Weekend Projects – Metal schlag effect gold leaf platter

Monday 9 July 2018

In this article I have combined a technique I learnt at college whilst studying for a NVQ in paint application and decorative techniques, and have applied this to a simple platter. This basic method uses a water-based size and can be used to apply gold, silver or, as in this case, a metal effect leaf.

I have kept the turning of the platter very straightforward and free from any extra decorative turned additions such as beads or textured bands, etc. I have done this on purpose to show the very random effect of the schlag metal effect gold leaf in a very simple ‘frame’. You could, however, add these if you choose to, but my preference is to keep it simple. There are lots of techniques and skills which can make the crossover from what may seem like a normal run-of-the-mill day job to your hobby, and I particularly enjoy looking for these techniques and then combining the two disciplines. The final gold leaf platter should measure 400 x 30mm. This project can be completed in around four hours.

Tools used:

20mm negative-rake scraper

16mm bowl gouge


Mount the timber on the lathe using your preferred method; here I am using a vacuum chuck with a piece of rippled ash that measures 405mm wide by 32mm thick. Using a freshly sharpened 16mm bowl gouge, true up the edge of the platter


Using a pull cut with the same 16mm gouge, true up the face of the blank


Mark out the dimensions for the base of the platter. As this is going to be a purely decorative piece, I used one-third of the width for the base


Make a few shaping cuts with the 16mm gouge, cutting from the edge of the base out to the rim


Using a 20mm negative-rake skewed scraper flat on the rest, create a small ‘V’ groove to add separation between the base and the shaped section of the underneath of the platter


Start sanding at 120 grit and work your way up to 400 grit


Apply lemon oil to the underneath of the platter; this dries extremely quickly and adds some protection to the rear of the platter while you apply the gold leaf


Turn the platter around, true up the face and mark out the dimensions for the rim and bowl section. Here I used two-thirds for the bowl


Using the 16mm gouge, hollow the bowl section of the platter


Using a 20mm negative-rake skewed scraper flat on the toolrest, create a small ‘V’ groove between the rim and bowl; this helps to create a clean separation between the gold leaf and the wood


As you did before, sand the rim and the bowl in the same manner as you did the underneath


Mask out the rim using small sections of 50mm tape. Gently tuck the tape into the ‘V’ groove


Ensure adequate ventilation and apply a coat of shellac-based high adhesion primer; this creates a perfect base for the red paint and completely seals the wood. It is important that the surface to be gilded is non-porous otherwise the gilding size will soak into the surface and the leaf will not adhere correctly


Next, once the shellac primer is dry you can de-nib the surface with a 800 grit abrasive


Use a tack cloth to remove surface dust and then apply red paint; the colour used will affect the final appearance of the gold. Red paint is traditional and will provide a warm, rich finish


Allow the red paint to dry, remove the masking tape then de-nib the red paint and apply a tack cloth, as before. Using the 20mm negative-rake scraper, clean out any paint which may have gone in the groove


Liberally apply a gold leaf size to the bowl area of the piece. Don’t worry if any goes into the ‘V’ groove but don’t let any go onto the rim


Once the size has gone tacky – normally after 5-15 minutes – start to apply the gold leaf. Try to block out all draughts and turn off all ambient air filters. Any draughts will make applying the leaf very difficult. I am using loose leaf here as I find it easier to apply but transfer leaf is also available


Working in a random pattern keep applying more leaf until the area is covered. Overlap the leaves by 2-3mm; this will help avoid any gaps between the leaves and will help create a more random pattern with no straight edges


Once the area is completely covered with leaf use the tips of a clean, dry paint brush vertically – like you would if you were stencilling – and gently tap the leaf into the ‘V’ groove; this will create a clean break in the leaf


If any leaf does adhere to the rim or into the ‘V’ groove, fold up a small section of 400 grit paper and gently work your way around the platter gently sanding it away


Allow a few hours for the size to dry out underneath the leaf then gently brush over the whole area to remove any loose pieces and blend all sheets together


To protect the leaf and prevent tarnishing, I apply a coat of acrylic gold leaf lacquer. Once this is dry, you can carefully apply a finish of your choice to the wood


The completed gold leaf platter should look like this


1. When working with spray paint it is important to wear an appropriate face mask and ensure that the room you are working in has lots of adequate ventilation

2. Don't be afraid to experiment with gold leaf. You can try applying it over textures or building up layers of different types of leaves, etc.

3. A distressed/broken surface look can be achieved by applying a base colour of grey or black and applying light pressure to the leaf with a cloth before it is dry

4. Always apply gold leaf in a draught-free environment

5. Keep any small pieces of leaf; these may come in handy as a patch repair or on another project

6. I prefer to use loose leaf but some may find transfer leaf easier to apply