How to clean guilding

Home Forums Harps and Accessories How to clean guilding

Viewing 15 posts - 1 through 15 (of 33 total)
  • Author
  • #73793

    I have a Lyon and Healy stlye 17 gold and I was wondering if there

    is any way to clean the guilded parts of the column and base.


    Don’t even THINK of cleaning it yourself.




    Carl is totally right that for big cleaning you need a pro.

    I have had some success with getting rid of surface dirt by using the old-fashioned

    method–bread. Get a loaf of icky white squishy wonderbread type bread (Not good strong

    bread, like sandwich bread), and tear off a small piece of the white part. Press this very

    gently onto the gilding and it will bring some of the dirt and dust with it when you pick it

    back up. Be very, very careful and try it on a very inconspicuous place first. If the gesso is

    damp, you can pick up the gold as well as the dirt, so utmost caution is advised. It’s very

    labor intensive, but it does help a bit. A soft untreated (most dusters have endust type

    junk in them these days, so investigate before buying) feather duster or a very soft

    makeup brush will brush out any crumbs. Don’t use a duster that has feathers with

    pronounced spines in the feathers, and not a lambswool duster.

    This isn’t going to do anything about fingerprints or big dirt, and frankly, most places will



    I should have added, never, never touch the gold. Wear gloves when you do this, because

    it’s just human nature to reach for the column when you need to turn the harp or resituate



    Hello Beth, Prehaps the Society of Gilders could be of assistance in locating a gilder in your area. They have a website at Maybe even Lyon and Healy could make a suggestion, or contact a curator at your closest art musuem. I wouldn’t attempt a cleaning either without consulting an expert as I would be afraid to damage the gesso and bole underneath the leaf. Best of luck to you, CeCe Nelson


    Just a caution about hiring a general gilder–you would need one who does seriously

    museum quality restoration and who has a very thorough understanding of water gilding.

    The average frame/architectural/sign gilder does something quite different.

    FWIW, the older L&H harps are double-gilded with double leaf in a weight which is, alas,

    no longer available.


    One other thing about cleaning–in most cases the problem is the dust and oil that has

    adhered to/damaged the lacquer, and there’s no easy solution to that, even from a pro.

    AFAIK, there is really no way to remove just the lacquer without taking the gold with it. I

    recently saw a video from the Cleveland Museum of Art in which their curator said flat-out

    that while restoration techniques for micro-removal of the upper layers of varnish on

    paintings have become very much more sophisticated in recent years, there still isn’t much

    they can do about removing just the lacquer from gilding.

    Last time I checked a factory regild from L&H was $20,000. I presume it’s substantially

    more than that now.


    Gilding is complicated and as Carl pointed out you really don’t want to go wrong- so asking L&H and trying anything they suggest on a small area is probably the best bet.

    Gilding is traditionally done by one of two methods- water gilding or oil gilding and they react very differently to various cleaning methods.


    One thing that L&H usually suggests you want to stay far away from, and that’s the touch-

    up pen they were pushing for a while (don’t know if they still do). It is not gold, but gold

    paint, and in a couple of months the areas you use it on will look much worse than the

    dings did.


    It’s so nice to hear some intelligent conversation about gilding from harpists.

    They usually have no idea how it’s applied or how delicate it is.


    I e-mailed L & H on this and here is the response:

    If you simply want to remove dust that is in the carving, we recommend

    using a large brush such as a stencil brush that is available from our

    accessory department or from our website We would

    definitely not suggest using any kind of polish or liquid cleaner on the

    gold parts of the harp.

    Charles Moore

    Lyon & Healy


    Also someone mentioned water and oil guilding, which method is commonly used today and in the past?


    Oil gilding is used on Erards and most earlier harps. L&H, Wurlitzer, Carl’s harps are water

    gilded. (I believe Howard Bryan uses oil gilding now, but am not totally sure about that.)

    L&H in their heyday brought water gilding to a very high state of perfection–you won’t

    find many twentieth century gilders to equal their best work.

    New gilding, whether water or oil,


    Actually, I would presume that Carl’s gilder uses water or oil depending on what was on

    the harp orignially.

Viewing 15 posts - 1 through 15 (of 33 total)
  • You must be logged in to reply to this topic.