Gesso is a traditional white coating used as a primer in furniture restoration.
It can be used "as is" or painted over. The final result is comparable to French-style antique white.
Gesso is a mixture of chalk powder and hide glue that can be used not only on white furniture but for papier mâché as well.
Chalk powder* can be found in DIY stores, hide glue can be found in artists' supply stores.
The advantage of hide glue is that it is a dry product and so has an indefinite shelf life.
Depending on the degree of dilution, it can be used to glue everything - from wood to extremely thin paper.
The glue can be mixed with pigments and directly applied for a transparent effect.
Glue: Soak about 7 oz. (200 g.) of powdered hide glue in 1 pint of water for 24 hours.
Before using, heat to lukewarm in a double boiler.
Gesso recipe for a buffet
Boil 3 cloves of garlic cut in half in 2 quarts of water, add a little salt and reduce to 1 quart.
Filter, then add 4 TBS lukewarm glue to the garlic.
Apply one layer on your piece of furniture (quick version for small surfaces: rub the wood with a halved garlic clove).
Coating or paint:
1st coat: mix chalk powder* + lukewarm glue to obtain a liquid batter. Apply with paintbrush, let dry and lightly sand.
2nd coat: mix chalk powder* + lukewarm glue to obtain a thick batter. Apply with paintbrush, let dry and sand. Now simply wax, and you're done!
* Chalk Powder: Finely ground natural chalk. It can be found in the cement section of home improvement
or pool supply retailers in 3 or 10 lb packages. Also used to clean marble or silver. Price: approx. $1/lb.