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Wow, what a great weekend! Just got back from my first Brush Rush, hosted by Dale Weber and Lane Walker in Reno, Nevada. What a wonderful group of Artists! Rhonda Price came down from Washington and gave a demo on here chrome letter style that was just out of this world. Several of the panels included gilding, some with silver, and others with gold. Gilding sure adds to the beauty of any piece whether it’s on hand carved bevel letters, accents intertwined in a maze of pin striping, or an angel gilded glass piece. The down side is the size used to attach it to all these surfaces can pose safety risks that can be quite severe. There are many different forms of size that can be used depending on the surface, allotted time to do the gild, as well as the quality of the gild that is desired. Some gilders even mix different products to achieve a shorter wait time until the size is ready to gild yet still achieve a high quality gild. As with most of the products we work with, it’s a good idea to know what you’re working with so you can make choices with regard to your safety or that of others that may be around you when working with such products. I do remember attending a gathering a few years ago where children were present and I watched a small child grab the gilders shiny cup, full of water size, off the table and almost drank it. Fortunately, the gilder was paying attention and was able to stop the child. The gelatin used in water size is basically considered a food product, but had it been one of the petroleum-based sizes, and the gilder was not paying attention, it could have been fatal.
As previously mentioned water size, used primarily for glass gilding is a glycerin-based gelatin that comes in sheets. A few diamonds (depending on the area to be gilded) are cut off and dissolved in water. The water is brushed on the glass and the gold is applied to the wet surface. The gelatin in the water aides in the bonding of the gold to the glass. It is a food based product and to the best of my knowledge, you won’t find an MSDS sheet for it, although I still wouldn’t advise drinking the stuff. While the amount used in most cases may not cause any severe problems in adults, it could cause a chemical imbalance in small children. Wunda Size is a fast size, ready in 15 to 30 minutes for gilding. It comes in a plastic bottle and its water base, has very little odor, and cleans up with cold water. I’ve been unable to locate an MSDS sheet at this time; however, the bottle simply says, “Keep out of reach of Children”. Looks like 1 % milk until dry so a child could think its something kool to drink.
The petroleum-based sizes include “1-Shot” Fast Gold size, Instacoll, Rolco, and Lefranc. There may be others that I don’t know about, but these seem to be the most readily available. While they flow out better than the water based and seem to provide a smother gild, that is directly related to the time it takes for the size to set up (become tacky enough to accept a gild) they require a greater level of awareness associated with good health. Not a good idea to have the little folks around when using these products, as they can be fatal if swallowed. Of this group, 1-Shot is the mildest and does not appear to manifest permanent organ damage, however, it can still irritate the skin, cause respiratory irritation, fatigue, nausea, and headaches; usually due to working in a poorly ventilated area and prolonged skin contact. Instocoll, Rolco, and Lefranc are a bit more aggressive and will cause damage to the Central Nervous System, Kidneys, skin, and eyes. While Lefranc slow size seems to provide the best gild, it is also the most dangerous to work with. This is the only one that talks about damage to bone marrow if swallowed or from repeated prolonged exposure, either from skin contact or inhalation of vapors. Solvent-based products are used in the cleanup process and should also be taken into consideration when planning a gilding job using any of the petroleum-based sizes.
While I just covered the basics in order to make you aware of health issues when working with the various products, it is important to obtain the MSDS sheets and read them for yourself then make an informed decision as to how much protection you want to provide yourself. Children and pets don’t have this ability and can be victims of our neglect. Until next time, be safe and enjoy life…Robin