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Eye Inlay


Janel

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I received a private request for eye inlay answers and would like to have a topic titled with eye inlay so that a SEARCH effort will turn up some answers to the questions about the topic.

 

There is some discussion on eyes in the Inlay topic of the Techniques forum. Tom Sterling has described a technique which uses his microgrinder as a mini-lathe to produce cylindars, Doug Sanders presents other options. I hedged a bit there... hoping to hear from others. We all have worked at developing our own styles and I urge all who pursue making eye inlays to find your own path with the techniques presented to you. Perhaps you will find a unique difference that will inspire you to grow.

 

I use a variety of techniques from traditional netsuke style to my own. I am less willing to exactly describe my own style, because it affords a unique look to my work. It would not be difficult for you to figure out and improve on it whether or not I tell it to you step by step.

 

The more traditional netsuke style eyes are amber pegs made to fit a socket, with a pupil of black (your choice, I have not got a singular favorite) whether paint, ink or inlay, then backed with gold leaf (which comes in various colors as well as types from thin, flat, pounded sheets to liquid suspensions). I am not set with which sort of glue to use for this task either, epoxy, super glue, perhaps even a hide glue would work. It varies around the world. Some carve and polish the whole piece of eye inlay material, often amber, before setting it in the socket with glue. Some glue the shaft in, cut by filing with material to spare above the lens height, then carve the lens shape to suit the subject being carved.

 

Some eyes in netsuke have had a double inlay effect with an outer material and an inner material, the pupil inlaid into the iris.

 

Some of my frogs have the peg with dark spot and gold leaf backed eyes in cylindrical holes. These are the tiniest frogs and eyes. The larger eyes are more like the shape of frogs eyes, when looked a closely. I shape a lens to fit a shaped socket. This is very time consuming and not a choice by many. As the years have progressed, my explorations and experiments have caused me to try and discard techniques. This way of making eye inlay will be and should be a challenging learning process, since it is not a completely predictable technique with a predictable outcome. When the carver figures it out successfully, he or she will have a technique that will produce distinctive eyes.

 

I do not know of a particular book that describes how to make eyes. Does anyone else have information about books with eye inlay discussion and illustration?

 

Janel

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  • 3 weeks later...
  • 1 year later...

Hi Janel,

 

Even though you do not wish to give a step by step guide to your eye inlays .... could you please give me some more info on forming the eye and applying the gold leaf. Being on the wrong side of the world and not slush with funds I am going to try the following method for forming eyes.

I have got some amber beads, 6mm in diameter from a bead shop. (These shops have a huge range of semi precious stones for low cost, also horn and bone products). I will make a pupil peg from buffalo horn and fit this to the amber eye.I intend to carve a semicircular socket then ... thats when I'm stuck.

Do I glue in a layer of gold leaf ( I haven't sourced this yet), then glue in the amber? Will super glue do both? How do you polish the finished eye?

 

Cheers

 

Rex

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I wish to post a disclaimer, I do not know any more than I have tried on my own or have learned from others and have tried it with what I have had available. I do not know everything!

 

I have used cyanoacrylate (Super Glue) to glue gold leaf foil onto the back of the eye amber, after the pupil material is set in place. When set, and the socket is ready, I mix a tiny amount of five minute epoxy to glue the amber or other eye material into the socket. There is a point during the curing of the epoxy (just beyond sticky, but is slightly elastic), before it is crispy hard, that makes it possible to fiddle with the glue around the inlay, to remove a bit it if needed. Be warned that if you pull too much away you may remove the necessary parts of the glue as well.

 

Please experiment with everything before you commit the real thing to the final gluing. I've got eyes stored here and there to remind me of what came before now.

 

Have fun Rex.

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There have been times when one answer has helped other pieces fall into place for me, when someone was willing to give a bit of help. Mostly, we who are self-training, our path is filled with experimentations and hope. TCP is one way to make the sharing attainable. The internet is a great tool for us'ns who live around the globe from one another!

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  • 3 months later...

Can anyone offer suggestions about how they hold the eyes while they are working on them? I've tried fixing them to a board, with not too much success, but that doesn't work at all when you are dealing with the back. Very irritating when you loose one of a pair at the last moment!! and then have to start again

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Boy, do I know what you are saying, as do the others most likely! I use a couple of ways of holding the eye material. When beginning to shape a unique eye-shape piece of amber, I glue the material to a small dowel or bamboo skewer with 5 minute epoxy. Files, sandpaper and scraping to fit a pre-shaped socket. Another method for a round hole is to have a rod of the material, place it in your high speed rotary carving tool (NSK Elector, Foredom, Dremel ... whatever you might have, even a mini lathe) and turn the piece into a shaft/stock with a slight taper. Tom Sterling has provided us with good illustrations somewhere here I believe, and his Carving Netsuke PDF refers to eye making on Page 42-49 (Thanks Tom!).

