chat log

"Metal Leafing
   and Patination"

a Special Guest Chat with
Star of "Woodworks"
(DIY TV Network)

with host
Ellis Walentine

July 2, 2008
9:30 pm EDT

Ellis Good evening and welcome to the WoodCentral Chat Room. Our special guest tonight is David Marks, designer, craftsman, and star of DIY Network's "Wood Works." Among his many skills and specialties, David is an expert on metal leafing and patination, the subject of our chat tonight. Please welcome David Marks...
David Marks Thanks, Ellis. It's good to be here again.
keithz Hi Dave
Ellis David, I'd like to start by asking you what place leafing and patination have in woodworking and woodturning.
David Marks I use leafing and patination for embellishing details in furniture as well as for adding decoration to wood turnings, usually on the inside of a bowl or the outside of a vessel.
keithz David, would you use leafing on the entire exterior of a turned piece?
David Marks Yes, sometimes I have used leafing on the entire exterior of a turned piece. See the piece Ellis posted on the message board. Although I have found that wood collectors want to know that the object is made of wood so now I design the piece so that I only cover 2/3 of it and allow some of the wood to show thru.
Mike_S Does the natural contraction and expansion of wood have a deleterious effect on the leafing over time?
Stephen David, do you oil or water gilt?
Paul_Kierstead How do you keep it from going over the top? A visit to Windsor Castle gave me pause on leafing....
Marv___Cal_ David.....can the leafing be used on something that is handled a lot?
David Marks Mike S, I stabilize the piece by putting coats of shellac on the interior & exterior, which creates an effective moisture barrier.
Mike_S Thanks
David Marks Stephen I definitely always use an oil-base size.
Stephen Do you have a preference for any particular brand or type of oil base size?
David Marks Paul that is a design decision and I would always avoid a 50/50 balance -- try to keep it asymmetrial, like 70/30, 80/20, or 90/10.
David Marks Marv yes, just make sure it has a durable finish on it like lacquer or varnish,
Paul_Kierstead Interesting, thank you.
Marv___Cal_ Thanks David
David Marks I am using Rolco quick-dry size. Occasionally I use Le Franc 3-hr size.
Ellis What kind of metal leaf do you use, and where do you get it?
David Marks I use copper, silver, dutch metal (a.k.a. composition gold) as well as genuine 22k and 23.75k gold leaf. I get the leaf thru as well as
Marv___Cal_ David, what is the range of typical thickness of metal leaf?
Mike_S On a turned piece, do you burnish with the lathe running and what do you use to burnish with?
David Marks Marv, genuine gold leaf is extremely thin. It is beaten to a thinness of 3 millionths of a inch thick. I have been told that translates into 400 atoms.
CaroleV Holy smoke! That is definitely thin!
Marv___Cal_ Wow, now that is thin!
Stephen I have heard 3 molecules thick on genuine gold leaf
David Marks Mike I never burnish oil-gilded metal. True burnishing is done with a agate's tooth burnisher on a water-gilded surface. Do not burnish an oil gilt surface for you will scratch the metal
David Marks I do light burnishing with a piece of genuine cotton after the piece has been dried for a number of hours.
Mike_S Thanks
keithz David, the DIY website shows your show on the Gilded Picture Frame is on the 6th. Is this a good example of your typical process?
Stuart Is a finish applied on top of the metal?
David Marks When I am laying the leaf in squares, I try to overlap the leaf by 1/4".
Jim_Shaver does the overlap show David?
David Marks Keith yes that is an accurate step-by-step process of how I do most of my work. You can go to the DIY website and download the picture frame episode for a step-by-step process
Paul_Kierstead How does one just highlight a very specific portion, such as a portion of a moulding?
Paul_Kierstead Or should I just read the website :)
keithz David, can the gilding be done so the grain shows through?
Paul_Kierstead Lets say just the eggs in an egg-and-dart (for example only, that might be gauche...)
David Marks In regards to finishing, because the metal has a patina, it has to be sealed. Any finish you put on there will change the color. Generally your easiest bet is to seal it with a thin coat of shellac. I am using approximately a two-pound cut and spraying it on. The one exception is for silver. When I create the blue color on silver, I find the shellac turns it gold, so instead I use vinyl sanding sealer.
