Metal leaf, which is also often referred to as composition gold or schlagmetal, makes it possible to put a beautiful finish on practically every type of surface. It is considerably less expensive than its real relatives gold leaf and silver leaf but nonetheless has an almost identical appearance and, because of its comparatively greater thickness, is even easier to work with. As a rule, metal leaf is only suitable for use indoors.
The metal leaves with the colours antique and middle gold are alloys made from copper and zinc, which means it is basically brass. The greater the proportion of copper, the redder the tone of gold. Even the silver coloured metal leaf, although it is really only aluminium, is hard to distinguish from real silver.
The surface of the object to be worked on must first be cleaned enough that it is free of grease (e.g. with acetone– attention!; make a preliminary test). Absorbent substrates have to be processed further before being worked on (see Information at gilding size). Finally, depending on the substrate and the type of gilding, a gilding size with either low or high viscosity must be carefully applied with, preferably, an application brush.
Then the metal leaf, in either small or large pieces, should be carefully pressed into place with a soft, dry brush (e.g. a shaping brush) or a cloth. During this procedure, as much attention as possible should be given to avoiding any contact between the gilding size and the brush. A cotton swab can be used for applying the metal leaf to hard to reach places. The metal leaf will adhere exclusively to places where the gilding size has been applied. Because the metal leaves cannot be placed exactly edge to edge, it should still be laid with the least amount of overlap possible (save the gold!) and any ensuing creases smoothed out with a soft brush. Only when the whole surface has been filled and allowed to air out, should any remaining gold be simply brushed away with a brush or a cloth.
Only after being allowed to completely dry (approximately 12 hours) can the surface be carefully polished with a soft cloth or cotton ball in order to further improve the appearance of the new surface. Objects that have received this treatment should subsequently be sealed with finishing varnish but only after at least a three day wait (otherwise dark spots may appear on the metal finish). Without this clear varnish, oxidation will occur after a certain amount of time depending on the type of metal leaf and this will produce various kinds of patina which can be very attractive in their own right. 5 leaves of metal leaf will cover an area of about 0.4 m².