This section is from the book "Arts & Crafts Magazine Vol1-2", by Hutchinson & Company.
When working a design on a soft, loose-grained wood such as deal or pine, the wood must be sized with glue to prevent the absorption of moisture in the gesso. If this be not carefully clone, the gesso will crack and fall oft", and the same bad result will follow if a polished surface be used.
White holly, sycamore, and oak are all good woods to work upon, not requiring any sizing; of these sycamore is preferable. With oak, owing to open grain, it is difficult to obtain a uniform edge to the modelling.
The best canvases for the purpose are artist's canvas and tailor's canvas. The wrong side of the former must be used. It should be mounted on wood and carefully sized.
When an uncoloured design on a dark ground is required, a spirit stain must be used on the wood, but if the design is either coloured alone or gilded, the wood may be stained with a water stain. Good stains of this description are made with aniline dyes.
For finishing gesso modelled in low relief, take one ounce of white beeswax, shaved fine, and cover it with turpentine. Mix to about the consistency of cream. Care must be taken not to use too much turpentine. Rub over the design lightly, and polish with a piece of silk.
An antique appearance may easily be given to gesso, in rich, subdued colouring. Polish the whole surface with beeswax and turpentine. Should the background be stained green or brown, the ornament should be coloured to harmonise with it. Oil colour is mixed with clear linseed oil; put it on freely, allowing it to run into the hollows, and wiping it off from those parts which are in relief. Raw umber and emerald green may be used for a green ground, and raw umber, raw sienna, and burnt sienna for a brown ground. When dry, polish lightly. This is a very suitable method of colouring for picture or mirror frames.
The best protection for gesso is oil varnish, but it dries with a glossy surface. Gilding with bronzing powders mixed with gum, if protected from the air by a coat of varnish, gives a rich effect.
For tinting gesso without any groundwork of gold, white shellac varnish, or distemper colour mixed with size, imparts a fair colouring. If the scheme of design includes a background which forms a design in itself, colour this ground with distemper colour mixed with gum, leaving the ornament uncoloured. Pick out the important masses with some transparent oil colour mixed with shellac varnish, and slightly tint the remaining details with raw sienna or with varnish alone.
Modelled in Gesso.
When this treatment is carried out, the wood ground should be unstained, either oak or mahogany being used.