Stephen What do you use to patina composite leaf?
Marv___Cal_ For a gold effect, might be cheaper to use silver and spray it with shellac?
David Marks Paul, I use 3-M fine line masking tape which is 1/8" wide. The best bet is to mask off the surfaces you want to protect; or, if that is too unwieldy, I do very accurate brush work using magnifying glasses to see the detail.
Paul_Kierstead Ahh, the hard way :) Thank you, I suspect that was the case.
Paul_Kierstead Might be worth it for that special frame or jewlery box.
David Marks Do you mean the Dutch Metal, a.k.a. composition gold?
Stephen yes David
Paul_Kierstead Stephen will put it on pine though. (Hand tool forum joke, I am afraid).
Stephen lol
GregH David, say, someone was going to try it. What can be expected as the cost? For an "average" vessel what cost do you have in the process, leafing, and finish? Just a ball park. Can you do it right for $20-$50 per vessel, more or less?
David Marks For Dutch Metal, a.k.a. composition gold, I used barium sulfide to create a nice orange golden color on the metal and sometimes sodium sulfide to get a range of light greens, reds, and blues. One of my favorites is a combination of 1/4 teaspoon cupric nitrate and 1/2 teaspoon of ammonium chloride added to 1 cup of warm water. Always add the chemicals to the water. This will give you greenish bronze effect on the dutch metal.
keithz David, can you say something about how leafing works on different woods?
Dick_H Woodturners Catalog has the kits for $16
David Marks If it is sliver leaf it is going to be more expensive, at $17 per book. You could use two books for a vessel. The copper and dutch metal are $7 per book, much more affordable.
GregH Thank you David
David Marks Keith, I would say I always use a foundation of shellac for adhesion. I am currently working on some collabortions with Gorst DuPlesis on some of his cocobolo decorative-turned bowls. The shellac works well to bond to the cocobolo. Once you have a shellac foundation, you can build anything on top of that.
David Marks Dick, I am not familiar with the Woodturners Catalog kit. What is in it for $16? I sell a complete Gilding & Patination kit at my website.
Mike_S David, where do you get all these chemicals you mention?
David Marks Mike, I get all of the chemicals at They have a David Marks page with lots of info on it for supplies.
Mike_S Thanks
David Marks Hello Jennifer. It was good to see you in Virginia. I look forward to having you work with me at Marc Adams this Sept.
Jennifer_Shirley Me too David! I'm really looking forward to it We'll have a blast I'm sure
Dick_H They sell leafing kits:
Mike_S David, just don't let her near any camera equipment....
David Marks Yes we will! Lots of turning and lots of gilding and patinas. It does not get much better than that.
Earl_Kennedy Here's Doc the snowman man. It was great Doc.
Mike_S David, have you done much leafing over textured wood?
keithz That's a good question Mike
David Marks
Hey guys, take a look at the pic that Ellis is posting of a maple hollow vessel (quilted maple). I hand-painted the size in an irregular pattern to make it look like a pottery glaze. After I gilded it and did the chemical patina I mixed mica powders with a water based dye and floated that onto the edge.
Paul_Kierstead Wow, that is fabulous. Much more complex then I would imagine.
Mike_S That is fabulous
keithz Beautiful...the vessel appears to emerging from the leafing
CaroleV David, what is a good metal to start learning with on wood? Copper?
David Marks Carole copper would be an excellent one. It is inexpensive and it reacts the quickest with chemicals.
CaroleV Ok. Thanks. Want to start trying some of this but don't want to jump into 24K gold! LOL
keithz Copper would look good on the right wood.
Jennifer_Shirley David, where else do you teach, other than Marc Adams School of Woodworking. Sorry if that was already asked before I got here.
Stuart Does copper leaf react with chemicals the same as, say, sheet copper?
David Marks Mike, yes leafing over textured wood such as carving or even sandblasted wood is something that I have done, and again I rely on shellac as a way to seal the surface. Generally on carvings you might need to lay 2 or 3 sheets of metal leaf to pounce it down into the recesses.
GregH Here is a direct link to David's kits that are for sale through his site.
