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Gilded 3D lettering problem

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Myles Brewer

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Post Wed Jan 04, 2017 2:53 pm

Gilded 3D lettering problem

Hi All,
Happy new year to everyone.

I recently had to fit some gilded prismatic lettering to a shop front. Something I have done 4-5 times in the past without issue & all previous jobs still look as good as the day they were fitted.

I have always outsourced the manufacture & gilding of the lettering to various different companies (sadly first ones no longer in business).

The recent letters were done by a local company who've supplied me with most of my digital prints, 3D lettering etc. for several years & whom I have a very good relationship with & trust.

The job in question was slightly different to previous ones I've fitted, in that the shop fascia was being renewed using gloss black porcelain tiles which the customer wanted to avoid drilling into. So we decided to fit them direct to the fascia with VHB tape.

The first issue arose when I received the letters (TNR bold, prismatic cut from 19mm Foamex with 5mm return left) arrived & noticed that they were slightly concave. When laid flat the serifs would stand up approx 5mm. This was supposedly down to the prismatic cut & thickness of the return. (I've had the exact same spec done previously without this issue) Anyway, to ensure that the serifs would not lift I put a full covering of VHB on the back & primed the tiles with 3M primer 94 before fitting. This worked perfectly.

There was also the odd blemish on a couple of the letter ridges from packaging but I was supplied with some spare leaf just in case to cover this which I did. The size used was a permanently open size (never heard of this before!?) which also seemed to mean the letters have a permanently tacky feel to them which I have never come across before, but was told this is normal.

The lettering was not lacquered as 23.5k heavy leaf was used & it was thought to be unnecessary.
Here is the lettering just after fitting:
image3.JPG
image9.JPG


Anyway, approximately a month after fitting, I received an email from the customer saying that he had been cleaning the tiles & had noticed some dirt on one of the letters & used a cloth, "not too hard" to clean the dirt off & was "surprised & disappointed that the gold came off so easily"!! "Could I come & touch it up?"

I was quite surprised myself as this has never previously been an issue, I said that I didn't think this should happen & asked if he could send some close up pictures that I could send to the guys that made them for advice. These are what he sent:
Barber Shop 2.jpg
Barber Shop 1.jpg
image4.JPG
image7 a.jpg



He also stated that he had just been "cleaning around the letters, had not touched any of the others, but noticed a discolour coming through some of the other letters"!! Which apparently his tiler had also noticed 2 weeks after the letters were fitted, presumably when he was finishing off the rest of the tiling!!

When I saw the pictures I was staggered by the look of them & promptly replied to him saying that it looked to me like a sanding pad had been taken to them!! He denies this & asked me to tell the guys that made them that he had only touched the one letter "H".

What do I do??

Should they have been lacquered?

The suppliers said the customer has ruined them!, but have offered to re-leaf & lacquer them if I return them. I'm doubtful that the letters could be removed without breaking them due to the full VHB coverage & primer used.

The only other option suggested by supplier is that they will supply me with size & leaf for me to go & re-leaf the lettering in situ & then lacquer to protect from future abuse!!

Whilst I am happy to give this a go as I've always really wanted to try gilding & actually bought a kit to try from Wrights a few years back but never got round to trying it, I am very aware that it may prove to be tricky & would be very weather dependent!! (not good in the west of Ireland!!)

Whichever route I go, do I charge the customer? In effect calling him a liar or suck it up myself?
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Jean Oakley

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Post Wed Jan 04, 2017 4:00 pm

Re: Gilded 3D lettering problem

hi ive done a bit of gold leafing many many years ago. Looking at the damage to the letters i would say they have definately been rubbed by something course. If the gold leaf were to fail i would expect patches to be curling and flaking. The images you are showing have scratch like lines not something i would expect to see. Not sure really where you can go from here but gold leafing at this time of your would not be very appealing. Have you tried rubbing a letter yourself with a course cloth or sandpaper to see if you get the same effect? Also have you thought to contact another sign manufacturer and ask what they would supply if asked for gold leaf and if they would apply a laquared finish? If yes then i would question the original supplier as to why it wasnt done originally.(especially as they now seem to be offering it to you?) Unfortunatley you are stuck in the middle good luck :bangshead:
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Mike Kenny

