Suppose that we have a plain picture frame; it is made by the joiner into a 12 ft. length of moulding, and in that state it passes into the hands of the gilder. He first gives it a priming of hot size and whiting, called thin white. The whiting employed by the gilder is not the same as that used for domestic purposes, but is finer and more free from grit. The size employed is prepared by the gilder from parchment or glove cuttings. The cuttings are well washed in water, and then boiled in a certain quantity of clean water, until the latter has a particular degree of adhesiveness, which can only be determined by experience; this is then poured off into a clean dry vessel, and allowed to cool. When about to be used, the grease at the top and the sediment at the bottom are cut off with a knife, the size is melted in an earthen pipkin, and a small quantity of finely-powdered whiting is mixed up with it. When the thin white is dry, all holes and irregularities in the moulding are filled up with putty. This putty is not the same as that employed by the glazier, but consists of whiting and size mixed to the consistence of putty. When the putty is dry, a coating of thick white is laid on with a brush.

This thick white differs from the thin white only in having a larger proportion of dry whiting mixed with a given amount of size, the consistence attained being rather thicker than that of oil paint. When the first thick white is dry, another is laid on in the same manner, and, similarly, a third, a fourth, and a fifth, are laid on, all about equal in thickness, and each one being perfectly dry before the next is applied. As in laying on this large body of thick white, the fine squares, hollows, and fillets would be liable to be stopped up and lose all their clearness and sharpness, opening tools, consisting of crooks, chisels, and gouges, are drawn along the fine parts of the moulding, while the thick white is still wet; by which means the forms of the various mouldings are retained. This is still better effected by the double opening white, which consists of two thick-whites; the one laid on almost, immediately after the other, by which a thick toft coating covers the moulding. Hard stones, shaped to the forms of the mouldings, together with the opening tools before described, are to be worked over every part of the moulding, .by which asperities are smoothed down, depressions filled up, and edges, brought up nearly to their required sharpness.

In this state the whiting on the moulding is 1/16-1/13 in. thick. It is now trimmed at the back and edges by cutting off the whiting, which had flowed over from the front, which prepares it for the process of smoothing. This is done by means of pieces, of pumice and other stones, shaped so as to fit the various parts of the moulding. A sponge or soft brush is used to wet the moulding, and the stone which is to be used, being likewise wetted, is rubbed or worked to and fro along the moulding until that part is perfectly smooth. Another stone, fitting a different part, is then, used in the same way; and so on, until every part of the length and breadth of the moulding has been worked over by the stones. The moulding, if the smoothing has been properly performed, now presents a smoothness of surface exceeding, and a keenness of the edge nearly equalling, that which the moulding presented when it left the hands of the joiner; but this must be attained without rubbing off too much of the whiting, since the whole beauty of the frame mainly depends on having a sufficient body or foundation of whiting.

The brilliant burnishing on frames is, in a peculiar degree, dependent on the whiting which is first laid on the wood, and which, if deficient in quantity, cannot be adequately replaced by other means. The moulding, being thoroughly dried from the effects of the smoothing, is rubbed down with glass-paper or sand-paper, to take off any little asperities that may remain, and to make the whole perfectly smooth. It is now ready for the process of gold-sizing. The burnish gold-size used in this process is composed of ingredients exceedingly opposite in their nature, such as pipe-clay, red chalk, black-lead, suet, and bullock-blood. This diversity of ingredients is intended to produce different effects; one substance helps to give a brilliancy to the burnish, another to the mellowness and smoothness, and so on. The form in which the gilder purchases his burnish gold-size is that of a solid rather softer than butter. He first takes some very clear size, boiled purposely to a smaller degree of strength than the size for thick white, or, if already boiled, weakened by water.

This size he melts in an earthen pipkin, but without making it very hot, and then mixes the gold size with the melted size by means of a clean brush, much in the same manner as a painter mixes his oil paint; the consistence to be about equal to that of cream. It is a source of some confusion that the same term, burnish gold-size, is applied to this creamy liquid, as to the thicker substance from which it is prepared; it is necessary to say mixed gold-size, or unmixed gold size, in order to indicate which is meant. This gold size is laid on the moulding either with a very soft hog-hair brush, or by a large camel-hair pencil, fixed in a swan quill. The gold size must be barely warm, and must be laid on with great care so as to leave it equally thick in every part, and obliterate the marks of the brush; upon the due observance of a medium between hot and cold, strong and weak, and thick and thin, in the gold size laid on, depends much of the beauty of the moulding when gilt. From 4 to 8 coats of this gold size are laid on the moulding, each one being perfectly dried before the next is applied. A soft, partially worn piece of glass-paper is occasionally used, to take off any little roughness that may exist.

When a sufficient body of gold size is laid on, it is carefully washed with clean water, a soft sponge, and a piece of linen rag. This must be done with attention to the soft edges, which are very likely to lose the whole of their gold size, if care is not used; the object is to produce a perfectly smooth surface, especially in those parts which are to be matt gold. The test of good work is to produce the smoothest surface with the least loss of gold size. When the moulding is partially dry from this process, the matt parts are polished with a piece of woollen cloth, and the parts to be burnished receive another coating of gold size, laid on as smoothly as possible. The piece of moulding which is to be gilt is laid along the bench with one end higher than the other; and as the width of the moulding is broken up into several divisions, such as hollows and squares, it would be impossible to make a leaf of gold bend into all the various parts without breaking. The gilder learns by experience how many separate lays, as they are called, of gold will be required to cover the width of the moulding without the breaking of the gold into irregular fractures called spider-legs. In general, a deep hollow, or a depressed square, cannot be gilt at one lay, but must be covered with two strips of gold, laid side by side and meeting at the centre of the depression.