 

When the piece is ready to come off of the skewer to have it's glued side worked, I use the trusty poster-tacky-sticky-stuff that I use on my carving peg to secure the carvings against while carving. I use the white stuff. (referred to in other topical postings) A tiny bit of it works for keeping the bit of inlay material from disappearing and isn't perfection, but it works well enough to be useful. I hold the sticky bit with the tiny inlay piece between my fingers and fingertips. When testing the inlay in the hole, I roll a tiny point on the stuff, touch it to the front of the inlay and that helps with aiming, insertion and removal. Oh, when I get to this stage with the tiny inlay nearly done and not glued to something bigger, I have made a trap with a dishtowel along the front of my bench and in my lap. I think that jewelers benches have some accomodation for catching precious metal filings (?) and Tom Sterling mentioned working in a shoe box (clever! and thanks again Tom!). The hours spent on hands and knees with a flashlight checking out each grain of sand on the floor adds up.

 

What do you others do?

 

PS Pamela, welcome to The Carving Path! Did you introduce yourself yet in Who's Who?

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Can anyone offer suggestions about how they hold the eyes while they are working on them? I've tried fixing them to a board, with not too much success, but that doesn't work at all when you are dealing with the back. Very irritating when you loose one of a pair at the last moment!! and then have to start again

 

Well yes I did....perhaps I did something wrong if it hasn't arrived??

 

What a helpful answer..............I shall now go away and practice technique. Thank you!

 

Pamela

 

PS I havn't as yet been able to locate any advice on eye-making by Tom Stirling

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Try here. There is a diagram with explanation for a complex inlaid eye inlay by Tom Sterling.

 

Read further for other contributions. I see that this topic was begun soon after the forum went live.

 

Netsuke Carving e Book topic by Tom Sterling. Download this PDF (Printable Document File) and find more about eye inlay in it.

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  • 1 month later...

I probably shouldn't throw this out but maybe no one will be offended by the techniques of an old master gem carver and netsuke artist.

 

I learned this one from my old mentor Bill Shotts back in the 70's. Some of you may be old enough to remember him too.

 

Anyway this works very well for inlaying tourquoise, jet, ivory, or any other stone, into ivory, hard materials and other stones and is to be used for doing the finest of linework where you have no other way of making things so small and i mean smalllllllll.

 

Cut your channel, smallest tool you have.

 

Take the desired material, attack it with a mizzy heatless wheel and collect the powder

mix powder with good old superglue and pack the channel

finish off and polish

 

this is how you get those killer cat eye pupils and a wide assortment of other impossible shapes whipped at 1mm or smaller.

 

have fun - you never heard it from me

SLE

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  • 1 year later...
I probably shouldn't throw this out but maybe no one will be offended by the techniques of an old master gem carver and netsuke artist.

 

I learned this one from my old mentor Bill Shotts back in the 70's. Some of you may be old enough to remember him too.

 

Anyway this works very well for inlaying tourquoise, jet, ivory, or any other stone, into ivory, hard materials and other stones and is to be used for doing the finest of linework where you have no other way of making things so small and i mean smalllllllll.

 

Cut your channel, smallest tool you have.

 

Take the desired material, attack it with a mizzy heatless wheel and collect the powder

mix powder with good old superglue and pack the channel

finish off and polish

 

this is how you get those killer cat eye pupils and a wide assortment of other impossible shapes whipped at 1mm or smaller.

 

have fun - you never heard it from me

SLE

 

I use this technique with 5min epoxy for filling carved channels myself. I've found that it's best to use sand paper, however, as the dust can be graded that way, and I lose less of it. (The finer a grit paper, the finer dust you get!) I've heard that this can even be done with metal dust if you use a hard enough epoxy, and you can get a dull polish on it. Haven't tried it yet myself.

LJ

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  • 3 months later...

Janel,

I have been a very keen watcher of your work over a no of years. In fact, seeing some of your pieces years ago decided me to try my hand at netsuke :D. I loved your frog on a lily leaf with gold dust on the iris :blush:

I have Masatoshi's book and have read it a no of times.

Tom,

I have also re-read your book and think your description for making eyes is brilliant :) .

I wasn't going to sign on this evening but reading this thread just required a reply. Last time I made eyes I turned them from brass welding rod along the lines that Tom describes; using a Dremel as a lathe!

At a later stage I shall make comment (& pic) of signing the piece.

James

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