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Post Wed Jan 04, 2017 4:14 pm

Re: Gilded 3D lettering problem

Hi Myles,
This is definately an akward one!
Gold leaf is never normally laquered as this can fail and discolour the gold, I have prismatic lettering over 2o years old,
and its still as shiny as day one. I think the problem was the gold size used, I have never, ever heard of a permanently open size? normally 24hr. is the max, If the size doesent set, you end up with the marks shown, you should be able to clean and polish the gild without scratching. You should also check that it is genuine patent gold leaf, it will have a stamp on the book, if not it may be a cheap substitute. Good luck with this, Mike
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Myles Brewer

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Post Wed Jan 04, 2017 4:19 pm

Re: Gilded 3D lettering problem

Jean Oakley wrote:hi ive done a bit of gold leafing many many years ago. Looking at the damage to the letters i would say they have definately been rubbed by something course. If the gold leaf were to fail i would expect patches to be curling and flaking. The images you are showing have scratch like lines not something i would expect to see. Not sure really where you can go from here but gold leafing at this time of your would not be very appealing. Have you tried rubbing a letter yourself with a course cloth or sandpaper to see if you get the same effect? Also have you thought to contact another sign manufacturer and ask what they would supply if asked for gold leaf and if they would apply a laquared finish? If yes then i would question the original supplier as to why it wasnt done originally.(especially as they now seem to be offering it to you?) Unfortunatley you are stuck in the middle good luck :bangshead:


Thanks Jean, I actually haven't been back to look at the lettering myself yest as I only got the email from the customer about a week before Xmas & he's about a 40 mins away from me. If I was to do repairs on site I'd most definitely be waiting for spring at least & a very calm dry day which in this location is relatively hard to come by :sad:

I'm fairly certain that the previous letters I have had from other suppliers & fitted where not lacquered either & having done a small amount of research it seems to be uncommon to lacquer if leaf over 23 - 23.5k is used, unless the objects being gilded are in a high traffic area & likely to be brushed past by people, which these are obviously not!!

Like I mentioned, I am very happy with the supplier who made them for me & know them well, which is why they have offered to help. They themselves have fitted several jobs over the years using the same process & materials & all are still standing up well for all to see without being lacquered. They have always said that they can be lacquered if requested for additional protection but it will darken the look & is not usually necessary.
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Myles Brewer

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Post Wed Jan 04, 2017 4:35 pm

Re: Gilded 3D lettering problem

Mike Kenny wrote:Hi Myles,
This is definately an akward one!
Gold leaf is never normally laquered as this can fail and discolour the gold, I have prismatic lettering over 2o years old,
and its still as shiny as day one. I think the problem was the gold size used, I have never, ever heard of a permanently open size? normally 24hr. is the max, If the size doesent set, you end up with the marks shown, you should be able to clean and polish the gild without scratching. You should also check that it is genuine patent gold leaf, it will have a stamp on the book, if not it may be a cheap substitute. Good luck with this, Mike


Thanks Mike, The failing of the lacquer is what I have always been told & wanted to avoid. So I think the guys who supplied them were right on that count. I do however agree I think about the size, but they assured me it is what they always use.
The leaf is definitely genuine leaf from Wrights.
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Robert Lambie

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Post Wed Jan 04, 2017 6:16 pm

Re: Gilded 3D lettering problem

certainly looks like some type of abrasion damage. maybe a chemical on the cloth they cleaned with?
dependant on the chemical, it really doesn't need much pressure to lift something off. maybe a combination of this size that hasn't cured 100% and a chemical is whats done it.

