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Karl Carvalho

Mokume Gane

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Aloha,

 

I am "drop kicking" (American football term) this thread to continue our discussion on mokume. Though it is not usually my way to do things, I feel a critical mass building. (Besides, the epoxy piece took some stuffing out of me.) I am not any kind of expert, but with new members like Sjoerd coming aboard, I expect we can have a great discussion. I'll just parrot a few words from the recently mentioned texts on the subject so that viewers new to the subject can get a foothold.

 

Mokume gane refers to a metals technique from Japan with possible earlier origins on mainland Asia. It translates to "eye of the wood grain metal", or something like that. Developed 300 or so years ago, it is associated with Japanese swords in it's early form. Other forms developed later, such as document cases and spectacular vases.

Basically, layers of non-ferrous metals (pure and alloyed) are fused into a single layer. Subsequently, various layers are exposed to create unique patterns and textures. Besides the traditional methods of making this material (which suffered from poorly researched accounts early on), newer "high tech" methods are being used to incorporate metals like platinum, aluminum and stainless steel.

 

Karl

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Karl,

 

Yes the yahoo mokume group has been very slow for a while.but there are not too many people besides Phil Baldwin,James Binnion and myself who have made large volumes of precious metal mokume.

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Hi,

 

this is a foto of a ring I made some time ago. The mokume is made of low tin content bronze and copper.

 

 

It was fused in an open flame (jewellers mouth blow pipe). Of course the size of such a billet is very limited. :)

And as I said in the horimono thread: the contrast is subtile.

Karl

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Guest ford hallam

Aloha Karl,

 

sorry if I came across as being less than supportive of your wanting to try bronze alloys in mokume. I obviously didn't know that you done any mokume at all and my comment was really made for someone who was going to try this for the first time. I look forward to seeing how things work out. :)

 

Hallo Karl W,

 

to be honest I prefer this very subtle mokume of yours, I dont suppose you have any scraps left over. I could use something like this for a small piece I have in mind. ( cheeky smiley )

 

Namaste, Ford

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hi there from a cloudy Holland, B)

 

There is a mokume forum in Austria http://forum.unikatschmuck.at/ , it's in german and it's kind of quite right now. Jim Binnion has a brief but clear explanation of the process on his website. For those who are interested in a more detailed description I suggest to buy some books.

-Mokume gane, a comprehensive study by Steve Midgett, ISBN 0-9651650-7-8

-Mokume gane by Ian Ferguson, ISBN 0-7136-6156-9

-some of the Santa Fe Symposium books (Rio Grande)

-internet! although there is a lot of crap out there on the subject. :) I've used the 2 books as a guideline and picked the parts that worked for me. Start with a combination such as copper/fine silver. It gives a good contrast and is easy to work. Write down as much as you can, from start to finish. After a while you'll have your own referencebook. You'll need it!

Making larger objects requires an enormous amount of time and effort. Not many mokume artists have access to hydraulic presses and/or powerhammers. Most guys and girls only have hammer and anvil, and as time is money, the oldschool way is simply too expensive. Besides that forging some of the traditional japanese alloys is like entering a complete new level of communicating with metal. It's crucial to understand what you're dealing with. Below is a picture of a study in copper,sterling silver, shibuichi, shiro shibuichi and kuro shibuichi. It taught me a few things ;)

 

Sjoerd

 

post-2-1181130467.jpg

 

post-2-1181130516.jpg

Edited by Janel

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Guest ford hallam

hello Sjoerd,

 

thats a very nice piece of mokume, I particularly like this combination of colours, they work together very well. Congratulations :)

 

I posted links to the 2 main books you've cited over on the horimono thread for anyone interested in getting hold of these references. I think they are well worth the money and probably essential reading/study if you are serious about getting into this subject.

 

regards, Ford

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Guest ford hallam

for those of you not too familiar with mokume-gane here's a link to a friend of mine's site. Wayne follows the traditional approach as taught by Norio Tamagawa. I was fortunate to spend a couple of days with Mr Tamagawa some years ago when my teacher and I visited him at his studio near Niigata, on the opposite side of the island to Tokyo. He's generally regarded as the leading exponent of the craft in Japan today. He's a very friendly and generous man too.

 

Ford

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Aloha

 

This is great! I am really happy to see this thread start up and have you folks all here. :D This subject is a passion for me (and I suspect for many others).

