Every frame at the P.H. Miller studio starts with bare wood. The molding is created with hand planes or by machine, depending on the profile. After creating the molding, we cut and join the frame. We then hand carve any ornament, patterns, and other fine detail with carving gouges and a mallet.
After the woodwork is complete, each frame is water gilded. To begin this process, at least eight coats of gesso are applied to the surface. This is a thick coating of fine ground calcium carbonate bound with rabbit skin glue. This thick layer of gesso is scraped, sanded, and polished to a beautiful smooth surface. Several layers of bole, or gilder's clay, are then applied on top of the gesso. After polishing the bole, gold leaf is finally applied to the surface.
The last step of the process is to tone the frame. This serves as a protective barrier over the thin gold leaf and delicate, water soluble finish. But more importantly, we can use pigments, dyes, shellacs and many other potions to create a wide variety of effects and finishes. With toning, we can make a new frame look like a real antique so that it does not clash with an old painting.