How to Silver Leaf Furniture – The World’s Messiest Project

By on March 10, 2014

How to Silver Leaf FurnitureI seriously just survived the craziest project I’ve worked on to date. Okay, maybe it wasn’t all that crazy but it was messy! Both myself and my husband were shinier by the end of the project and even my baby monster got in on the fun and decided her feet needed to be silver leafed while she watched me work.

I’ve been searching for the perfect piece of furniture to try out silver leafing and couple of weeks ago I finally found it. If you follow my instagram for sneak peaks of what I’m working on, you may have already seen this.

Wood Table Before

I found this table, which was originally a vanity table with no mirror, on our local yard sale Facebook page. When I got it home and gave it a thorough examination, I saw there were two holes towards the back that I’m assuming held the mirror that was once there, the top was covered in candle wax and had plenty of stains. On top of that, it felt like if I put anything on it, it might fall over.

The good news is…the wobbly state was simply due to needing to be tightened up…amazing what a screwdriver can do. The top I scraped off as much of the thick candle wax that I could and then simply used my bottle of Lift Off to get any residual stuff off the top (seriously this stuff is awesome). Next I got some wood filler and filled in those two holes in the back, because this vanity would no longer be a vanity. Oh no! This would become my new hallway table. Finally, I gave the top a quick sanding to clean it all up and then wiped it all down with a cloth.

Silver Leaf Supplies
Let’s Talk Supplies

There are a few basic supplies you will need in order to silver leaf furniture. First, your brushes. You’re going to want a clean bristle brush that you will use to help you press the silver leaf down onto the surface. Trust me…it’s better than using your hands which have moisture in them. You will end up silver leafing yourself if you try to do it without a brush. You will also need a sponge brush to apply the adhesive. If you want to keep things easy and just dip into the jar, get a small brush because the jar of adhesive is pretty small. I usually grab the variety packs when I get sponge brushes because you never know when you might need one of a different size.

For the actual silver leafing you’re going to need silver leaf sheets and metal adhesive. I choose the Speedball brand for both products. The silver leaf sheets came 25 sheets to a pack and the bottle of metal leaf adhesive size came in a small 2 ounce bottle. They do have the adhesive available in larger sizes, but I did this table project with this little bottle and didn’t even use half of it. It goes a long way.

Lastly, you’ll want some soft rags, either old t-shirts or just some general all purpose rags. You will also need your chosen sealer as the final coat. I like to use the Minwax Polycrylic for most of my projects.

You will also see I have my Valspar tintable glaze there as well. This is not required but it’s a step I decided to do to make my table a little less shiney and more on the vintage side of things.

*I also decided to give my table a light spray of metallic silver paint just so I had a base of color on it, and because having seen silver leaf before, I know that many times cracks and imperfections are part of the process of silver leafing and if a color was going to show through I didn’t want it to be wood, I wanted more silver.

Applying Silver Leaf Adhesive

The first thing I did was apply the adhesive using my sponge brush onto the surface of the table. You want a very thin coating of the adhesive. Don’t let it puddle up or get to thick in any one area. keep it light and smooth. You need to let the adhesive sit on the furniture for about 30 minutes for it to cure into a niche tacky surface for your silver leaf to adhere to. Do not apply your silver leafing earlier than 30 minutes or you will end up with a goopy mess.

After 30 minutes are up, you can start applying your silver leafing. This is the fun part! No really…would I lie to you?

Okay, I’m not going to lie, this can be tricky at first. It took me about 3-4 sheets before I felt really comfortable and then I was all like “why didn’t I ever try this before?”. The best way to apply it is to carefully pick up the silver leaf sheet (I recommend gloves because your hands always have moisture on them) and then let your dry clean brush do the work. Use your brush to lift it to the furniture, lay it down gently and then use the bristles to gently tack it to the adhesive. Don’t worry about pushing down all areas of the sheet. You just want a gentle contact and a good portion of it pushed down onto the surface. We’re actually going to use our clean cloth to really rub the silver in. No really…check this hot mess out.

Silver Leafing

You can see one half of the table is done, but the other half has these messy sheets that haven’t been pressed down. So why not use the brush? Well, this stuff is thin. I wouldn’t even call it paper thin. It’s thinner than that. If you breath wrong on this stuff, it will fall apart. A bristle brush tears through this stuff. You just want to use to help you make it stick but not to actually press…although I do use a brush later for cleaning up all the remnants of silver.

Silver Leafing Techniques

Once it’s all stuck on there, take your soft cloth and start rubbing it in gently. Don’t press hard or you’ll tear through it. Just gently rub, focus on pressing down on the corners and in the crack areas were sheet meets sheet. As you rub, all the “extra” silver leafing will gently fall away….cause one giant mess all over your floor. You’ll love it…so will your kids. (I’m kidding, this stuff was awful and it was everywhere!).

Silver Leafed Table

Once you’ve rubbed your table down to your hearts content, you will end up with a perfect smooth finish that shines and sparkles in the sun. Oh, and yes…the drawer pull was silver leafed as well!

