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Edge gilding of books



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Dear Randy,
As you're learning, there are many things that can go astray in gilding a
book edge. You don't mention the type of paper used in the book. Is this a
new book, old, how old? Preparation of the edge is everything (almost). While
I like Towne's book, you might consider getting John Mitchell's, as more up
to date.
An electric sander to smoothen the edge is acceptable, though it throws up
lots of dust. However, you must use it for short periods, not allowing the
book edge to become hot. Overheating the edge can "cook" the sizing in the
paper making it not accept the egg/vinegar glaire. Or to do so in a spotty
way.
If you are having trouble scraping, it could be that you've not gotten the
edge of the scraper sharpened quite right. I use single edge razor blades for
scraping, holding the blade almost vertical, and a light touch. Sometimes,
damping the edge with very thin, watery paste before scraping helps to get a
smoother surface.
The surface of the gold cushion should have talc rubbed well into the nap and
then beaten out to remove any oils, which would make the gold stick to the
cushion. The knife should have an edge but not be sharp enough to cut the
surface of the gold cushion. The edge must be smooth, no burrs, which can
cause the gold to tear. Before using, polish the blade quite well with a
cloth and a bit of talc to remove any trace of oil. To cut, make sure that
you first firmly press the blade down against the cushion, followed by a very
slight sawing motion.
To lift the gold with the badger hair brush, you pass it lightly across your
hair. It will then take on enough oil from your hair to hold the gold for
lifting. Another method involves wiping a strip of paper across your hair and
then using it to lift the gold. If the gold wants to adhere to the cushion,
then you've not talced the leather well enough, or you need a bit more
swiping of brush/paper on your hair for a bit more oil.
Since the gold sticks to the edge in some places, you're doing things
partially right at least! What sort of powdered chalk are you using for the
ground? Is it evenly applied, no mottling? I use either Armenian bole or
graphite or a mixture of the two (get these from Kremer pigments, NYC) in
rice starch paste as ground.
Lastly, while I sometimes use the egg/vinegar glaire, I prefer a thinned,
somewhat watery rice starch paste. After the edge is prepared I apply two
coats of the rice starch, letting the first coat dry before applying the
second. After the last coat is dry, I come back and wet the edge before
laying the leaf. John Mitchell uses a specific laundry starch as a size. But
every gilder develops their own preferences, and the egg/vinegar will work
with the right edge preparation. Best
James

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