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One if by Land, Two if by Sea


tsterling

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My latest follies - another ugly fish knife, this time with display stand, and two more "Floating Treasures" pendants. The pendants are my first to incorporate metal in the central "floating" plates. The spider is .999 fine silver and 24 carat gold, the jellyfish is .999 fine silver.

 

ugly_fish_knife.jpg

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Thanks for the kind words! For Don, there is a knapped stone blade of heat-treated chalcedony, from one of my journeys I prefer to call the Nevada Death March, where the stone was collected. The recollection is somewhat traumatic; high altitude, hot during the day, cold at night, heavy rocks, digging, hard rock mining, 60 miles out in the boondocks from Battle Mountain, Nevada, BLM rangers, the only place I've ever been on Earth where I could see for 30 miles in all directions and not a light to be seen...all in all, a fascinating experience.

 

For Janel, the metals are from a high-tech Japanese product called Precious Metal Clay (PMC on the web). This is finely divide pure silver, gold or platinum in an aqueous and organic binder. Once fired (1650 to 1750 deg F) the binder burns away and the metal particles sinter together, making (almost) solid metal. Fewer steps and equipment than lost wax casting, but it's hard to say whether the technique is easier. As you (Janel) probably found out during your rebirth from potter to carver, shaping a soft material, and doing it well, presents different problems from shaping less yielding materials like wood, ivory/bone or metal. Hence the reason I say, PMC is easier to work than cast or fabricated metal, but perhaps more difficult to work well. A beginner can easily accomplish reasonable levels of PMC work, as in costume jewelry, but I've found that obtaining results of netsuke or Japanese metalwork caliber is pretty difficult. Plus, only the pure noble metals can be used in PMC, so those lovely Japanese alloys are out of the question.

 

I learned on these two plates that it is easier to texture and shape the plate and allow it to dry before adding the subject. Not something you can easily do with ceramic clays (they shrink during drying, so adding a wet clay subject to a dry plate will probably crack something). Fortunately, there's no PMC shrinkage during drying, but there is a significant shrinkage during firing (25% to 28% for generation one PMC, less for subsequent generations). This shrinkage is a significant advantage, I might add, for those of us who work in small sizes. Plus, as I've always said, do what you know. I learned to do basic shaping while wet, then use abrasive burrs and scrapers for finer shaping when dry, both before and after firing. Being a carver, I guess I found a way to carve the stuff after all.

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Beautiful work Tom. Great fish! The floating pieces are Great. It is possible to make the "metal clay" in other materials. I think that they don't do it because they couldn't charge the high price as they do for gold and silver. The process is called sintering. Industry produces many things using the process in copper, bronze and steel. I had a number of bronze pieces "cast" using the process by a firm in State College PA. Here is a "kanemono netsuke" in my collection which is somewhat like your pieces. The piece has a loop on the back and a cord passes through the ivory and ties to the loop.

Dick

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