Ruth Tappin BA

I became a professional Restorer and Gilder in 2000 following the completion of my Fine Art Degree.
I have restored a variety of antique gilded items and I’m often commissioned to produce new antique style mirrors, picture frames and gilded pieces. Along with restoring gilt mirrors, picture frames and gilded furniture, I’ve gilded internal architectural features, large wrought iron gates, musical instruments, chandeliers, copper baths and sandstone. I enjoy the challenge of gilding something different.


Gilder on the TV show The Restorers on Quest.  See TV work.

Luna the workshop dog.

Ruth Tappin
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Ruth Tappin YouTube channel CHICK HERE

Gesso - is a mixture of size and whiting, which is heated and coats are painted onto the wooden frame. It is sanded to a smooth finish.


Bole - a coloured clay and rabbit skin glue. This is also heated up and painted on top of the gesso. Yellow is the main colour however, depending upon when and where the mirror originates, the colours can vary. For example, in France they used a red/orange bole, this is usually found under the water gilded burnished highlights. In England we used pink, followed by black.


Composition - (compo) there are many compo recipes each with the same three basic ingredients they are glue, rosin and whiting, but other ingredients are added to improve on this. Compo when warm can be pressed into moulds or carved when cold. It sets hard over a few days. Over the years it does dry out and small cracks appear.


Oil Gilding - an oil size (or mordent) is painted onto a prepared surface and after becoming tacky the gold is applied. This form of gilding cannot be burnished. Oil gilding can be used for both internal and external surfaces.


Water Gilding - (See photo above) a water and glue solution that is brushed onto the smoothed bole surface, the gold is laid on immediately with a gilder's tip. By using this technique, the gold then can then be burnished.


Gold Leaf - the gold is virtually pure; I use 23.75 and 23.5 carat.


Metal Leaf - also known as Dutch leaf. This is an alloy of base metals in many colours. Metal leaf will tarnish and eventually disintegrate completely.


Toning - the application of pigment and/or other materials to a gilded surface. Toning can also include the removal of gold from a gilded surface. It literally means toning down the brilliance of a gilded surface. Toning is usually employed to replicate age.


Gilder'sPad - a wooden board covered with padding and  leather. Light enough to be held in one hand for long periods.


Gilder's Knife - used to cut the gold leaf into smaller more manageable pieces.


Gilder's Tip - a wide flat brush made traditionally from badger hair; it is used for picking up the gold leaf.


Burnishing - rubbing the surface of the gold with an agate.