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Talc is used for many applications in woodworking. From making gesso to be used as a decorative finish or as a grain filler etc. to use as a lubricant and super fine abrasive, this is a versatile product, with uses that are only limited by your imagination
This page is an taken from... "A Polishers Handbook" written by Neil Ellis
Gesso is a mixture of glue and talcum powder or calcium carbonate, and is used as a base for other finishes, notably gold leaf. When dry the gesso is extremely hard and durable. It can be sanded to give a silky smooth finish and burnished to produce a shine.
The uses I will describe to you in the following pages have nothing to do with gilding, but will give you some ideas for finishes that will open up a whole new world of possibilities to you.
Many of the gesso finishes are particularly well suited to woodturned items and can be used on both spindle and bowl work. They are also suitable for use on most furniture, especially vertical surfaces. Some can be used for table tops etc. but take the time to experiment with them first & know their limitations.
Below: Three different gesso finishes.
Left: Stippled finish as per below information.
Centre: Clingwrap finish (Marbled)
Right: Brush roll finish (Vegetation)
Instructions for all three effects and many other decorative finishes using
Talcum Powder can be found in “A Polishers Handbook”
WHAT YOU WILL NEED:
A plastic or glass container with lid (water tight) – Talcum Powder (super fine) – PVA glue – Water – Small paint brush approx. 25mm wide, or an artists oil brush about no 14 (buy cheap ones from the market – A piece of timber to work on. (for this exercise it is a good idea to use s small square of 18mm custom-wood or chipboard) – Shellac and universal tint (colour of your choice) Some 00 steel wool
GESSO (Recipe No.1)
In your container mix (by volume) 1 part of PVA glue with approx. 4 parts of water. When completely mixed, slowly add and blend in the talc (approx. twice as much talc by volume as there is liquid) keep adding and mixing talc until you have a mixture that resembles a pancake batter. If the mix is too thick add a little water if too thin add more talc.
You have just made your first batch of gesso. This will keep in an airtight container for a long time, at least twelve to eighteen months.
GESSO effect no. 1 (stippled effect)
1/ Paint your piece of timber with the gesso. Just slop it on to cover the whole surface. Don’t worry too much about brush marks these will disappear later on. This first coat keys the gesso to the wood and will be the base for the final coat.
This first coat could take anything up to a couple of hours to dry. I sometimes help the drying process along a little through the application of heat by way of a small hair dryer. This can speed up the drying time considerably to around ten to fifteen minutes.
2/ Once the first coat is dry you can apply the second and final coat. Once again just slop it on but try and get a reasonably even coat. Leave this second coat to dry for a little while, say five minutes. By this time the gesso should have a slightly tacky feel to it. If you touch it with your finger it should peak like beaten egg-white when your finger is removed.
3/ Now take your brush and with the handle in a vertical position tap the bristles down and then up on the surface of the tacky gesso, continue to do this over the entire surface of the wood until the whole thing is covered with little peaks. This is called a stippled effect. Leave this to dry overnight.
4/ To a small quantity of shellac add some universal tint. e.g.: 4 tablespoons of shellac plus 4 drops of green tint. Mix thoroughly then apply an even coat of the coloured shellac to the surface of the now dried gesso. Leave this to dry thoroughly. (approx. 15 minutes) You should now have a green coloured, stippled gesso, board.
5/ Next make a tight wad of steel wool about the size of a golf ball and briskly rub the green stippled surface until the white of the gesso start to shine through on the peaks, this white highlight is the effect you are after. Make sure that you keep the steel wool in a tight wad throughout the rubbing process.
You have finished your first gesso effect. I will wager you haven’t seen anything quite like that before.
GESSO (Recipe No.2)
To 1 part pearl hide glue add 2 parts water allow the glue to soak in the water for about 15 minutes to half an hour, until it has expanded and soaked up some of the water, now place the mixture in a double boiler (as for making glue page 36) and heat the glue until it is liquid, stirring occasionally.
Once the glue has become liquid slowly add talc (whilst constantly stirring) and keep adding it until you have a mix resembling batter. If the mixture is too thick add some more water.
An example of quantities for a gesso mix is as follows – 0.25 cup pearl glue, 0.5 cup water, 1 to 1.5 cups of talc.
Keep the mixture warm to keep it liquid, as it cools it will start to thicken and get hard. More water can be added to retard the drying process, if required, this could be up to an extra 0.5 cup for the above mix.
Unfortunately there is no exact science to making gesso. Each job and application can demand a slightly different mixture, just as different users will find they have a preference for their own consistency of mix. I suggest that you experiment with the base mixtures described herein until you have a mix that suits your particular application.
Take a piece of white Oak, water down some hide glue gesso to make a runny batter, mix in some red universal tint until you get a bright red, then apply the gesso to to the oak using a wad of hessian or a piece of old towel. Rub the gesso hard across the grain, pushing it in to the open pores of the timber. When the whole piece is done, put it aside to dry thoroughly.
When completely dry sand the surface back to clean bare timber you should now have a white piece of Oak with a magnificent red grain that almost leaps off the board at you. Make sure that the board is free from dust and polish with white shellac or whatever finish you desire.
These are just a couple of very basic ideas. The decorative effects that can be done using gesso are just about limitless.
Talc is also used as a very fine abrasive, a lubricant on bench-tops, machinery, drawer runners, etc. and can be added to shellac as a grain filler. Our talc is much finer than ordinary body talc and completely free from perfumes that may harm a finish. It is also ideal for use as a body talc for people who are allergic to perfumes and other additives. There are many more practical uses for this amazing powder, from soaking up oil spills to – let your imagination run wild