Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Mokume Gane: Wood Eye Metal



"Mokume Gane", translated from Japanese means "wood eye metal. Philip Jones, of the Jones Brothers Custom Knives, recently taught this at Montgomery Community College. His twin brother,Barry, came along to help. Phillip's self taught method of making this interesting and colorful metal is a terrific addition to the skills used in knifemaking and is of course used in jewelry and other crafts. The ability to make Mokume in my small shop was my main goal and with the brothers help I came away with that skill. We used copper and German silver as the metals for our ingots and learned everything from the proper preparation to carving and forging to bring out the grain. Preparation is everything! Without the proper prep, the layers will not fuse properly and will delaminate during the forging process, rendering the billet useless. One of the first items we made was a small kiln from soft firebrick. These worked great, concentrating the heat generated by a small propane torch and allowing the ingot to get to forging temperature while reducing the amount of oxidation.
The traditional method of making Mokume requires cleaning and the application of temperature and pressure. During the surface preparation, the oxides naturally occurring on the metals are removed using sandpaper which also cuts microscopic ridges in the metals. These ridges help break up the surface film. As heat is applied, melting starts and brings interfaces within atomic distances and fusion occurs. The original interface is eliminated and formation of a new alloy is formed.
The next step is forging and carving to bring the layers into a desired pattern. This can be done with punches, grinders, milling cutters, and is up to the imagination of the metalsmith and the intended look.

At the end of three days, we had made three billets of copper and German silver. One by the rolling method, and two by using steel pressure plates and threaded rods to hold them in place. We patterned the metal using different methods. Of course, between forgings, the metal is thoroughly annealed to reduce stress and delamination. Overall, very interesting workshop and I highly recommend it I feel I have a good base for further study and at the same time, the skill base to make mokume gane in my own studio.

1 comment:

Cydney said...

Great Post! I work for a jeweler who specializes in mokume gane, and I just love the stuff. Check out the finished product and see what you can create with your new skill at www.GeorgeSawyer.com .