Steve Joslyn, a master blacksmith, has been creating unique works of functional art for more than 25 years. Steve caught our attention recently with some photos he sent of his amazing work, and he let us in on one of his favorite tools: Gilders Paste! Steve incorporates Gilders Paste into his detailed, whimsical, nature-inspired designs and he generously shared some of his tips and techniques with us.

Steve’s steel-forged ginkgo candleholder is finished with Gilders Paste and lacquer.

Cathy Contreras: When did you realize you were destined to work with metals?

Steve Joslyn: My parents were very creative. As a child, I loved going to my grandfather’s workshop and cutting up old metal ductwork. In high school, I was most interested in shop class; I had a pretty good idea then that I would become an artist. I started college studying business, but finished with a BFA in both metalsmithing/jewelry and commercial arts from the University of Wisconsin.

“Aspen Bracket” comes to life featuring leaves meticulously painted with Gilders Paste.

CC: How did you first learn about Gilders Paste and what prompted you to try it?

SJ: I have known about Gilders Paste for many years. About four years ago, I had several requests for an oil-rubbed bronze finish on some of my architectural products. Working with the three varieties of bronze and the copper paste, I was able to create a wide variety of interesting effects.

CC: Were you using any other methods or products to color your metal? How is gilders paste different or better?

SJ: There are a few options for coloration on steel. First I used a brass brush (used for parts cleaning in the automotive industry). When the steel is heated to about 150 degrees rubbing the brush back and forth will cause some brass to adhere to the surface. I have also used a bronze brush. This works fairly well on hammered surfaces but less so on smooth surfaces.

A second method for coloring steel is using chemicals made for this purpose. There are a wide variety of colors for nonferrous metals but only a few for steel. The main problem I had, was neutralizing the chemical after I achieved the color I wanted. With steel, I always have issues with rust and rinsing the chemicals completely. Also drying the piece inevitably leaves some rust residue. Getting the chemical to become pH neutral was a real challenge. Another annoying issue was getting the stain consistent from one application to another. I finally gave up.

Iron mimics nature in Steve’s mantelpiece candleholder.

CC: What do you like most about the paste?

SJ: Gilders Pastes offer a complete color range. I have found combining colors gives an endless variety of color, tones, and hues. The paste sets up quickly and can be rubbed to a gloss finish in about 20 minutes. For indoor pieces no additional topcoat is needed. Because it is a wax-based pigment the finish is colorfast and nonfading. For outdoor work, I wait for about an hour then I seal it with PermaLac. I think the directions on the container say to wait 24 hours, but I never have the time to wait. I use the pastes directly from the can, mixed with a small amount of lacquer thinner, and thinned enough to spray with a bottle.

“Majestic Stag” centerpiece

CC: Do you have any tips you can share with us (creating special effects, mixing colors, techniques for application, texturing, alternative uses, etc.)?

SJ: One of my favorite techniques is to apply a base coat, wash, let it dry and then to apply a second color straight from the can, lightly rubbing the surface as a highlighter.

Another method is to rub a base coat (with my finger) onto the surface, and before it dries apply another color, blending them together on the surface. This can also be done with a brush. You can also start with a painted base coat. I use Rust-Oleum camouflage colors. These paints are dead flat, like a colored primer. The pastes adhere very well to this paint. For instance, I mentioned creating an oil-rubbed bronze finish. I start with the Rust-Oleum earth brown paint and lightly rub bronze Gilders Paste over the top. I used this method in the light fixture with the trout. The trout in this image is plain steel with copper paste.

Detailed view of custom “Trout” light fixture

You can also try a wide range of faux finish techniques using sponges, rags, and newspaper for unique patterns.

CC: Is there anything else you’d like to say about this product?

SJ: Gilders Paste has opened a whole new dimension to my work. I recommend this product to all of my metalworking friends and students.

This gingko leaf candleholder features a blend of colors.

To see more of Steve’s custom work, check out his website, Josyln Fine Metalwork. In addition to candleholders and lighting fixtures, he also makes fireplace tools and accessories and furniture. We are delighted that Steve shared his work and some of his techniques with us and I’m eager to experiment with Gilders Paste in ways I hadn’t thought of before.

Have you picked up any Guilders Paste tips and tricks? Share them with us! Also, if you use Guilders Paste in your metalwork designs, we would love to see some pictures—share them in the comments!