Gold Leaf on PVC letters

Chris491

New Member
Have a job coming up where I need to do some real gold leaf onto PVC letters (Gemini) for an exterior sign.
I'm looking for suggestions on what to use as far as gold size, karat rating, etc. Also if you have any tips on application methods, such as prepping the surface, and if you think I should use a primer. Letters will be mounted up high out of reach of pedestrians(so they won't be getting scratched or touched) but will have New England weather exposure, so I'm not sure if I ought to put some sort of clear coat varnish on it. Usually, I'd just do a SignGold for this type of work, but this customer wants the real stuff.
 

Gino

Premium Subscriber
How much gold are you gonna need ?? If you doing edges or rounded letters, you're probably gonna need more than you think. It doesn't sound like you know what you're doing, so it might behoove you to find someone who does know what they're doing and watch. You won't learn it all watching, but maybe the person will share some hands-on commentary.
 
If you are using formed Gemini CAB letters, sand first before sizing. Order your letters in a yellow color. Use 23k loose gold and apply with gilders tip. Use slow oil size (I have guilded directly on Gemini CAB letters with good results). For dimensional letters, figure on one book 23k gold leaf for each sq. ft. (One pack = 500 sheets = about 40 sq. ft. flat, you can expect to double that with dimensional letters). So, one line of copy at 12" that is 20' long will take a pack of gold books (twenty books), and will cost $650.00 or more. Rule of thumb is to triple your gold price to account for labor and the inevitable patching and leaves that don't go down right. I would expect an inexperienced user to need about 1.5x the amount of gold a professional with a lot of practice would use (just saying...). Absolutely no varnish!

If the letters are flat, just use SignGold. It is real gold and will probably look better than trying to hand gild.
 

Jean Shimp

Member
Doesn't Gemini offer a gilded option on their letters? I've seen it in the past but not sure if they still do it. Yes, it was expensive, but if you are inexperienced, that might be the route to take.
 

Johnny Best

Very Active Member
22 carets XX deep gold is fine, just get slow size which gives you a longer window and patent (has a transfer paper backing) not glass gold (loose no backing). The gilder's tip is to much of a learning curve to get good at but I do prefer that procedure and over a cardboard box to get the droppings for touch up.
I would sand them, tack rag them, spray good primer, sand, tack rag and finish with a glossy two part yellow top coat.
A nice squirrel brush for brushing smooth after applying gold and a satin cloth and real cotton to finish
 

JBurton

Signtologist
So has anybody else tried laminating sheets of gold leaf with cast lam, then applying adhesive to the back to make gold leaf vinyl? Using imitation gold leaf of course, because you're cheating already...
 
So has anybody else tried laminating sheets of gold leaf with cast lam, then applying adhesive to the back to make gold leaf vinyl? Using imitation gold leaf of course, because you're cheating already...
SignGold is 22k gold already laminated with adhesive on the back. It goes down like vinyl, but it is less forgiving. It's a good product. It runs about $24.00 sq.ft. (loose gold leaf runs about $16.00 sq. ft., but requires experience and skill to use it and takes time). SignGold is easy to use, and is probably more profitable than loose gold leaf for flat items and vehicle graphics (that's all they use for fire engines these days), but real gold leaf has its place, especially for carved signs, dimensional letters, and artistic glass gilding.
 

Gino

Premium Subscriber
Personally, I don't like the look of any of that signgold stuff, as it looks fake. There's no one in the world who can hand turn a whole truck or a full sized sign and have it look as uniform as that stuff.. It has it's place, but only if it's too tedious to do by hand. Again, that's my opinion and I'm kinda old-fashioned.
 

signbrad

Member
Gemini formed letters are not PVC, they are CAB, cellulose acetate butyrate, also known as butyrate. Very durable, easy to mold, and resistant to ultraviolet. Gemini used to have an ad showing a truck driving over a letter to indicate its durability.