 

Dan

Uh-oh. My big, fat faux pas. :( Did not realize that you were that Dan. Apologies for invoking the mythical coolness factor. :) (Should have realized the connection from the link to TCP.) I'm sure your expertise will be called upon often.

btw - Do you know Mike Sakmar? He was kind enough to sell me some very good scraps when I started playing around with mokume. A lot of knife makers here use his material for their work.

 

Ford

How could anybody take umbrage at one with a mug like that? (Did anyone ever tell you that Corbin Berenson looks just like you? ;) ) My efforts proceed at a snails pace. Here is the first thing I ever made (last year).

post-1054-1181156547.jpg

This is suppose to be a 7-11 crab (Carpilius maculatus), or in Hawaiian, alakuma. My direction is toward creatures and things in nature. Tidepooling and birding for endemic and endangered species (We are the endangered species capital of the world. A poor distinction, but a future marketing strategy. B) ) are my inspirations.

 

Karl

You did that with lung power? I like it. I agree with Ford that subtle can be good. Hope to see more. (Just don't expose us to that translated Japanese text again. I think I lost some gray matter. :) )

 

Sjoerd

Thanks for showing up. Very nice piece. (What am I saying? It's great. Beyond anything that I am capable of .) Hope to see more from you also.

 

Karl

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Crab? It looks like a Minnesota Wood Tick, except that it has too many legs for a tick! Thank you for starting this thread, Karl.

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You did that with lung power? .... (Just don't expose us to that translated Japanese text again. I think I lost some gray matter. :) )

 

Hi Karl, yes it was made with lung power. Soon I will post some pics of that rather traditional soldering method. (I guess it is not that common in the States). Fusing mokume that way has some drawbacks - I am working on a gas fired kiln for better results.

 

Sorry again for the machine translation. Hope you feel better meanwhile-but I think its interesting anyway- the pattern developement in particular. (He made a replica of a Shoami piece).

 

 

 

Goede dag Sjoerd,

 

it is really nice vessel you made there. Was it hand raised or raised with hydraulic press?

How did you achieve the fine greenish patina on the Shibuichi? ;)

 

Karl

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Ford, thank you but I only used the small cup( Ø75mm, height 25,5mm ) to find out how the stacking order would work after patination and as it is a double laminate, what effect the difference in layer thickness would give me. One coarse looking piece of metal. No balance, no tension.

Your friend Wayne creates beautiful pieces. Besides on the nihon-kogeikai site there isn't any information on the subject of shibori, unless one has an interest in textiles :)

 

Karl C, your alakuma does look like a bug. ;) If you want a subtle combination you could think of silver/iron. In their natural state it's realy nice to look at. The most subtle combination I've made consists of 316L/ 304/copper. Etch the 304 and you'll end up with a very light grey, a slightly dull grey and very thin black lines. It's not the easiest one to make but it can have a strong graphical endresult.

Hint on your "unability": nonsense! before you start alloying draw a diagram, top(fine silver) to bottom(copper), left to right(amount of layers). think of the desired endresult and put the dots where you want them. The landscape you end up with can be anything from the Alps to a nice downslope countryroad.

 

Hallo Karl W, and a gutentag to you too. The little bugger was handraised, not a funny thing to do so for flattening the bottom I used my press. The time spent on raising compared to that of pressforming is unbelievable. But as I said before it was a study piece.

The picture doesn't do justice to the patination, it's actually more grey/blueish. The patina solution I've used is the one descripted by Eitoku Sugimori, kin-furubi 2, page 85. I added a small amount of vinegar.

Lungpower. I only use it for the delicate operations. I got rid of the oxygenbottles and bought an oxygenconcentrating device, used by people with breathing problems. It's powerful enough to melt copper.

As for the gasfired forge you might take to look at Ron Reil's site B)

 

cheers, Sjoerd

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Dank U wel Sjoerd for the explainations.

