Full Chisel Blog

July 5, 2013

Carved Mirror Frame Restoration & Gold Leaf

carved frame1

This carved mirror frame is made of some sort of South American hardwood, the species of which I have no idea.  When it was brought to the shop the owner wanted the pretty lavender paint removed for some reason.  So I obliged and suggested maybe they want the sun gilted, to which they agreed.

carved frame2

I removed the paint one section at a time, using blue masking tape to isolate surrounding areas for better control of the stripping process.

carved frame3

carved frame4

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carved frame5

I worked my way around the frame again isolating areas with blue painters tape.

Once I had all of the paint removed, I used the slow acting citrus stripper, I cleaned up the surfaces with alcohol then added a thin coat of shellac.

Next I put a coat of gesso on the carving to fill the grain and smooth out the surface.  The gesso is hide glue size and marble dust with a bit of whiting and a touch of red iron oxide.  I lightly sanded between coats until the surface was smooth.

carved frame7

carved frame8

carved frame9

I then mixed up some bole using kaolin pipe clay, red iron oxide and hide glue size and painted it over the gesso.  I applied about 3 coats of the bole, smoothing them with a piece of coarse linen cloth between coats.

Next it was onto the gold size [a mixture of 10% hide glue and 90% distilled water.  I put a couple of coats on allowing them to dry between coats.

carved frame10

carved frame11

carved frame12

On to the gold leaf, because of the nature of the carving [not intended to be gilded] it required several applications to get it covered.  The gold size is made ready by applying gilder’s liquor a mixture of distilled water and alcohol to activate.

I got to use my gilder’s cush and gilder’s knife that I made, also my gilders tip, although I need to make another as the bugs did damage to the bristles.

After I finished I mixed up some shellac, red iron oxide, burnt umber and black iron oxide to cover a bit of gold that got on the side of the carving.  This worked better than trying to scrape off the little bits of leaf.  I also touched up the lighter area on the top right side of the frame.

carved frame13

And the customer was happy.



  1. Really great frame, fine attention to detail. If I had a mirror with a frame like that I’m afraid I’d keep staring at it for all the wrong reasons 🙂

    Comment by Timberman — July 5, 2013 @ 12:55 pm

  2. How did you remove the paint? I see all those beads and it couldn’t have been easy.

    Comment by PhilM — July 5, 2013 @ 3:31 pm

  3. It looks really splendid, Stephen.

    Comment by Tico Vogt — July 5, 2013 @ 9:57 pm

  4. I was looking around and came across this site – I would like to ask a question –

    I have an old (1800s?) mirror (etched) with a carved frame around it – it had been sorely neglected in the house we bought a few years ago, left in the cellar – the rectangular frame’s shorter side is rotted away, but the other short side and most of the two longer border sides look OK.

    How / where could I find out about whether it’s worth restoring or having done? Just curious.

    I am only online every week or so, so if possible to reply pls to me at fstriegl@hotmail.com I would appreciate it. Thanks in advance.


    Comment by Frank — July 27, 2013 @ 7:33 pm

  5. Timberman, I understand your dilemma.
    Phil, it was cheap bad latex paint so it came off with citrus stripper and a fine old toothbrush.
    Tico, Thank You.
    Frank, can you send some pictures and I will take a look at your frame.


    Comment by Stephen Shepherd — July 28, 2013 @ 11:08 am

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