Boards for icons are made of solid wood usually poplar. Most panels are constructed with raised boarders on the surface of the icon, which also counteract warping as well as helping to define the icon spatially.
A complex panel preparation is required for proper and permanent adhesion of the paint. The panel is saturated with two coats of hot rabbit glue, which penetrates the fibers of the wood. A piece of linen cloth cut slightly larger than the panel itself is socked in the hot glue, and carefully applied to the panel and allowed to dry . The dried, linen-covered panel is then sized with two more coats of the hot hide glue, to which have been added a small amount of powered marble, to give it more "tooth" and substance.
After drying overnight, the panel is ready for painting with multi coats of gesso, a white, plaster-like preparation made of marble dust, water and hide glue.
The gesso, when gently heated has the consistency of heavy cream, and when brushed on in thin layers, it dries to a hard, permanent surface. The first few coats are applied and rubbed by the linen. Thin coats of gesso follow, one after, and when done, 10 to 12 thin coats of gesso create an extremely durable surface.
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