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Clay Bole Information & Instructions


Gold Leaf Acrylic Topcoat


Clay Bole is used in traditional water gilding and is applied over the gesso. Our clay bole is a wet clay that must be mixed with an adhesive, which is normally Rabbit Skin Glue that has been prepared by being dissolved in water and heated. Click here for instructions and information about Rabbit Skin Glue.



The recipe for preparing clay bole for use can be varied to suit individual needs. A basic recipe is:


One part clay bole, by volume, one part water, by volume, and two parts rabbit skin glue, by volume.


Mix the water and clay bole until it becomes a consistent creamy mixture. Mix slowly to avoid adding air bubbles. Then add the warm, prepared, rabbit skin glue, and mix slowly until a consistent texture is reached. The result will be thin and runny.


The portions can be altered as needed for a thicker or thinner clay bole. Some experimentation will help you determine the best ratios of the ingredients for your use.


Prepare only enough Clay Bole for your project since the Rabbit Skin Glue in the mixture will spoil with time, which reduces the adhesive properties of the mixture, and can produce an unpleasant odor.



After four or more coats of gesso have been applied to the gilding surface, and sanded smooth, the Clay Bole mixture can be applied. It is best to use a good brush like our Japan Brush to apply the clay bole. Thin coats of clay bole self level better than thick coats. For each coat, brush in the same direction. Each new coat should be brushed at 90 degrees to the previous coat. Like gesso, clay bole should be allowed to completely dry, and then be sanded smooth after each coat. Usually 4-6 coats are applied, but the number can vary depending on how thin the coats are.



The dry surface is whetted by brushing on a small amount of water. This activates the adhesive properties of the rabbit skin glue in the bole, which will then adhere to the leaf being applied to the surface.

When done, the gilding surface should be allowed to completely dry, after which the excess gold can be removed with a Gilders Oval Dusting Mop.

If desired, the gold or metal leaf can be polished with an agate burnisher.



Unmixed clay bole is not perishable, but it may dry with time. Water can be added to re-hydrate the clay.


Clay bole that has beenmixed with rabbit skin glue is perishable and will spoil. It should be stored in a refrigerator, and can remain usable for up to several weeks, depending on conditions. It needs to be warmed and stirred before use.


Miscellaneous Information

Clay Bole is available in a number of different colors, each which will affect the tone of the gold leaf differently. You may want to experiment with the different colors to determine which gold leaf tone is best for your project. The different colors can also be mixed to create custom colors.


Our clay bole is a Water Based material, and can be shipped by US Mail.


Our clay bole is non-toxic and non-flammable, but consuming it is not recommended. A dust mask should be worn during sanding to avoid inhaling the dust.


The conditions, methods of handling and use of this product are beyond our control and may be beyond our knowledge.  For this reason, we do not assume responsibility and expressly disclaim liability for loss, damage or expenses arising out of or in any way connected to the handling, storage, use or disposal of this product.