DIY Repurposed Techniques

How to Gold Leaf… via Thrift Store Swap

March 31, 2017

This is a fun set of reveals that I’m going to share over two different DIY posts! The first post will show you how to Gold Leaf!… how to prep, apply, seal, and even glaze gold leaf!…

Early in the new year I joined a group of bloggers to do a Thrift Store Swap! What’s a Thrift Store Swap you ask!?…

Basically we each found items at a thrift shop to send onto another member of the group and we had to relove whatever we received, that someone else picked out for us!  We gave ourselves a month to repurpose the items and now we’re all sharing what we received and what we turned those items into!









The items I picked up to ship onto one of the swap members, Sammi, were these darling black and gold storage containers (I would have liked to have kept them!)… and a collection of metal pails… along with a couple that I’d had on hand myself in my stash already! To see what Sammi has created from her swap items be sure to check out her reveal post over on her blog!

Thrift Store Swap

The items that came to me, all the way from jolly ol’ England, were theses great hand turned wooden goblets with spindle tops, and a great piece of light canvas… when I unfold the canvas I discovered that it was a curtain panel!… These wood goblets were the perfect candidates to become gilded succulent holders! The light canvas curtain!? to see what that will become be sure to check back in a few days for that second reveal an DIY!

Thrift Store Swap

In this Thrift Store Swap reveal post I’m going to share with you how to gold leaf, as I turn these great wooden goblets into charming succulent planters!… It is so dry here in Calgary and the plants require such a little amount of moisture that I have no worries about the goblets being damaged by the small amount of water that will be placed in them from time to time.

Thrift Store Swap

Now what’s a Feathering My Nest post without a visit from Chief Inspector Oliver!? He had to check them out… and then lay on top of them like a mother hen… such a weirdo!

Thrift Store Swap

Okay lets get to the tutorial shall we?!

For gold leafing I recommend the following supplies:

Gold Leaf supplies

  • Speedball Mona Lisa Metal Leaf
  • Speedball Metal Leaf Red Basecoat
  • Speedball Adhesive Size
  • Speedball Sealer
  • Paintbrush for Red Basecoat
  • Paintbrush for Adhesive Size
  • Paintbrush for Working the Gold Leaf
  • Paintbrush for Sealing
  • Respirator or a Well Ventilated Work Space
  • And Item to Gold Leaf!.. in this tutorial it will be the wooden thrift store swap goblet that I am gold leafing

The leaf and various leaf related supplies can be picked up at craft or art supplies stores, or ordered online.

Gold Leaf supplies Speedball Art

I recommend picking up a pack of disposable brushes from your local dollar or hardware store… as you see I listed multiple brushes in the materials list above… grab a pack with various sizes or a couple packs so that you have some options on hand… also make sure that the brush bristles are smooth… smooth bristles will ensure smooth paint and adhesive size application is as smooth as possible, as well as won’t damage your gold leaf as you brush away the excess after application 😉

Gold Leaf Base and Respirator

Also! Safety First my eager DIY’er! If you do not have a well ventilated work space with a great supply of fresh air I highly recommend investing in a respirator… actually I recommend a respirator even if you have a great fresh air well ventilated workspace… best save your lungs right!? And being pregnant I’m even more mindful of what I’m breathing in and getting on my skin.  Stop by your local safety supply shop and ask for assistance picking up a respirator… they’ll help you find the right fit for you and the cartridges that you should be using based on what you will be doing!  If you use something as simple as spray paint you should be wearing a respirator! Sanding wood? Wear your respirator!

*Respirator Tip* When your respirator is not in use on your face store it in a large ziplock bag. This will extend the life of your filters. If you do not air will be passing through the filters and they’ll expire much more quickly. Pickup some respirator wipes as well – these are handy for when you’re doing dusty work… give it a wipe down when you’re done before you pack it away in it’s ziplock.

Gold Leaf Prep

You will be surprised at how many crafting items recommend that you do not breath in the vapours or dust… from epoxies to paints… take a moment to read the label and wear your safety gear when it is recommended! Even when sanding wood or sanding old paint that could contain lead you should pop on your respirator.

Respirator on!? You are good to get to work painting the item that you are going to gold leaf with the Metal Leaf Red Base. The purpose of the red base is to act as just that… a base! A primer to create a solid base coat that you will work your gold leaf on top of. Speedball says “Because leafing requires a non-porous surface, undercoating’s often act as a sealant. It also provides an additional color enhancement or tint to the applied leaf. Red Oxide was used as the traditional undercoating by master gilders because it brought out the brilliance of the gold leaf, and since leaf is thin, it was often burnished and sanded to let the undercoating show through.”

Gold Leaf Prep

Coat the items you wish to gold leaf in the metal leaf base coat and wait for it to dry… here in Calgary it is so dry… the base coat was dry in no time!… if the first coat you applied is thin and you can see through it apply a second coat.
Gold Leaf Adhesive Size

Once base coated it is time to apply the Adhesive Size… this product prepares the surface so that the leaf will, you guessed it!, adhere to the item!… there are some options in this product – there are paint on liquids size and spray size.

Thrift Store Swap

The spray is easy to work with but if you do not setup a good spray area you could end up with overspray on areas where you don’t want adhesive. Because the item I chose to gold leaf is small I chose to use the paint on adhesive size. It does got on a little milky but don’t fret… paint the complete surface ensuring that you get every nook and cranny… the product will dry clear… read the instructions for the dry time… as you don’t want it to dry completely… it will get dry to the point where it is clear an tacky.