 

For the gas forge I have someting much smaller in mind. (a altered version of Mr. Migetts mini kiln- Using a normal burner for hard soldering bit with Kaowool and ceramic coating) I am somehow a low tech kind of guy. (Sometimes using pumpdrills -Dreul in German and such like old fashioned stuff). ;)

 

Some random :) thoughts on the purpose of mokume:

I am trying to use mokume to enhance the general look of a piece. It is thought to be like the ornamental background in a Klimt painting for instance. I feel the vogue for mokume nowadays (esp. in Germany) is very much fixed on technique and not much on creating atmosphere. (just my opinion on the Pforzheim exhibition)

What are your (TCP-members) thoughts on this?

 

Karl

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Aloha Karl

 

I should have been more accurate on the stainless combination. I've used 1) 1,5mm 316L sheet, 2) 1mm 304 and 3) 1mm copper. Stacking order 1-3-2-3-1-3-2 etc. ending with 1. Sheetsize is 45x38mm, but that depends on the size of your torque plates.

If you're seeking for a challenge this one will gladly fulfil your desire.

I use an electric kiln, set at 915 degrees Celcius for 5 hours (torque assembly is in a metalfoil bag with preheated charcoal). After the heating I let the foil bag cool inside the kiln to about 550 deg.C., take it out and aircool. I'm having a hard time not to take it out of the bag. When it's finally reached roomtemp take it out, examine it and grind of the edges. For squeezing down the billet I use a propane torch and a hydraulic press. By the time it's about 7mm thick the press has done the best it could so now you're up for the real thing, hammer and anvil. Forge hot. Beware, the laminate fights back. Be sure no one is around for you will swear. A lot. :) If you have no access to a press you could try making the stack with thinner sheet and smaller sizes.

When I'm forging a tough billet I always have an old hss drillrod lying around. By the time I think I've had it with the billet I forge the rod, and hey, the mokume seems to be the kind one.

Good luck! ;)

 

Sjoerd

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Hallo Karl, yes, there is a distinct tendency in Germany towards the technical dealings with mokume. I participated in the exhibition and in review I have my doubts about that. I was happy to be invited, worked like hell but ultimately my pieces were cold, technical. I tried to put in a little crude humor in them by turning the pendants into medals. Oldworld tech, oldworld decorations, newworld application??? That question wasn't picked up by anyone. Maybe next time I"ll shout it. I think in the end Hafner is the lucky one.

 

With your thoughts on atmosphere you've hit the jackpot. Wether a piece is partially or entirely mokume makes no difference to me, the important thing is that it's the piece you want it to be. Does it work? Why did I do this, why that. I've had a talk with Janel on her frogs. For me they work. They're never dull to me, they put a smile on my face every time I take a look at them. So again to me the DoesItWork question is important. :)

 

Sjoerd

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Years ago, I forged a 'snake in the garden' bracelet in sterling/fine silver mokume, but since then my mokume is mostly rings and ferrules.

Mokume's potential for enhancing atmosphere is definitely underutilized, almost always it is a texture or graphic element only, at least in contemporary jewelry/knife metalwork.

 

post-1173-1181229961.jpg

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Guest ford hallam

Hi Karl, Sjoerd, et al,

 

I think you've touched on a very good point. What is "your" point in using or pursuing mokume? By this I obviously mean; what are you looking for, is it a particular aesthetic expression you want to explore, or is the technical complexity and difficulty the big draw?

 

For myself, although I've been a goldsmith for more than 25 years and specialized almost solely in the Japanese tradition for more than 15, the whole process of mokume gane never really grabbed me. It's actually the only decorative metalwork technique from Japan that hasn't. Please don't think I'm trivializing the process or trying to marginalize the work of so many truly amazing people, I'm just saying that I never saw it as a particularly expressive technique in the context of what I was working towards.

 

I will stick my neck out here and say, that I do think that in general, the objects that are so often seen that utilize mokume ( in the West, at least ) often appear quite mechanical. The other thing that I perceive is that often the piece is solely a canvas for a mokume patterned metal, by this I mean it serves no other aesthetic function than to show off a clever bit of metal technique.

 

I do actually believe the material has the potential to be very expressive, particularly when used in conjunction with other techniques etc. but I think that our fascination with it needs to go beyond the technical first.

 

There are many woodworkers who produce furniture with no real attention the the grain and nature of their material. Some even produce very good designs, but personally, I think they are missing part of the potential of their material. There are also those ( James Krenov, George Nakashima for example, now sadly gone ) who make a virtue of using their wood to it's best advantage. The two gentlemen I mentioned were also pretty good designers too, but not every maker who tries to show his wood to it's best effect succeeds in terms of his design. I think that there is a lesson to learned there. :)

 

Well, I've said enough, I'll probably get shot down in flames now by all the mokume devotees :) .

