The frame is sealed with rabbit skin glue and then puttied at the nail holes where joined, at the mitres, and over any other blemishes in the moulding. Then the entire frame is hand sanded.
Different color patinas (created from dry colors) are applied to the frame to achieve the final soft, aged finish. Toning also enhances the relief of the carving and/or composition.
Watch our 2-minute feature on WCIU-TV's "Made in Chicago"! Then read on for a more in-depth look at our handcrafting process.
Our process begins with raw, select basswood moulding which is mitre-cut to the size you request and then joined by hand using glue and nails. We use basswood because it has no grain and is one of the softest hard woods available. This makes it ideal for hand carving.
Certain styles are "blocked" to provide extra reinforcement. If a build-up has been requested (to provide added rabbet depth), it is done immediately after joining while the frame is in the raw state. Thus, once the frame is finished, the seam will not be visible.
Depending on the finish ordered, the frame is rubbed with steel wool to bring through the color of the undercoat. It is then sealed with hand-mixed and tinted shellac. This serves two purposes: the shellac seals the leaf and by tinting the shellac with dry colors, we can subtly enhance the color of the leaf, giving us the ability to achieve many different shades of gold and silver.
The undercoat, or bole, is the color you see through the leaf. We apply red, yellow, black, or brown, allow it to dry overnight, and then sand it by hand until smooth. The undercoat is then sealed.
Slow size is the adhesive which adheres the leaf to the frame. Slow size (as opposed to quick size) sets up in 12-24 hours.
Hand-beaten Italian metal leaf is meticulously laid one leaf at a time. Metal leaf contains no karat gold but achieves its gold color through an alloy of primarily copper and zinc.