard and you’ll break the backup paint so it’s important to be extremely when you work. At every stage of the process there is potential to make mistakes. Most mistakes would mean starting over. We always worked slowly to avoid those pitfalls. Glass Gilding takes time, there is no way to speed it along so it’s best just to be patient!
Gold Leaf Boat Lettering
Cruise in style with amazing gold leaf boat lettering on the transom of your yacht. Show off your fishing trawler with a flashy gold leaf boat name and custom graphics. If you have a classic wooden boat we can letter it by hand with a traditional 23 karat gold leaf name.