When it comes to how to copper leaf wood, know that the process is fairly straightforward. Although you’ll need several tools and supplies to get the job done, applying copper leaf to wood isn’t much different than applying metal leaf to any other surface.

Whether you’re working on large scale interior projects or small projects, we’ve got the steps you’ll need to take to achieve the copper leaf finish you’re going for. So, without further ado, let’s take a look closer at exactly how to apply copper leaf to wood.

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how to copper leaf wood

How Do You Get Copper Leaf to Stick to Wood?

Getting copper leaf to stick to wood is impossible without some kind of adhesive material to make it stick. For this reason, you’ll need to purchase “size”, which is another word for adhesive, to make copper leaf adhere to wood.

There are two types of adhesive size: oil size and water size. The oil size technique is great for gilding pieces that will be placed outdoors. It is also more beginner friendly. The water gilding method, on the other hand, is best for the pros and is also great for situations when you may need longer adhesive tack times.

Whatever you do, be sure not to use the water gilding technique if your wood piece will remain outdoors. Water gilding is not suitable for outdoor use, even if sealed with a top coat.

How to Apply Copper Leaf on Wood

To apply copper leaf on wood, you’ll need the following equipment:

  • Copper leaf sheets
  • Adhesive size (either oil based adhesive size or water based oil size — water based is best if you need an extremely long tack time)
  • Bole/primer
  • Soft brush
  • Cotton gloves
  • Gilder’s brush
  • Newspaper or drop cloth to cover the work area


  • Start by ensuring that your wood is clean and free of debris.
  • Place newspaper or a drop cloth over your work surface to protect it as you gild.
  • Sand your wood if needed if there are rough areas. Clear away any debris.
  • Begin applying your primer or bole. When applying copper leaf, a red primer is best as this will reflect beautifully through the copper leaf.
  • Next, apply your adhesive size using a soft brush to the surface.
  • Wait until your adhesive size can reach proper gilding tack. This can take time, depending on what type of adhesive you use. When the tack is ready, it won’t be completely dry, but instead, will remain slightly wet. It may also turn clear.
  • Once the adhesive reaches tack, it is time to apply your copper leaf. First, place the cotton gloves over your hands. This prevents you from damaging the copper leaf, which will be very thin and delicate to the touch. Apply the copper leaf carefully by gently pressing it over the areas where you’ve applied adhesive. Keep going until all the copper leaves have been laid.
  • Using soft brush strokes, use your gilder’s brush to smooth out your copper leaf. Use the brush to gently press it into all the crevices within the wood.
  • Once finished, clear away any excess leaf with your soft brush. Use a shop vac to clear away any leftover debris around your workspace or on the floor.

Do You Need to Seal Copper Leaf?

Last, but not least, you’ll need to seal the final look. Although genuine gold leaf doesn’t need to be sealed, copper leaf does as it tends to tarnish over time. Apply a varnish, shellac, or another type of protective sealer over your copper leaf to protect the freshly gilded surface.

Copper Leaf for Furniture

Now that you know how to apply copper leaf on wood, allow us to remind you that utilizing copper leaf is a great way to renovate old and worn out wooden furniture. Simply follow the steps above to add pizzazz to mundane wood pieces. You can do the same thing with other metal leaf types, including gold leaf, imitation gold leaf, silver leaf, and imitation silver leaf. Use water or oil based size over the surface before you apply genuine gold, silver, or copper leaf to your wood.

Remember also that copper leaf works beautifully on the entire surface of other items such as wooden statues, jewelry boxes, and any other wood objects that could use a bit of sprucing up.

The following detailed demonstration shows how you can update an otherwise ordinary wooden piece into something new and exciting using metal leaf such as gold, silver, or copper leaf sheets.

How to Copper Leaf Wood: Do It With Ease!

As with most modern day metal leafing techniques, layering copper leaf over wood makes for perfectly doable DIY projects that you can complete in 24 hours or less. Using only metallic leaf, adhesive size, a small brush, primer, and gloves, you can create a stunning copper laid piece.

Just be sure to do your research on the proper handling of copper and other metal leaves. This will save you both time and frustration, especially if this is your first time attempting to gild a surface.


How do you get gold leaf to stick to wood?

Use the oil size method or water gilding technique to adhere gold leaf to wood. Just know that if you plan to store the wood outside after gilding, you’ll need to use oil size, as this is the only type of adhesive that will withstand the weather elements. Remember that if you use genuine gold, the wood piece will not require a sealant after gilding. Doing so may ruin the gold over time by causing it to take on a hazy appearance.

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