My first proper foray into gilding was a few years back when I got out the air dry clay and moulded a sun which I then gilded and put outside. I watched it disintegrate within six months. The TV was on the blink and it was a slow autumn so watching stuff melt was entertainment in our house. I got the bug again this year because I love me a bit of shiny sparkly stuff.
In the name of upcycling I painted and added my initials to an old wooden box I had. When completed, I sat back and had a ponder. It needed a bit of something fancy to make it stand out. Out came my trusted PVA glue and new book of faux gold leaf. Within ten minutes the craft room looked like a snow globe with golden flakes gently wafting to the floor, the desk, the chair and me. My hands could have been used as stunt doubles on that Bond movie where's she's draped on the bed and covered with gold. Well, if I was thirty years younger and had someone else's hands. It also stuck to the initials - briefly. To be clear, PVA doesn't work. For gilding to adhere the glue must be just tacky and remain in that state for some time. PVA is either wet or dry and the tacky point comes and goes quicker than a bar of chocolate when I'm feeling hormonal. So I went with the 'paint showing through' look, unhappy with the result.
Then we bought a watercolour that had a great frame that needed re-gilding. 'Yes', I crowed at him, 'I have to buy the correct glue now'. I think he feared that I would gild his bike if I was allowed to shell out for the proper stuff. Or maybe he mistook geld for gild. Who knows!
I did do a practice run first and found an old weight that needed some love. This water based glue was fantastic. It stayed tacky for ages. I was able to turn my little weight into a dressmaker's weight to hold down fabric when cutting out. One thing I did learn was that I wouldn't buy loose gold leaf next time but opt for leaf stuck to a backing sheet. I think it'd be easier to use and much less messy. Although, you might miss the joy of a gold snow storm in your craft room and finding it everywhere for the next month.
Then on to the main event - the picture frame not his bike (I'll wait until he's away to do that as a surprise). The glue did the job and with the use of a soft make-up brush I did manage OK. It doesn't look half bad, but as it's faux gold I still need to seal it. Everyone recommends shellac to stop it tarnishing. The kitchen looked like it had a flaky gold dandruff problem but hoovering had never been so sparkly unless you call to mind my attempt to make glitter baubles for Christmas.
So in truth gilding is messy but fun and you definitely need to get the right glue. Then you can go wild and ... I don't know.... paint a concrete pigeon pink and add gold bits. I mean, who wouldn't.
I bought both the glue and the leaf on amazon.
These sites are helpful:
This Old House: a basic description of how to gild
Sawdust Is Life: is a video that tells you how to gild carved letters that has useful information for a more detailed job.