The term gilding usually refers to the process of covering a surface with gold or other metal leaf in imitation of solid metal. The range and characteristics of metal leaves are described in section 5.5. There are several methods by which they can be attached and these are described more fully in Chapter 14. Historically, there are two processes described as 'oil gilding' and 'water gilding' by which the extremely thin metal leaf may be attached to the surface to be gilded. Oil gilding uses a very thin layer of oil-gold size as the adhesive to attach the leaf and can be carried out on virtually any surface though the full effect of the gold is only achieved on well-prepared smooth surfaces. Oil-gold size contains principally linseed oil with the addition of copal varnish to promote thorough drying of the film and to prevent the size from forming runs, and turpentine to achieve the desired viscosity. A very thin coat is applied with a brush onto the surface to be gilded. Porous surfaces are best isolated by, for example, a shellac coating to prevent excessive or uneven absorption of the size and loss of adhesion. Water gilding uses water to activate the glue size in the surface layers of the ground. Normally the ground is a highly prepared surface of gesso and bole. Water gilding can be left matte or it can be burnished to a very high lustre. Oil gilding cannot be burnished in this way but can be lightly polished with cotton wool to achieve a sheen. Examples of the different types of gilding, with their corresponding layer structures, are discussed in Chapter 14.
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