 

as always, Ford

 

 

;)B):D Hi Jeff,

 

you obviously posted your piece while I was writing my post! Nicely illustrating the exception to my point. Your snake is a great example of utilizing the material to more fully make use of the mokume patterning.

 

Cheers, Ford

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I will stick my neck out here and say, that I do think that in general, the objects that are so often seen that utilize mokume ( in the West, at least ) often appear quite mechanical. The other thing that I perceive is that often the piece is solely a canvas for a mokume patterned metal, by this I mean it serves no other aesthetic function than to show off a clever bit of metal technique.

 

I will have to agree with Ford on this one. As beautiful as mokume can be, it is too often the focal point.

In fact, Ford said it so well, I'll say nothing else.

 

There are of course exceptions (like Jeff's bracelet - nice work, mate - and Wayne's work - thanks for the link Ford -, to give but two examples) that go against that trend, but a trend it is...

 

-t (the one with no face)

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Aloha Guys,

 

Wow. I go to bed in my isolated little timezone and wake to find this sucker firing off. Great.

 

Bug. Mite. :);) Well I guess you can call him that. More like a nymph as an adult can grow to have an 8 inch shell. That will keep you out of the woods. B)

 

Karl

Your posts anticipated my next question to you. Don't tell anybody, but I solder bond too. Besides the fact that my wife commandeered my new digital electric kiln, there is a reason for that. Explanation to come. Question is - what kind of solder did you use? It seems to blend well with bronze as to color.

 

Sjoerd

 

Thanks for the encouragement and the advice.. You obviously have much experience. I'm trying to keep up with the technical side. The crab was just something soldered, forged and formed from a tiny bit in an hour or so.

I am a student of Gene Pijanowski. I say this with the deepest humility. He very recently told me that he was considering coming out of semi-retirement. And I start a new class with him TONITE! I am so stoked. One of the first things I hope to make is Japanese "native copper" using a recipe from a generous member (thanks Jim!). Anyway, Gene can be old school. So what I'm try to do is off the wall. Explanation to come.

 

Ford

You and the others are singing my song. Not to offend anyone, but the state of mokume seems to be an endless manipulation of pattern. This has obviously been recognized by you and the others (Hey Tassos). I think this is an offshoot of the fabrication process, which takes so much energy. I was warned about the allure of fabrication, and advised to look past that. Sjoerd mentioned something about that.

If you review Midgett's second text, you will see only two creatures. A frog and a snake. No fancy patterns; just two or three layers. Easily done with solder for now. There is so much inspiration in nature out there. I have some shots of koi feeding that I will post soon. The variety of color includes golden bronzes, hence my interest in bronze metal. And your tutorial on scales is very timely. Together with Jim's on inlay (the owl), it's starting to come together.

btw - Met Krenov when he was teaching at the College of the Redwoods in Ft. Bragg. He is a friend of my hanai family up there. He is a lot shorter and crankier than you would expect.

 

Jeff

Did not forget about you. Really like your snake. My kind of subject.

 

Karl

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Karl,

 

I have never meet Mike Sakmar,i believe he lives in Michigan and i don't travel much.

 

As far as using solder,i find no problems with people making mokume with solder rather than fusing the sheets. i have used an IT-90 or IT-85 silver solder on projects and people cannot see a solder line with a 10X loupe.

 

I find form and function sometimes more important than technical work. I have seen a photo of a mokume octapus where the simple pattern made the octapus look like it had just been removed from the ocean. Another piece was a vase that had just a few spots of pattern against a solid copper background.Sometimes simple is better than more pattern on objects.

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Guest ford hallam

Aloha Karl,

 

I think we're all pretty much on the same page regarding mokume :) .

 

That's pretty exciting news to hear that you've dragged your teacher out of retirement. I look forward to gleaning all I can ;)

 

I assume when you speak of "native copper" you mean unrefined copper or "yama-gane" in Japanese. I'm also assuming Jim gave you the recipe from the Geidai ( Tokyo school of Art ) that Kano Natsuo developed to simulate the naturally occurring metal. If you can get your hands on some kuromido I can describe how to make an alloy that more closely approximates ( actually nearly identical ) yamagane. I have a series of analysis' that I had done, in conjunction with Susan La Niece at the British museum, that detail the transition from various yamagane compositions, through early shakudo and on to the later, more refined shakudo. The inclusion of the As ( arsenic) component of kuromido adds a special "something" to the final grain and colour.

