Monday, July 28, 2014

PBI 2014: Line by Line, An Intro­duc­tion to Gold Fin­ish­ing

I've already written here about two of the three classes that I took at PBI this year. The third class was the most removed from my comfort zone. Although I work with leather a lot, I don't use leather for fine binding so everything related to that is still mostly unexplored territory.

This class was an introduction to gold tooling, taught by Samuel Feinstein. Over the course of four days, we practiced making lines on leather plaquettes. That's all, just lines. A few dots at the end if you had time! But it quickly became quite clear that all elements of gold tooling require extensive practice so I focused on the lines.

Tooling samples from the class.

We were working with real gold, I believe it was 22k. It comes in micro-thin sheets in little booklets and it is ridiculously delicate and difficult. In fact, the tooling was the easy part of the class. Manipulating the gold leaf was much harder for me! Removing the gold from the booklet, lying it flat and slicing it, etc was painful - and expensive if sheets of gold are constantly being ruined. Every breath, every air current would lift the gold leaf off the cushion or flap a corner of it around and leave it torn or a mess of wrinkles. Thanks to Sam for constantly fixing my gold throughout the classes!

There are several methods of tooling lines and Sam taught us one way of doing it. We began by blind tooling with a cold line pallet tool. Then we re-tooled the same line with a heated tool. Third, we added moisture and blind tooled again with a cold tool. We added moisture again and blind tooled with a heated tool. Those four steps just create the blind impression. The impression is then coated with glaire. When the glaire is dry, then finally the gold is added. The gold is picked up with the heated line pallet and then applied to the line, adding enough layers to cover the impression so there are no breaks in the line.

Working the gold into the impression with the line pallet.

The following picture shows my practice work from the first couple days of this class. If you view this image full-size, you can see that the lines are covered unevenly and there are little breaks in the gold lines.

The next image shows my second plaquette - which was supposed to be our finished project, more refined and polished. I did get better results, but don't look too closely. I am still surprised at the amount of work that was required to produce these seemingly "simple" designs.

Someday, I really would like to do some gold tooling in my own studio. But it will have to wait until I can get all the tools. Then I can practice, practice, practice...


AES said...

I had no idea there were so many steps! Thanks for the glimpse into PBI :)

MyHandboundBooks said...

You're welcome, thanks for stopping by :)

Mosaic Magpie said...

There is so much to learn about this art...from tearing the paper to exquisite gold work.

MyHandboundBooks said...


Anonymous said...

And that is why mass produced books using high pressure stamps are cheap... but good!