Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Stains, Paints, Wood Finishes and Gilding for Frames (By 4Ernesto)

If you are interested about making frames here you will find some useful information concerning stains, paints and wood finishes.

There are many different ways to finish your frame. If you have the opportunity, experiment with a range of finishes to decide which effects you like best.

Stains
- These are either water or spirit-based. Unlike paint, which can completely cover the surface, stains allow the texture and grain of the wood to show through. Most people are familiar with wood stains which are readily available from DIY outlets. These enable you to transform pale softwood into a rich mahogany, dark oak or other wood of your choice.
- Also available are coloured stains. Although the water-based stains may have a tendency to fade, they are more pleasant to use as they have little odour. They are available ready-mixed or in powder form from most timber suppliers or specialists. Spirit-based colours come in a wide range of long-lasting shades.
Paints
- Emulsion paints are really useful, especially if you experiment with small testers which cost so little. To create a wash rather than a solid, covering colour, simply water down the paint.
- Acrylic paint is available in pots or tubes from art shops. Although it is fairly expensive to buy, it comes in a wide range of colours and it can also be used to tint emulsion paint. It can give a solid finish or a wash.
- The other paint used for framing is gold gilding paint which is a spirit-based lacquer. This is easy to apply especially over a red or black painted base which shows as an antique warmth through the gold.
Bushes
- It is worth investing in good quality brushes. Cheap brushes will simply shed hairs and give an uneven finish. A long-handled brush with a flat head will make painting easier. Use an artist's fine brush for detail.
Gesso
- This is a chalky powder which when mixed with size is used to create a smooth and absorbent surface to a frame in preparation for gold leaf or other paint techniques. It also comes in a ready-made paste which is quicker to use.
Varnish
- Acrylic varnish is sufficient for most frames, although you can use polyurethane if you have some to hand. Available in matt, satin or high gloss, varnish will protect the paint or wood finish. Varnish is also available in a spray can which is useful on awkward shapes. Acrylic varnish is sold by hardware stores or DIY outlets.
Wax
- For a natural finish on unpainted wood, apply a layer of furniture wax with a soft cloth. This can then be buffed up to a wonderful lustre which will enhance the wood.
White spirit or methylated spirits
- White spirit is used to clean oil-based paints; methylated spirits will clean spirit-based stains.

Gilding
A traditional technique used to decorate plaster or wooden frames to give an ornate gold finish. This quite skilful technique is still in use today and although gold leaf is quite expensive, imitation gold leaf gives almost as good a result. All these products are available from specialist outlets or mail order.

Fine whiting powder
- This is basically a white chalky powder used for making gesso. The white paste is applied in layers to the frame and sanded down to create a smooth, absorbent surface.
Size granules
- An ancient gilding material, these granules are sometimes referred to as rabbit glue because they are made from the skin and other by-products of these animals. It is mixed with whiting to make gesso.
Gold leaf
- Pure gold leaf is a beautiful colour and will not need varnishing. It is, however, quite expensive. Imitation gold leaf, on the other hand, is less expensive but as it is quite a crude colour and it tarnishes, it will need to be varnished with white polish or shellac. Silver and bronze leaves are also available. Imitation gold leaf comes in a loose leaf form, which is good for multifaceted surfaces. It also comes with a tissue paper backing which is easier to use on flat surfaces.
Gold size
- This is clear honey-coloured glue designed for sticking gold leaf on to a surface prepared with gesso.
Gold leaf brush
- As you should not touch gold leaf - it is very fragile and will puncture - this very delicate brush makes handling the leaf much easier.
Shellac or white polish
- These are solvent-based substances which are used for protecting the surface of frames gilded with imitation gold leaf. Shellac is a honey-coloured varnish which will slightly dull the colour of the gold; white polish is clear and will not change the colour of the item but simply act as a protective sealant.

After a long search I discovered a few good contemporary designers who specialize in frames. The various works represent a wide range of media, including wood, metal, glass and fabric, and each one demonstrates a variety of techniques and skills to achieve the finished piece.

Some of them are:
- Mirrored Mosaic by Rebecca Newnham
- Alphabet Frame by Anne Taylor
- Metal Fish Mirror by Paul Northerner
- Paper Mache and Embroidery Frame by Claire sowden
- Equestrian Mirror by Barbara Dizcar
- Celtic Shield Mirror by Wilde At Art
- Egyptian Mirror by Wilde At Art
- Jester Mirror by Suzanne Malyon
- Bashed Metal Mirror by Sasha Bowles
- Musical Collage by Barbara Dizdar
- Heraldic Frame by Anne Taylor, and
- Embroidered Frames by Claire Sowden

All very beautiful and unique!

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