I am looking for help. I would like to reproduce the carved adornments
on antique picture frames. I have made a poly/latex mold, but I am
unable to find a suitable filler. I know there is a receipe for
mixing the compound used for the originals. I have tried plaster mixed
with a polymer and sawdust mix, but neither can be sawn & sanded
effectively. Can anyone help me with my search? Thanks Joan
Yeah, that'd do it. The Smithsonian Institution might use some
other techniques, though. ;)
Compo is the name of the compound you seek. I found it in a
gilding book a couple years ago and took a JPG of the gesso
and compo recipes. Check your email, Joan
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On 15 Jan 2004 13:53:13 -0800, firstname.lastname@example.org (Joan) wrote:
Try to get hold of the book "Framing & Gilding"
by Paul Curson
It's not a complete book on everyday framing, or even archival framing
and matting, but it's the best text I've seen on how to make or
restore gilded mouldings and similar work. Even if you work on Empire
period antiques rather than frames, this is a book worth hunting down.
Another book that I've heard recommended, but not read myself, is
Loeffler's near-mythic "Step-By-Step Compo and Mold Making"
<(Amazon.com product link shortened)>
It's called "compo". There are several recipes, and searching for
"compo" and "gilding" should turn some up.
Compo is basically a plasticised gesso, with some of the properties of
sealing wax. Like sealing wax it's a "thermosetting thermoplastic" -
it melts and can even be re-melted, but it only offers its ideal
behaviour on the crucial first hot working (so it'll give trouble if
you try to re-use it). It also shrinks on cooling in a controlled
manner, so that it de-moulds easily. Sealing wax is usually a shellac
and a wax, compo is a mixture of an oil and a resin.
The ingredients in all "real" compos are rabbit skin glue, whiting,
linseed oil and resin. Distrust any that aren't. The precise
materials vary. Whiting may be chalk dut, or kaolin. Resin might
colophony (rosin), sandarac or even shellac. Processing of the linseed
oil can vary. Some have even had white lead (litharge) in them, but I
wouldn't advise that.
You can buy good ready made compo from Baggot's, which is probably the
What I'm trying to say here is that I've lost by bl**dy recipe for it.
Just spent two hours pulling my filing system apart and I still can't
find it. 8-( I'll have to go and borrow "Framing & Gilding" again,
which is where I got it.
Anyway, you boil the stuff up and it goes doughy. You've got the
ingredients, experiment. AFAIR, last time I did it I melted the rosin
in the oil (use the workshop hotplate, because it stinks and there's a
fire risk), then stirred it into rabbit skin glue over my bain marie.
Add some whiting to the rabbit skin glue as an emulsifier before
adding the oils, then add the rest afterwards until the consistency is
Once you've made your compo, separate it into handy sized lumps and
allow it to cool. Store cool and especially dry. When you're ready to
use it, heat a lump by working it in a pan over warm water. Keep it
dry, or it goes sticky and you'll not get it out of the mould.
When moulded and cooled, it's ready to apply. Steam the back and the
rabbit skin glue in it should be adequate to allow it to be applied
(if it isn't, wet it with gilder's liquor (30% alcohol in water)
The proportions also vary, to give different wam flexibilities,
depending on what you're using as a mould. If you use a modern
silicone mould (talk to the incredibly helpful Smooth-On company) then
you can have a flexible mould and a rigid compo.
Compo is equivalent to gesso when applied, so you apply bole directly
and gild on top of it. It can accept either water or oil gilding,
unless you've re-heated it and used up all its "stick", then you have
to oil gild it.
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