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5 Steps to restoring a gilt mirror!
Added Wednesday 19 June 2013 at 14:21

Often with antiques, you will come across a rough gem that needs a little attention to bring it back to life. With a little patience, knowledge and basic skills you can often rescue a worthy piece from the obscurity of becoming storage material in someone’s attic or garage, without ruining it`s character.

This particular mirror I`m going to restore was made in France in about 1880. Rather than carving the detail in wood, a process or method of simulating carving was developed using a substance known as "composition". Composition is similar to the linseed putty used to hold the glass in place in sash windows today. It was heated up and then pushed into carved wooden moulds. This was then laid, while still malleable, onto the mirror frame. Once left to dry, it was then gilded.

So let’s run through the process step-by-step: 

1. With no access to the original moulds, I use a two-pack putty to make a mould of an undamaged piece of the mirror frame. 

2. I then pour a resin plaster product into the mould. Once set you can carefully remove the mould (putty) leaving the plaster. This is then placed onto the damaged area. 

3. Before it can be gilded a coloured “bole” has to be painted onto the surface. Bole is a mixture of rabbit skin glue and a water-based, natural colour product that resembles clay. Historically the colours used were a reddish-brown, a yellow-brown and a purple-brown. In this case I’ve copied the reddish-brown used on the rest of the mirror. 

4. We can now go ahead and apply some gold leaf. 

5. Finally I have to blend in the new piece with the rest of the mirror.

Hey presto – restoration complete!

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