I am trying to find out what technique was used back then (1700's) when they made those nice gilded frames for, e.g., mirrors. See included image as an example.

How did they do the spirals and pearls that you can see in the image? Did they hand carve the spiral or did they mold them using perhaps rabbit skin glue with french chalk? How come there is almost always a "line" that seems to be running through the entire spiral? How about the pearls? Google hasn't much to say about this...

enter image description here

  • Would anything related to hand crank and router tool since it is mentioned it is related to old frames.
    – Lyssagal
    Feb 8, 2022 at 17:01
  • 3
    Niklas, great question. I suspect the reason it hasn't received an answer yet is the historical time frame. Many people could weigh in on how to replicate this today. Far fewer people have expertise on historical methods. Your question piqued my interest; hope this gets an answer.
    – fixer1234
    Feb 9, 2022 at 19:15
  • This is a pretty specialized area. The question is squarely on topic here, but it looks like this site doesn't currently have any subject matter experts. I think Woodworking would be the only other SE site where the question would be on-topic. I asked about it there, and the suggestion was to tag such questions with [traditional-techniques]. It isn't clear that Woodworking has SMEs, either, though.
    – fixer1234
    Mar 25, 2022 at 17:50

2 Answers 2


It is true that a lot of work was hand carved, but many elements are made of what is called compo, the exact nature of which varies but is usually a resin, a whitening agent and glue. This material would be used in conjunction with a mold.

So you would have wood carving, compo elements glued (either before or after) a whitewash of gesso, then an application of clay bole, some rabbit-skin glue and then gold leaf.

The following image fragment is taken from the google image search for "antique compo frame mold." I think one of them is perhaps one of the elements in your closeup.

enter image description here

  • compo was also used in architecture.
    – Yorik
    Dec 15, 2023 at 18:23

In many cases decorative elements such as spirals and pearls were hand-carved by skilled craftsmen.

enter image description here

The ornate spirals and pearls on gilded frames were often hand-carved using chisels and gouges.

enter image description here

Plenty of Time and Skill would do the trick, using specialized carving tools.

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    I am a little bit wiser now than when I wrote the post. As I understand, once the technique for moulding was invented it was used more frequently. Speed of production was much faster and the end result was still good. However, I am still no expert but this is how I understood it.
    – Niklas
    Nov 7, 2023 at 14:33
  • Thats right. Please kindly consider accepting and upvoting my answer, as it took me while to type and provide those information :). Thanks in advance Nov 7, 2023 at 16:00

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