Friday, April 3, 2020

Well is it the Whole Ball of Wax or Not?

The current skewings jar

I'm in the middle of another  gilding project. While working with gold leaf, you do wind up with small scraps, or "skewings" - the excess gold that did not adhere and gets brushed off the item. It's a good idea to save these since they can come in handy later. For example, touch-up work in crevices or inner areas where these can be pushed in and then the excess removed (remember putting glitter on Elmer's glue when you were in elementary school?).

They can also be used in some decorative painting techniques where they are scattered on a surface.

As you become more experienced as a gilder, you get better at handling and laying leaf, so you don't have as much excess as you might think. This is a jar I've been using for years, and as you can see, it still has room. As for actual gold content, due to the thinness of the leaf, there are only a few grams of gold in there.

You've probably heard the saying "The whole ball of wax" meaning "everything". Some people believed that this came from the practice of picking up the scrap gold with a ball of wax, to be sent for sale at the scrap gold dealer. As it would take a long time to accumulate enough gold to make this worthwhile, someone could walk off with it; - making off with "the whole ball of wax".

These, and other versions are probably just legends. It is believed the true origin of the phrase derived from "the whole bailiwick".

Gilders like our story better.

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