Step 2: Gesso & Sanding Step 3: Undercoating Step 4: Gilding Step 5: Burnish & Rub Through Step 6: Tarnish, Spatter & Shellac Step 7: Patination Step 8: Glaze & Dust Step 1: Join & Carve

What Makes a Frames By Edward Wright Frame Different From an Ordinary Frame?

Mouseover Image to Learn About the Frame Finishing Process Move the mouse over the frame to see details of our frame finishing process.

An ordinary frame from a frame shop, also known as a "chop" frame, is simply cut to size and joined together. Frames by Edward Wright uses a multi-step process of old world techniques to join, finish and gild our frames.

8 Steps to an Old World Finish
Move the mouse over the frame to learn more about Frames by Edward Wright's artisan gilding and finishing techniques!
1. Join and Carve
Raw basswood, a soft, straight, knot-free wood from the Linden tree, is joined using wooden splines for a stable corner joint. The carve design is pencilled in using a template and handcarved.
2. Gesso and Sanding
The frame is sprayed with gesso (whiting and glue) twice, and sanded following each coat, for an indiscernable corner joint.
3. Undercoating
Precious metal areas are readied for gilding using yellow and then appropriate clay color.
Common metal sections are undercoated wtih appropriate dye color.
In both cases the undercoat is color coordinated to the artwork for which the frame has been designed.
4. Gilding
Precious metals (22 karat gold and silver) are water gilded to the clay surface.
Common metal (brass) is gilded using oil size.
5. Burnish & Rub Through
Precious metal is burnished with an agate burnisher. Gilded areas are rubbed through to reveal the color under the leaf.
6. Tarnish, Spatter & Shellac
Silver leaf is tarnished with a chemical application. Next, the surface is spattered with a mixture of shellac and rottenstone. Finally, the surface is shellacked many times to seal the leaf.
7. Patination
The finish is unified with an application of hand mixed casein.
8. Glaze & Dust
The frame finish is completed with a warm Raw Umber glaze. Finally, custom dust is color matched to the finish, and is applied in crevices to complete the finished look.

What distinguishes a handcrafted frame?

The strength of splined joinery
On each mitred frame corner we rout a slot a insert a wooden spline. We find the strength of this traditional joinery technique vastly superior to the standard nailed picture frame joint.
Meticulous surface preparation
Each natural wood finish requires scraping and sanding with papers of five different grit levels. This attention to detail is critical to reveal the distinctive character of wood.
The adaptability of gesso surfaces
Traditional gesso is a combination of rabbit skin glue and whiting which can be applied only when warm. The preparation and application of gesso is basic to the overall design of the frame. Areas to be given a highly burnished look must be painted with up to eight coats of gesso and meticulously sanded and polished. We also sponge or stipple the gesso onto areas that will be matte gilded to add texture and interest.
Staining that works with the character of each wood
We have devoted many hours of research to finding exactly the right dye or chemical stain for each wood species we use. Our greatest successes have been in ebonizing and naturally aging cherry.
Custom undercoating
We paint the gesso layers with various colors to compliment the art work. Depending on the effect desired, these colors may be spattered, stippled or wiped onto the surface.
Unique applications of metal leaf
We apply an oil-based size on the colored surface to accept aluminum, brass, copper, or variegated leaf. These can be applied evenly or, for more texture, they can be crushed or cracked over the surface. One of our specialties is the combination of different leaves to achieve a unique iridescence.
The character of tarnishing
We have achieved some very interesting results using chemicals that react with copper, brass or silver leaf to enhance aspects of the artwork.
The elegance of genuine gold leafing
First, we brush very thin coats of rabbit skin glue mixed with clay onto the frame. This "bole" acts as an adherent for the leaf. When the clay dries, our expert gilders float water onto small areas of the frame to activate the glue, which then accpets the gold leaf. Using a wide squirrel hair brush, the gilder carefully applies extremely thin sections of 12, 16 or 22 karat gold.
We create a mirror-like polish on carved or raised areas of the frame by burnishing the gold leaf with the rounded tip of an agate.
The art of patination
In patination we use various finishing techniques to bring together the surface, undercoats and leaf in the way that best compliments the art work. Patination is a process of reworking the finish through distressing, glazing, steel wooling the leaf, spattering, stippling, sponging on casein, and dusting with mica powders.
French polishing
The traditional method of applying thin coats of button shellac with a lightly oiled rag is the best method for enhancing the character of our hardwood frames. To achieve the final lustre we polish the hardwood with rottonstone.
Overlay corner design
By routing out the top section of a mitred frame corner and then overlaying it with a wooden spline, we add strength to a frame's structure and open up a wide range of design possibilities. We can shape or carve the overlay corner to reflect or emphasize the textural aspects of the art work.
The versatility of composition
Available in hundreds of patterns, prepared ornaments can be steamed and applied to our frames. This allows us to create unique frame designs at a very reasonable price.
Skilled hand carving
For our highest quality frames, our highly skilled wood carvers cut the appropriate ornamentation into the frame by hand.