i have tried gold-leaf in past, i did not bad job on some HDU foam letters. however, a proper craftsman may have laughed at it and i must say, i would not fancy attempting it on a shopfront out in the elements. best of luck to you on that one mate.
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Myles Brewer

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Post Wed Jan 04, 2017 6:30 pm

Re: Gilded 3D lettering problem

Robert Lambie wrote:certainly looks like some type of abrasion damage. maybe a chemical on the cloth they cleaned with?
dependant on the chemical, it really doesn't need much pressure to lift something off. maybe a combination of this size that hasn't cured 100% and a chemical is whats done it.

i have tried gold-leaf in past, i did not bad job on some HDU foam letters. however, a proper craftsman may have laughed at it and i must say, i would not fancy attempting it on a shopfront out in the elements. best of luck to you on that one mate.


Trouble is you wouldn't have a clue what some customers might get upto & they are bound to deny it I suppose, which leaves you in a tricky situation as you don't want to accuse them but this clearly looks like something too abrasive was used. I personally suspect something like this was used
Sponge pad.jpg
Sponge pad.jpg (42.46 KiB) Viewed 3841 times


I do like a challenge but I suspect the weather could beat me on this. I may end up trying to remove them with a bit of fine fishing line & sawing down the backs carefully to release them. :awkward:
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John Singh

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Post Thu Jan 05, 2017 6:44 pm

Re: Gilded 3D lettering problem

Gold leaf should never really be lacquered as it would lose it lustre
But I always explain to the customer that gold leaf if left untouched will outlive anything as it is gold but at the same time I explain that it the most vulnerable if attempts are made to rub down and clean as it is beaten so thinly

Question: Should you lacquer to protect gold?

Depends!

Is it in a area prone to high spoilage? Example where pigeons are likely to leave their calling cards
I've used 'Frog Juice' applied with brush to give a tough finish to a fascia after gilding because of this

If not in danger of high spoilage or in range of vandals then leave gold leaf as is for maximum lustre
Also gold leaf if untroubled will outlive lacquer which even given the claim of 7-10yr will soon start crazy paving

So in conclusion from photographs submitted there is nothing wrong with the gold leaf job your suppliers have supplied but perhaps they should have told you that if an attempt is made to clean then great care must be exercised in doing so
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Myles Brewer

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Post Thu Jan 05, 2017 8:16 pm

Re: Gilded 3D lettering problem

Thanks John, wise words I think.

I do think the decision not to lacquer in this situation was in fact correct. As far as I am aware there is no increased risk of spoilage other than by the shop owner. On thinking about it too, it seems perhaps a bit.... perhaps obsessive?? for him to have to be cleaning the shop front only a few weeks after they were fitted.

Seemingly the tiler "noticed" the yellow undercoat coming through the edges only 2 weeks after they were fitted!! I wonder if it may be that the tiler on completing the rest of the shop front decided to give the whole thing a wipe down & "noticed" it after he'd done the damage?? :shake:

Could the "dirt" the shop owner saw have been a bit of grout that the tiler left??

Out of interest John, would you recommend using Frog Juice over something like Shellac Gum? Never come across Frog Juice before but just Googled it & looks like great stuff!! :thumbsup:
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Robert Lambie

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Post Thu Jan 05, 2017 8:36 pm

Re: Gilded 3D lettering problem

I used to use Spray Frog Juice around 15 years ago on our Thermal prints that had not been laminated. Never had any problems but i remember sometimes having to go over a few times to get an even gloss finish. same as you would painting something i guess.

I have never tried brushing it on though, but remember someone on the boards from the states used a small roller.


John:- Pigeon calling cards and frog juice, hmmmm :lol:
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Simon Worrall

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Post Fri Jan 06, 2017 7:43 am

Re: Gilded 3D lettering problem

I agree with previous comments:
Ive done a lot of gold leaf signs and never laquered.
It cheapens the appearance and does not prolong the life.
This looks like over-enthusiastic cleaning to me.