Gold Leaf Sizing Drying

As you can see on this piece the adhesive size on the lower half of the piece has gone clear and glossy and the adhesive size that has been freshly painted on the top spindle is still milky as it “dries,” or gets tacky.

Gold Leaf Sizing Vs No Sizing Applied

Also… try not to worry if you might have missed any areas… as you can see from this shot un painted areas of the base coat will remain matte, and areas coated in adhesive sizing will appear glossy. If you’ve missed any spots give them a quick brush to coat those areas too!…

Gold Leaf sizing applied

Here is the wooden cup coated in adhesive sizing ready to have the gold leaf applied…

Ready to Gold Leaf

This is where the fun really begins… the item is fully prepped and ready for the gold leaf to be applied.

Applying Gold Leaf

With dry hands… no freshly applied hand cream here!… tear away piece small pieces of gold leaf and lay them across the surface of your item… using a clean dry smooth bristled brush press the gold leafing down all over the full surface… If your item is larger you can carefully pickup the full sheet of leaf to lay across your item… continue applying leaf all over the surface until you have it completely covered in gold leaf…

…now don’t fret if the gold leaf rips, folds, or wrinkles on the surface… these imperfections will work out as you rub the leaf into place and also add to the finish of your piece.

Gold Leaf Applied

It looks messy… it is messy… well at least when I do it 😉

Using the clean dry smooth paintbrush gently brush away excess leafing from the surface of the item that you are gold leafing… I find that working on a terry towel can help keep the little gold leaf bits from flying away as they’re being brushed off the surface.  If after all the excess has been brushed away there are any areas that need more gold leaf go ahead and apply a little adhesive sizing over top… wait for the adhesive sizing to get tacky, apply leaf, and brush the leaf into place… this is what all of those little brushed away bits come in handy for!

Excess Gold Leaf Brushed Away

I also like to use a clean t-shirt rag to rub the surface all over to ensure that the gold leaf is well pressed down to the surface of my item once all the excess is brushed away…

Gold Leaf Sealer

As you can see on my item I’ve left the surface slightly imperfect… you can see some of the base in the “seams” where my pieces of applied leaf met… for my final look this imperfection will add to the charm of the piece… Now after you gold leaf it is important to seal the leaf… this will protect the meal gold leafing from tarnishing when being handled, and from tarnishing with the passing of time… it will also make the gold leaf more durable…

Sealing Gold Leaf

To apply the sealer I like to work with a slightly larger brush than I did previously… again smooth bristled for the smoothest application of product onto the gold leafed… As you can see the product is milky in appearance but once you have a nice thin coat applied it will dry clear!

Glazing Gold Leaf

To bring an aged look to the freshly gold leafed item I like to work with glaze… a glaze will sit in crevices, detail areas or surface imperfections to bring out those details and to bring an overall aged or patina to your piece.  The glaze that I’ve used here is made by a great Canadian company called FAT Paint

Thrift Store Swap

Using a clean rag or a brush apply glaze all over the gold leafed surface… the glaze will settle in any crevices, details or even seams or imperfections in the surface depending on how aggressive you get in the next step…

Applying Glaze to Gold Leaf

…so now that you’ve slathered the piece full of glaze use a clean rag to wipe off the excess glaze… if you throw the elbow grease into it you will wipe off more and more glaze… be mindful not to get to aggressive wiping away the excess glaze as you want to leave glaze in the crevices, and details…

Once you’re happy resist the urge to keep going… let the glaze dry… as you can see in the next photo the glaze dries darker… if once dried you want more glaze to darken the finish and bring out the details more then add another layer of glaze… Glazes do come in various colours… black, white, yellow, browns… get creative and have fun with them!…

Glazed Gold Leaf

Now I wouldn’t just gold leaf a darling wooden cup and end this post right here!… I have to put it to good use!…

Planting Supplies

…with a little soil, moss, and tiny succulents I’ve turned these darling gold cups into darling gold leafed succulent planters!…

Planted Gold Leaf Cup

Plant the plant, stuff moss in around the edge of the planter, and then trim away the excess moss… or leave that moss scraggly!… whatever you like!

Gold Leafed Goblet

Gold Leaf Close Up

Gold Leafed Planter

Glazed vs Unglazed Gold Leaf

Here are the two gold leafed cups side by side… one has been glazed and the other left unglazed so that you can see the difference between gold leaf that has been glazed to gold leaf that has not.  Two different looks… either look works depending on what YOU like! When making, it’s entirely up to you what your finished piece looks like! Thats part of what makes making so much fun!

Gold Leaf Succulent Planters

Now get to work gold leafing your hearts out and then come on over to the Feathering My Nest Facebook Page to share photos of your gilded items with me!… I can’t wait to see what you gold leaf! Here are a few other projects of mine that have felt the Midas touch!


Want to see what the other Thrift Store Swap members sent and received and created?! Checkout the thumbnail pictures below and click through each to see their reveals!

…AAAAAND be sure to check back soon for part two of my Thrift Store Swap reveals to see what that canvas curtain becomes! If you want to know as soon as that post goes live go up to the top right side of this page and pop your email address into the little subscribe box there!… then every time I publish a blog post you get it delivered right to your inbox, but don’t worry you can unsubscribe from that at anytime, but you won’t wanna 😉



Thrift Store Swap Group Shot


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