We’ve all seen them. Beautiful metallic finished mirrors and picture framed. They can be pricey or they’re either too big or too small. You can use your old mirrors and picture frames and do it your self. You can do it to just about any surface for a moderate price and its fun too!
You’ll need to get a few things ready first before you begin. Cover the area you’re going to work over with plenty of old newspapers and buy a pair of chemical proof gloves. The chemicals used to distress the metal leaf will melt through conventional gloves like latex or rubber. You also need a jar of sodium sulfate and the color of metal leaf you want. (Copper, silver, aluminum, etc.)You should be able to buy these where you purchase the metal leaf. A good art supply store should have what you need and some home improvement stores also carry the supplies.
First start by applying a base coat of color over the area that’s going to be distressed. After the paint dries for 24 hours, add a coat of leaf adhesive. This is special glue that holds the leaf in place during distressing. Allow the glue to set for about 30 minutes and apply the leaf. Lay the leaf carefully on the area and gently brush over the leaf with an old brush to smooth it out. Add pieces of leaf over the next and leave small areas un-leafed to expose the base color through. Use a small piece of cheesecloth or an old lint free rag to smooth out the leaf and secure it to the glue. Remove any excess leaf from over hanging areas at this time.
The next step should be done in a well ventilated area or preferably outside. Put on your chemical resistant gloves and lay down lots of old newspaper to work over. Use an old glass bowl to mix the chemicals. Don’t use a plastic container, it will melt. Place roughly a tablespoon of sodium sulfate into the bowl and mix with a small amount of water. Mix the ingredients together until the sodium sulfate is dissolved into the water. It will smell very sulfuric so definitely use outdoors or in a well ventilated area. I also use eye protection and a respirator in case of spills or fumes.
Use a small sea sponge or cotton cloth and with your chemical resistant gloves still on, dab a small amount of liquid onto the sponge or cloth and apply it to the leaf. Leave some small areas untouched to add to the effect. You can also puddle small amounts of the liquid in areas to change effects. If it looks like the chemicals have reacted too much for your liking, you can wash off the chemicals with a garden hose outdoors. Don’t wash the chemicals down the sink. When you’re done with the chemicals, discard the old rag or sea sponge, bowl and leftover solution into plenty of newspapers and dispose of in your garbage.
Let the whole project dry for at least 24 hours. You then can apply clear polyurethane to help protect the finish. Use the kind in the spray can for the best results and easy cleanup. If you buy a kit that comes with the chemicals then follow their instructions for the best results.