It is the most amazing surface to draw and paint on. I make it using rabbit-skin glue and whiting. I cannot use oil paint on this surface, it is only ideal for acrylics or egg tempera paint. I am going to use egg tempera on my pieces.
Before you make the ground, the boards need to be coated in two layers of rabbit skin (one layer on the back as well to prevent warping) glue to size the board. Allow this to dry overnight.
To make the ground, first I soak the rabbit skin glue crystals in water (14 parts water, 1 part rabbit) for 2 hours until it has expanded. Then I heat the rabbit skin glue (put the pot of glue in a bucket of hot water, as if you were melting chocolate) until it is smooth, glossy and has an even caramel colour.
Secondly, I take the glue out and spoon whiting in until I have a mound in the centre. Roughly this is a half glue solution and whiting mix. When stirred, the ground should look like double cream in consistency and colour.
Next I apply the ground. It will need 7 layers. Apply the first layer quickly, and push out any air bubbles (these will create cracks otherwise). Create texture in this layer using your fingers, to ensure the next layer sticks. Apply the second layer immediately, working the brush in the other direction (i.e. first layer horizontal brush-lines, second layer vertical etc.). When the second layer has begun to dull (not dry), apply the third. Use this technique for the next 4 layers.
Once dry, wet sand using a sanding block (a bit like a sponge, can be easily bought from most hardware stores/ironmongers). Next dry sand with a fine sandpaper in circular movements. Finally polish with a cloth. Huzzah! One shiny surface achieved! It is a lot of effort, but worth it.
The effect prior to sanding
Wet sanded finish
The final effect - glossy and shiny!