Gilding Compo on Furniture

Tips on the process of gilding compo. October 26, 2011

I was asked to bid on a TV lift cabinet that will fit in a French provincial style. I can get compo to compliment that period, and know how to gild. What I need help with is the process. I've read the compo can be gilded first and then steamed and attached to the cabinet. My concern is messing up the finish on the cabinet when the compo is applied. I'd appreciate any advice you can give me. At this point I'm thinking of a shellac finish possibly top coated with varnish.

Forum Responses
(Furniture Making Forum)
From contributor D:
When I did gilded compo on mirror and picture frames, we always applied the compo first (steamed) and then leafed it later. Any wood finishing was then completed (often slopped onto the compo), then the size and leaf work was laid on. Sometimes glaze coats were applied over the leaf, after application. We used the sizing with a small brush so as to limit the gilding, and held pretty crisp lines.

I never heard of gilding the compo first, then heating. I would think the leaf would split or peel since compo can get very flexible. I probably do not have more than 100 hours experience, so I'm sure I don't have all the answers.

From the original questioner:
Thanks. I too wondered about gilding first and then steaming and applying the compo but I just double checked and it is off of the Bomar site! Seems to me that it would crack, lift, and otherwise get all messed up! I had thought of small brushes and carefully laying the quick size which seems like the best way to go. When you gilded the compo did you apply a base coat of burnisher/sealer first or just lay on whatever you used for the finish? This won't be precious so will definitely have to be sealed afterwards with a glaze or tinted shellac.

From contributor D:
After the compo was laid in place, a coat of red or brown size went on, then we would lay on the leaf the next day, after another coat of size - clear or colored. Sometimes we would burnish through the leaf so the red ground would show. We were often matching old work so glazes would then go on, then a top clear coat or two. We worked mostly with metal leaf - the gold or silver was rare. The top coats would also serve as a layer of protection from corrosion.

From the original questioner:
Let me see if I understand the process. First you build the piece and steam/lay the compo. Then burnish and seal the compo followed by size and gild. Once the gild has dried you finish the piece and possibly blend the finish into the gilded areas? I may use Danish oil for the finishing of the piece but that's still up in the air. Actually, placing a bid on the whole project is up in the air! I think I'm one of very few in my area that gild so may be worth my while, especially in this economy.