I've spent most of my waking hours these past 2 months piling through an edition of 12 fine bindings. They were delivered last week to an empty office: it was a wee bit anti-climactic, maybe, but I've been sleeping so peacefully these past 3 nights that all disappointment has ceased.
The project was challenging on a couple of big fronts, namely gilt edges and gold tooling (neither of which I've ever done in large quantity), and having come out the other end of it with some success and a tremendous amount of new and practical information, I'm happy for my time in the crucible.
A friend of mine, who faces similar learning curves with his work, wondered if there's ever a point where we stop consoling ourselves with the refrain, "But at least I'm learning alot," and honestly I don't think there is, so I'm willing to further console myself with the thought, "At least I'm not getting bored."
I'll try to keep this short: when I got my training for gold tooling it was a more precious method; you'd blind tool the design on the leather, paint the impressions, and only the impressions with glaire, put down a tiny bit of gold to fill the impressions, and go back in with the hot tool.
This time around I was using the John Mitchell method (and probably every other dude in the Old School).
The entire binding is covered in B.S. Glaire (that stands for British Standard--apparently developed during the 2nd WW when there was a shortage of eggs). The blind impressions are made with a cool tool.
The binding is then covered with Vaseline---this acts as a mild adhesive that holds the gold leaf (here laid down in a larger and swifter blanketing fashion than cutting small, fussy pieces to fit the tool impressions).
By the way, you're covering the whole binding with glaire and Vaseline to prevent staining
You go back in with a hot tool and hit the impression you've already made. Then wipe away the excess gold leaf with a Vaseline-infused cotton ball, or soft cloth. Gold leaf that's embedded in the grain, and excess Vaseline can be wiped away with, you got it, lighter fluid (or naptha). It all cleaned up so nicely, and the work was phenomenally quick. But it's good to keep the area you're working in well ventilated and let anything that's been soaking in the lighter fluid evaporate before you toss it in the trash.
Even Dirty Girl, in the midst of leather prep (and alot of swearing), stepped up just when I needed help holding down the leather while I was shaping the head caps. Thanks, kitty!