Monday, May 19, 2014

Medieval Pewter Goblets from Thrift Store Glass--Tutorial

Finished Goblet

Some time ago I was watching a movie or a television show set in medieval times.  One of the characters was drinking from a metal goblet.  Problem was, I recognized the pattern of the goblet as a piece of dollar store glass stemware.  Obviously a prop artisan had crafted the piece.  I wanted to figure out how it was done so I went to the thrift store and bought a heavy glass water goblet and experimented.  When I was satisfied, I taught the process to my props class.  Here is the tutorial with pictures from that class.

Step #1:  Obtain The Glass
I found that heavy glass goblets from the 1970's worked really well.  I found a dozen of them at a thrift store for something like 75 cents apiece.  The pattern I found was called "King's Crown".  Sometimes it's referred to as "Thumbprint".  This is a pattern that has been around for decades.  In the thirties and forties the glass was pressed in clear with the top flash painted cranberry.  Sometimes the lip would be gilded.

The ones I found were pressed in the 70's in avocado glass.

Step #2:  Prep The Glass
I only wanted to craft on the outside of the goblet.  I chose to keep the inside pristine, away from any coatings in case someone decided to drink out of it.  So the inside is still clean glass.  It's only the outside of the goblet where lips would contact it that there is a concern.

To prep the goblet, I took two inch wide painter's tape and completely covered the top of the goblet.  I pressed the edges tightly to the rim and also made sure that the seams were covered with another piece of painter's tape.  When it was covered, I used an X-Acto knife to trim the excess tape away.

Taping the opening

Trimming the tape

Step #3:  Base Coat
I then took my goblet into the scene shop and painted it in the fume hood.  I placed the goblet top down on a plastic turntable and sprayed it with Krylon Flat Black.

*Always spray paint with proper fume prevention.  Either a cartridge filter mask or in a commercial fume hood.  It's not enough to just hold your breath.*

I used flat black because I expect some of the base color to show through when I apply the next step.

Spray painting the goblet flat black in a fume hood

Goblet base coated.  Notice the absence of paint on the painter's tape

The same thing, upside down

Step #4:  Applying the Metal Leaf Size
Once the spray paint was dry and cured, I brought the goblet back to the studio for the next step.  With a small scenic fitch brush I painted the top portion and the stem portion with metal leaf size.  The metal leaf size we used will dry tacky and clear within five or ten minutes of application.  When it becomes clear it is ready for the next step.

Applying the metal leaf size.  Notice the really cool skull ring!

Metal leaf size applied, waiting to dry
Step #5:  Applying the Metal Leaf
I chose imitation silver leaf for the bulk of the project.  If you have never used metal leaf, it is essential to have clean hands when handling it.  Otherwise it sticks to you and creates a mess.  Some people use a special brush to take the metal leaf out of the package.  I just use my hands.  I'm almost never doing something so intricate that I need to use the special brush.

When you have the piece of leaf in hand (or brush) begin laying it over the metal leaf size.  When it is all in place then gently press the metal leaf into the size.  Metal leaf can be expensive so be economical in your use of it.  Make sure you use enough but not too much.  Also don't use too little.

Metal leaf is also very fragile and is very lightweight.  When you are using metal leaf, even a slight breeze can take it away from you.  I demonstrated this property to my class.

It floats

Applying the metal leaf to the size

Pressing it into the size

Filling in as we go

Step #5:  Burnishing
Once the metal leaf is in place I take a clean, semi-stiff brush and burnish the metal leaf.  The first step of burnishing is to tap the end of the brush all over the object you are leafing.  This does two things.  First it presses the metal leaf into the size a little better than just doing it by hand and second it gets rid of the excess metal leaf.

The second step of burnishing is to beat the piece with the brush in a side to side motion.  As if you are painting it really fast and really hard.  This serves to "polish" the metal leaf.  It doesn't matter if a few black spots show through.  In fact for stage it is even a little better if a little black shows through on edges or corners.



Step #6:  The Other Base Coat
I wanted the middle of the goblet, where the thumbprints are to be gold instead of silver.  This was for a variety of reasons.  One, I thought it looked better to be two toned.  Two, it was a better project if it were more complex.  Three, I was able to teach a different method for base coating.

Silver oxidizes to black which is why I used flat black for my base coat.  Gold, on the other hand does not oxidize at all, but gilders usually put a reddish brown base coat under gold leaf which makes it appear antiqued.

I used an artist acrylic Burnt Sienna paint for the secondary base coat.  I thinned it a little so it would flow a little better and then I painted it on carefully where I wanted the gold to be.

Secondary base coat

Step #7:  Metal Leaf the Gold Part
Once the acrylic paint is all the way dry, I painted it with the metal leaf size.  Once that was dry and clear but still tacky I applied the imitation gold leaf.  Then I pressed it in and burnished it.  From this point it's really just following the steps from the silver leaf.

Applying the metal leaf size on the red part

Applying the imitation gold leaf

Fine tuning the imitation gold leaf

Burnishing the imitation gold leaf.  Notice the specks of gold flying around.  This is normal.

Step #8:  Finish
To finish this project, I coated all the metal leaf with an acrylic sealer which I bought at the same time and place as the metal leaf size.  It is actually a product designed for just this purpose.  The imitation metal leaf has to be sealed or it will oxidize and turn dull, even black.

I make no guarantee that the metal leaf sealer is food safe.

Finally, once everything is dry it's time to remove the painter's tape. and the project is finished.

The inside of the goblet is still clean.  I do not know if the metal leaf and all it's chemicals is safe for more than incidental contact.

Once the goblet is to this stage it can be aged and jewels can be attached with E-600.  You can make this as spectacular or as utilitarian as you choose.