From this point, you could go ahead and do your clear coat protective finish with the polycrylic, but in my case, I did a black glaze on top of the silver leaf (you can see the darker glaze in the cracks on the picture above). Once the glaze was finished, I then did a single coat of polycrylic on the whole piece, but did three coats on the actual table top. I knew this table would take some abuse with putting wallets and keys on it as we walked through our front door, so I wanted to make sure this girl had a thick tough coat to protect her.

Silver Leafed Table

I am totally in love with the outcome and it looks adorable in my entry way! Although, I do have to let you in on one thing. See the legs? Well, I bought enough silver leaf to do the entire table, but after doing the entire top area, I wasn’t sure I would love the legs being shiny as well, so I thought maybe a two-toned sort of silver would look good. I’m going to live with it for a week and then decide if I want to finish off the table with silver leaf legs or not. What do you think about the legs? Silver leaf or leave as the silver spray paint?

I hope you’ve enjoyed this short little tutorial on how to silver leaf furniture and hopefully it will make the process a little less intimidating for you. Have you done any silver leafing yourself?

 

About Misty Spears

I absolutely love all things DIY, especially when it comes to decorating my own home. I’m a thrift store junkie and my head just explodes with ideas to repurpose old junk into something practical and beautiful when I come across that perfect treasure. I’m a wood furniture rebel and try to paint every surface I can to bring color into my life. My life revolves around my family and enjoying every moment that life serves up to me. You can connect with me on Twitter @diyhomeinterior, Instagram @mistyspears and see my pins on Pinterest for a sneak peak into all the DIY projects I am working on and crazy life happenings.

11 Comments

  1. Bonnie Gean

    March 10, 2014 at 2:45 pm

    I’m not a fan of silver anything (well, maybe jewelry)… :) Though, I’m glad you like the finished product!

    • Misty Spears

      March 11, 2014 at 2:20 pm

      haha thanks Bonnie. Definitely a personal style and choice for sure. I have lots of silver in my house so luckily it fits me well!

  2. Jenn Alex Brockman

    March 10, 2014 at 5:38 pm

    IT’s pretty, but way more work than I’d want to do. A can of spray paint is my idea of repainting furniture! lol

    • Misty Spears

      March 11, 2014 at 2:21 pm

      Spray paint would definitely work for silver, but the difference is why I did it. You can see a huge difference between the table top and the legs…in fact I think I may even be leaning towards finishing the legs after living with this for a few days. Although…if I could find a way to make bright silver spray paint appear more aged to get the same affect…I would probably do it.

  3. Jan

    March 10, 2014 at 6:31 pm

    Oh boy… silver leaf! You’re braver than me! Great finished table – I like the legs as they are :)

    • Misty Spears

      March 11, 2014 at 2:22 pm

      Thank you Jan. I think I may do a lamp next for another area in the same room…well across the hall but still…it might bring it all together.

  4. Leslie

    March 14, 2014 at 1:25 am

    Hi, I have read many of your How-To(s) and I really appreciate all the information you have shared on your site. I LOVE what you did with this entry table-it looks divine! I just have a question. The second photo up appears as though there is a lot of gol door yellow showing through, as if the silver leafing was missed in some areas? Is this just my iPad or do you see it in the photo? At that point you said you were ready to put the end coat of finishing on it so I realized the silver leafing was finished. Am I the only one that sees this flaw that is possibly in the photo only? Thanks so much for sharing all your valuable experiences! I am just beginning to get into this whole up cycling process and I think I will be doing some Modge Podging and some chalk painting, though I am going to make my own chalk paint to save money! Best wishes, Leslie

    • Misty Spears

      March 14, 2014 at 1:55 am

      I’m not sure I’m seeing the same yellow as you are, perhaps it could be the reflection or the picture? In person, it’s completely silver with some of the black glaze I used showing through in the cracks or areas where some of the silver leaf flaked off from the brush. I was doing this outside, so that could be part of the problem too. I really need to get better at “staging” my photos for this blog lol

      Kudos on making your chalk paint. I am painting a chair this weekend and am attempting to make my own chalk paint with a plaster of paris recipe. I’ve been using Annie Sloan brand so far, but of course it’s rather expensive. so I’m hoping that the plaster of paris turns out nice. Good luck to you!

    • Misty Spears

      March 14, 2014 at 2:42 am

      Leslie….I just checked it on my ipad after writing that first response and I see it now too. It’s much more pronounced on my ipad. It’s definitely just reflection though. It’s probably my dead yellow grass. lol

  5. Sharon

    November 12, 2014 at 3:34 pm

    Hi, I silver leafed the wood molding around my bathroom medicine chest, and it looked great until I brushed on the Minwax Polycrylic. Now it’s a total mess – cloudy, milky looking. I sanded as instructed and applied a 2nd coat, thinking it would get better. But still looks horrible. Did you experience any milky looking problems with the Minwax? Any suggestions? Thanks very much.

    • Misty Spears

      November 17, 2014 at 3:16 pm

      No, I never experienced anything like that. In fact I have 3 coats of that on my silver leaf. The polycrylic does go on with a sort of milky look to it but it is supposed to dry clear. It definitely shouldn’t affect the shininess of the silver leafing. I did some Google searching to see if I could find anything that might help and there wasn’t much. But let me ask, how long was the drying time between when you applied the silver leaf to when you applied the polycrylic?

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