My first choice on a job like this would be to buy the letters already gilded from Gemini. This may not be a job to learn on. Surface gilding is not super difficult, but you will blow through a bunch of gold doing this for the first time, especially if you try loose leaf.
The following Gemini ad is from 2012, so I know they were offering gold leafed letters as late as that year. The mention of gold leaf is at bottom left on the page. If the gold leaf option is not mentioned in your current catalog (I don't have my catalog in front of me), you can always call them. You need to call for a quote anyway if they still do it.
http://www.geminilettersdirect.com/gemini-plastic-sign-letters.htm

SignGold on a dimensional letter? Can you do that?

If I were going to do this myself, I prefer a particular patent gold rather than loose leaf. It is German double thick patent gold from Art Essentials. I have had to fight with patent gold so many times (not wanting to release from the rouge paper) that this is the stuff I always prefer to use when surface gilding. It is heavier and easier to work with and it practically falls off the paper.
Loose leaf is fine but there is a learning curve. A big job is not the best place to learn.

Primer first to promote adhesion of the size? Or just Scotch Brite and size? I have heard both ways on this. I don't know what is best. Some also say burnish sideways only in one direction for even light distribution, but I never have. Do you do this kcollins?

I would not clear coat. Not if the letters are out of reach. Gold lasts longer than a clear coat.

Brad in Kansas City
 

Johnny Best

Very Active Member
I have used two different sizes, one is oil base and the other waterbase. The water base had a better open time but was not meant for outdoor use. The oil base is a varnish with extras in it to slow down the drying times and there are two types fast and slow. On large projects the slow is perfered because of the open drying times the fast is good when goldleafing smaller things and the transoms on boats. The slow size gives a more "shiny gold" finish.
But, just as I would never paint varnish on a plastic, or whatever it is made of, letter and expect it to hold. That is why a primer coat works better for a better finish look and durability.
realgoldinc.com has gold films for doing church domes and they are the ones to get the good films from, higher quality.
On a side note, I read that the ancient Egyptians use blood for their size when gillding with gold.
 
Gemini formed letters are not PVC, they are CAB, cellulose acetate butyrate, also known as butyrate. Very durable, easy to mold, and resistant to ultraviolet. Gemini used to have an ad showing a truck driving over a letter to indicate its durability.

My first choice on a job like this would be to buy the letters already gilded from Gemini. This may not be a job to learn on. Surface gilding is not super difficult, but you will blow through a bunch of gold doing this for the first time, especially if you try loose leaf.
The following Gemini ad is from 2012, so I know they were offering gold leafed letters as late as that year. The mention of gold leaf is at bottom left on the page. If the gold leaf option is not mentioned in your current catalog (I don't have my catalog in front of me), you can always call them. You need to call for a quote anyway if they still do it.
http://www.geminilettersdirect.com/gemini-plastic-sign-letters.htm

SignGold on a dimensional letter? Can you do that?

If I were going to do this myself, I prefer a particular patent gold rather than loose leaf. It is German double thick patent gold from Art Essentials. I have had to fight with patent gold so many times (not wanting to release from the rouge paper) that this is the stuff I always prefer to use when surface gilding. It is heavier and easier to work with and it practically falls off the paper.
Loose leaf is fine but there is a learning curve. A big job is not the best place to learn.

Primer first to promote adhesion of the size? Or just Scotch Brite and size? I have heard both ways on this. I don't know what is best. Some also say burnish sideways only in one direction for even light distribution, but I never have. Do you do this kcollins?

I would not clear coat. Not if the letters are out of reach. Gold lasts longer than a clear coat.

Brad in Kansas City
I have only gold leafed Gemini CAB letters a few times. ScotchBrite, clean, then size. Lay the leaf down with no wrinkles them go over it lightly when it is all covered with a soft camel hair "make-up" type brush. I really wouldn't call it burnishing, which to me is a process when water gilding over a gesso and clay bole prepared surface (used a lot for picture frames).

Some contributors have mentioned using patent gold. It's tough enough to brush on an even film of size without it puddling in spots. I have used patent gold in a pinch with less than satisfactory results (lots of cracks). You really need to use a gilders tip and "float" the leaf on - use half sheets until you get the hang of it. Patent leaf is good for large, flat surfaces.

Use 23k gold. 22k is only 91%. gold, the rest is copper and silver, which will tarnish. If you use 22k, consider top coating with Acrylic Topcoat oil-based sealer.
 
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