Simon.
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Myles Brewer

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Post Fri Jan 06, 2017 1:55 pm

Re: Gilded 3D lettering problem

Just out of interest, would you all agree that gilded lettering could be described as self cleaning? i.e. it would be generally unnecessary to be cleaning it in the same way that you might wash down painted built up/3D lettering?
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Mike Kenny

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Post Fri Jan 06, 2017 2:19 pm

Re: Gilded 3D lettering problem

Hi Myles,
Yes you are right, should never need cleaning normally,( maybe the tiler dropped grout everywhere?)
Soft cloth & soap & water every 4 or 5 years, to clean off surface dust etc.
I would still be worried about the size though, let us know how you get on.
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Martin Pearson

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Post Fri Jan 06, 2017 3:58 pm

Re: Gilded 3D lettering problem

Myles I haven't really commented as I am not familiar with gold leaf, it's application or it's care so a bit in the dark, one thing you should probably have done having read through the post was to speak to the customer about the best way to keep it looking good, even maybe produce a little care sheet if this is something people are asking you for.

What I don't understand is if the tiller noticed something that wasn't right with the letters why didn't they say something at the time?? My gut tells me that the tiller would have made a bit of a mess & that they would have then cleaned up after them. If they didn't know any better they may well have damaged the letters BUT it is unlikely they would say anything. Chances are they looked from the ground & couldn't see any damage so said nothing not expecting the owner to climb up for a look.
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Jean Oakley

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Post Fri Jan 06, 2017 4:03 pm

Re: Gilded 3D lettering problem

think i agree with you Martin
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Myles Brewer

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Post Fri Jan 06, 2017 8:04 pm

Re: Gilded 3D lettering problem

Martin, I think you could be spot on there. I was only just saying to the better half this afternoon that it was odd that the owner hadn't contacted me at the point when the tiler told him of the "discolouring" on the letters.

I actually fitted them on 17th Oct. & he didn't contact me until 12 Dec... 6 weeks after the tiler had mentioned it!!

This was his actual reply after I had asked if he know what exactly the dirt was & if it may have been bird droppings:

No it wasn't bird droppings just general dirt. I was just cleaning the tiles around the lettering and noticed a little bit of dirt on the H. I began to clean it and noticed another colour coming through. I didn't clean any of the other letters but have noticed there is definitely a discolour on other letters that's why I have sent on pictures of these letters too. My tiler noticed this 2 weeks after the signage was completed.

Although I didn't give him a written care plan & sadly hadn't mentioned not to clean them with a scouring pad!! I had said that they really didn't need any attention as they were more or less self cleaning. This was obviously an oversight on my part & something I will have to be very careful about in future.
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Martin Pearson

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Post Fri Jan 06, 2017 11:24 pm

Re: Gilded 3D lettering problem

It's unfortunate Myles but this seems to be one of those things where you know your not being told the truth but you can't prove it. If it was the owner cleaning then in this instance a care sheet may have helped BUT if it was the Tiller then it wouldn't have made any difference what so ever.

Did you ask him why he waited so long before contacting you & why he hadn't looked when the Tiller first told him about it ?

You can't really tell from that email if the Tiller told the owner at the time or not, if the owner had been up cleaning & noticed something he may have asked the tiller at that point if he had seen anything. The Tiller isn't going to turn round & say yer sorry guv fair cop, I did it while giving the tiles a final clean but didn't say anything because I didn't think you would ever notice :lol: :lol:
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Myles Brewer

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Post Tue Jan 10, 2017 2:32 pm

Re: Gilded 3D lettering problem

I've found out the size used is actually Polyvine acrylic size with a 24hr open time so not exactly permanent, although their application guide does state that the size remains in a prime state indefinitely.

Although it is not technically an outdoor size (hasn't been lab tested) it is commonly used outdoors without issue.

Anyway the ball is in the shop keepers court now as to what he wants to do, if he wants them lacquered after re-gilding or not.

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