David Marks Typically with gold leaf I will double-gild and sometimes triple-gild until I can get all of the holidays covered.
Stephen_ Do you re-size to fill the voids?
Here is another vessel that David asked me to post:
David Marks I have a DVD that is 90 minutes long that goes over gilding and patinas. You can buy it at my website
Stephen_ How big are these vessels?
David Marks The vessels are about 12 inches tall.
GregH David, I saw a vessel episode and it looked like you were using "Ellsworth" hollowers in David's style of handle. Is that still your preferred method for hollowing?
CaroleV Does your video go into detail about how to apply gilding? "Gilding for Idiots"? LOL
Paul_Kierstead The leafing looks very "organic". Is it part of the process (akin to splatter paint), or is it painstakingly laid out and masked?
David Marks Hi Greg. I started out with the Ellsworth boring bars, but now I am using the Lyle Jamieson laser-guided torque-arrest bar.
Ellis Here is another example of creative leafing and patination:
David Marks Yes the DVD does go into detail on the gilding application methods. It is co-authored by Grace Baggot, who demonstrates traditional gilding techniques while I demo the Japanese Notan gilding.
GregH It's been great, as always but I have some bed time stories to read for some tired girls. Thanks Ellis and David for setting this up. Good Night.
David Marks This wall sculpture with the gold center and quilted maple is 3 feet in diameter. The outside field is gilded with silver. There are a wide variety of colors from the chemical patina which is mostly sulfurated postash on silver leaf.
keithz David, what is the difference between traditional and Japanese Notan gilding?
Mike_S Thanks David, I enjoyed it. It is off to bed with me.
keithz What is Mike, your Stubby?
Mike_S It is a little lumpy for a bed partner
David Marks Keith, traditional gilding typically covers the entire surface with metal leaf. Notan gilding refers to the balance of positive and negative space so usually I might cover 90% with metal leaf and have 10% of the background paint showing thru.
keithz A bit of the less is more thought.
David Marks When it comes to applying the chemicals, I find that tissue paper and cheesecloth work very well as a vehicle to create patterns on the metal leaf.
Ellis Do you use a leafing brush to apply the metal?
Paul_Kierstead Ahh, very very interesting
Stephen_ Do you go after holidays in the leafing right away or do you go back and resize later?
Paul_Kierstead Similiar to painting in certain ways.
David Marks Typically as far as applying the metal leaf to the surface I generally wash my hands really well, and pick up the metal leaf with my fingers. If I am covering large surface, I use the open book method,
keithz David, thank you for sharing your knowledge with us. Ellis thanks for setting this evening up. I have thoroughly enjoyed it.
Ellis You bet, Keith
keithz I look forward to reading the transcript online Ellis.
Ellis Yes, we'll get it up there in the next day or so.
TomCollins Ditto what Keith said. G'night everyone
David Marks Stephen, I would put more gold or whatever leaf I am using over the holidays and use the pinky finger which tends to be softer, and press the metal leaf down into the holiday. If that does not work you can always brush more size over the holidays and then gild. Make sure you use a fine, sable hair brush or if you want to save money, use a sable synthetic blend which is less expensive and works well.
Tom_Pilsbury Hello. My first time here
Stuart Very enjoyable and informative evening. Thanks David and Ellis.
David Marks Hi Tom
Ellis Well you picked a good night, Tom, but you're on the tail end of a special guest chat. David Marks is my guest.
Tom_Pilsbury Wow! A personal greeting from the famous David Marks!
Tom_Pilsbury Yeah. Story of my life. Too late!
Paul_Kierstead Some sculptors do patina with a torch. Have you ever tried a very light touch with a torch on wood? Do you do other bases?
Paul_Kierstead (torch + chemistry, of course)
Stephen_ Thanks David, I have only oil-gilt a time or two, I water-gild all the time, so this is interesting.
David Marks Good to meet you, let me know if you have any questions I can answer for you.
Paul_Kierstead Or is the technique not suitable for leaf (I expect gold and silver would melt...)
Bathgems Why would you use gold leaf when you can just hammer out some bullion. Its like using a solid slab of wood versus veneer.