 

cheers, Ford

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Aloha Dan, Ford

 

Dan

Thanks for checking in. I'm glad that solder bonding is an acceptable method to you. I was concerned that some considered diffusion or solid state bonding the only ways to go. With your help, maybe we can go into it a little more. I feel that those who are not "metal inclined" can benefit from that method, like the woodies.

Actually, I don't particularly like that term as it does not give credit to the non-metals group, who work in horn, tusk, amber and all manner of difficult material (I count myself an honorary member). Maybe someone can come up with another, more appropriate term (be nice). The winner may win an all expense paid vacation to Hawaii. (Just kidding!!! :):):lol: )

To continue; I made the alakuma in no time with a plumbers torch, copper from my roofing buddies, scrap sterling and hard solder. The "alternate materials" group may find it helpful to be able to fabricate little critters and such to add to their designs.

btw - I am rusty on my jeweler's terms. Are the IT-90 and 85 referred to about silver content? How do they relate to standard easy, medium, hard?

 

Ford

With all due respect, nobody drags Gene anywhere. (I do know what you meant. Thanks. :) ) All I can do is stand there with my fingers crossed, hoping that the Godfather of Western mokume will look kindly on this disciple. (Gene, if you are reading this, it is meant in all sincerity.)

As to yamagane, yes and yes. I would like to see any recipes that you might have. I will probably try parallel trials as I always have alternate plan B in case Plan A (lack of kuromido) occurs. Gene alluded to the connections with shakudo et. al. once. Anyone looking at a composition chart of the Japanese metals galaxy would have to see the connections.

As to kuromido; Gene showed me a billet that would choke a horse and a bag of scraps that would last me the rest of my life (well, maybe). I'm crossing my fingers again.

As to shakudo; I've been gifted a nice little sheet (guess who?) that I have been hoarding. I have trepidation in working with shakudo as I am low on resources and the price of gold is freaking me out! There is a rumor in the ether that a suitable alternative is being worked on, but I am not saying another word. ;)

 

Karl

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the IT-80,IT-90 refer to the silver content in the solder. they are higher temperature solders than the normal hard silver solder. IT-80 is availible from the larger metal refiner like Hoover & Strong or Hauser and Miller. The IT-90 is usually availible from specialty electronics suppliers,at the present i can't remember the last supplier i ordered from. link to Hauser and Miller solder page. Dan

 

Hauser and Miller

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Karl

Your posts anticipated my next question to you. Don't tell anybody, but I solder bond too. Besides the fact that my wife commandeered my new digital electric kiln, there is a reason for that. Explanation to come. Question is - what kind of solder did you use? It seems to blend well with bronze as to color.

 

Hi there,

nice to read your answers to my thoughts. Its good to know that others feeling similar on that point. ;)

 

Now lets talk form Karl to Karl,

 

sorry, it is not solder bonding I am doing. The metals are fused together in an open flame - there will be a buildup of an eutectic alloy between the sheets.

 

When using silver solder on bronze - the silver will alloying rapidly with the Tin in the metal- making an alloy with a very low melting point. Everything will go up into a puddle of molten metal. :) (Keep smiling like this little guy I made)

 

A master in soldered mokume is Alistair McCallum but even he uses the fusing method when it comes to certain metals.

 

Karl

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Aloha Karl,

 

Okay, so I am on the wrong track solder bonding bronze. Ferguson recommends 750 deg.C for 60 minutes in N2 atmosphere for copper/bronze. How do you do it with only a blowpipe? Smaller mass? How long before sweat lines appear? I guess silver is out of the question unless separated by copper.

 

Karl

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Guest ford hallam

Aloha Karl, Guten Tag, Karl :)

 

it's getting like the UN here...only I think we get more done :) .

 

I'm learning stuff here too, great, and thanks.

 

Ford

 

p.s. I also follow the old ways ( as you probably guessed ) and do my soldering with a mouth piece blow torch too. Old habits and training ;)

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