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Help with edge gilding of books



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I was wondering if anyone could give me a few pointers on using gold
leaf to guild the edges of books.

I have been trying to learn this from "Book Binding by Hand" by Laurence
Town (with a few modifications) and am running into a few problems.

His process uses a scraper to smooth the edges of a book while in a
finishing press. I tried that and can't seem to produce very good
results at all. What I have used successfully is a power palm sander
with a rotary action (~10,00rpm). Using various grades of sandpaper, I
can get a very smooth finish on the edge of a book. I then switch to
Town's method of using a finely powdered chalk made into a paste and
laid on the edge. right before it dries, I brush it with a stiff brush
to obtain a mirror surface on the book. I then float the surface with
glaire made from egg white, vinegar and water and lay the gold leaf on.
I run into many problems here. I purchased a gold knife from Talas along
with a gold cushion and some burnishers. The catalog said the knife had
a sharp edge, but when I got it, it had no edge at all. just a flat pice
of steel with a nice handle on it. I sharpened it with a 15 degree bevel
and produced an edge that you can shave with. However, I still have
trouble cutting the gold on the gold cushion. The gold tends to stick to
the knife even after I have cleaned it, and it is difficult to cut the
gold without tearing the edges. Also, Town uses a flat brush to pick the
gold up from the cushion. For the life of me, I can't get the gold to
lightly adhere to the brush at all, it has a tendancy to stick to the
cushion. Once I have picked up the gold, it does not want to stay
attatched to the brush and is difficult to lay down on the edge of the
book. I have gone from trying to lay large sizes down as he shows and
using tweezers to pick up small pieces and lay them down. When the edge
is covered and dried, he burnishes through a waxed piece of paper and
then directly on the gold. The gold tends to stick in a mottled fasion
as if the surface is contaminated with oil (even though it is not and
has never been touched by anything except clean tools)

Any help is appreciated.
Randy

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