David Marks Paul, I never use a torch when doing patinas on gilded metals because it would destroy the bond. I only use a torch on cast bronze or sheet metals like copper or brass or any type of solid non-ferrous metal.
Ellis Here are a few views of David's recent buckeye burl piece:

Paul_Kierstead I suppose one could patina sheet metal an inlay it.
David Marks Bathgems, you must have bigger art budget than I have.
Bathgems buckeye burl?
Paul_Kierstead I think I could examine that piece up close for some time, quite entrancing
Tom_Pilsbury David: What finish would you say is easiest to learn. I've only used poly, and recently tried BLO/mineral spirts mix. Your tung oil finishes are outstanding.
Bathgems Budget smudget
Ellis Isn't that outrageous buckeye?
David Marks Hi Tom, at my website I identify the tung oil products that I am using on the Woodworks show, which include two General Finishes products called Seal-A-Cell, and Arm-R-Seal, a thinned-down wiping varnish. I have been using this product since 1980s and it did say tung oil on the can then. Three months after the last episode at the end of 2003, they took the tung oil out of the product, so there is a lot of confusion about it.
Bathgems So Ellis, I took your advice on the shellac and then Waterlox. Good stuff.
Ellis Thanks Bath. Glad it worked.
Stephen_ Well thanks David and Ellis for this fine chat, night all
Paul_Kierstead I have to admit, David, I am really intrigued. The work is much closer to sculpture, particularly in texture/colour/finish then I expected. Very impressive.
David Marks Over a gilded finish you are best off using a film finish, shellac, lacquer, polyurethane, etc. It is always best to spray it on if possible.
Ellis See you, Stephen. Thanks for coming.
Tom_Pilsbury David: I'll be looking into your website soon. Thanks
Bathgems How duarble is a gilded finish? Can you do it on a tabletop?
Ellis Seal-A-Cell is very much like Waterlox in handling properties.
David Marks My personal preference is a water white lacquer. I am specifically using Sherwin Williams CAB acryllic lacquer solvent base, not water base. I always rub out the finish with micro-mesh after the final coats.
David Marks Bathgems, yes I have used the CAB acryllic lacquer over gilded finishes that I have done on table tops that have held up for over 20 years.
Paul_Kierstead And I thought turning had hit an impasse :) (ducking). Mixed media to the rescue!
David Marks Paul, you should come out to California in August and take my five-day turning and gilding class. Check out my website in the Classes Section
Paul_Kierstead I definitely will check it out. Nothing wrong with California in August, either.
David Marks Lots of good wine here in Sonoma County, too.
Paul_Kierstead That could sell it to my g/f :)
David Marks There also lots of spas for her too.
wilbur Any chance on you teaching a class out on the East coast?
David Marks Sure, I just need someone to put it together. Ellis is a good candidate.
Ellis LOL :)
wilbur Ellis?
Don_in_Central_Illilnois Or in the heartland?
David Marks I have a six-day Turning & Gilding class at the Marc Adams School in Indiana in September.
Don_in_Central_Illilnois I'll have to check it out. I believe it's in southern IN and that's within a three-hour drive.
Ellis Well, it's been a great chat, and I appreciate everyone's participation.
Don_in_Central_Illilnois Looking forward to the chat log. About to run out of battery in wife's laptop. David, it has been a real pleasure in 'meeting' you. Look forward to meeting you in person some day.
wilbur David, I know that I came in late, so I apologize if this has already been asked, but do you find that there is a geographic preference for patination?
David Marks Wilbur I have taught gilding and patination everywhere from Texas to Chicago to Florida to Hawaii, basically all over the US as well as New Zealand.
Ellis David, thanks for joining us again....
Tom_Pilsbury And a happy Independence Day to you!
Lan_B Thanks David and Ellis. Very informative!
wilbur Thanks, David, and thanks to Ellis for organizing this.
Bathgems I have an agenda, and questions too.
Ellis Thanks to everyone. We'll see you again too
Paul_Kierstead Thank you very much
Paul_Kierstead It has been interesting and informative
David Marks Thank you everyone, It has been a lot fun chatting with you. Have a great 4th of July and I look forward to meeting you in the future.
Doc_Green Thanks, David, for sharing the info. Very interesting stuff !
Ellis See you all. Thanks again David