Last year I was priviledged to attend some workshop
presentations at the National Ornamental Metal Museum given by a
group of Japanese metal artists who spent several weeks at the
NOMM in conjuction with the gallery showing “Art Metal of
Japan”. The artiss included master Takuya Kosugi, of Tokyo
Gedai, and his students and associates Mitsuhiro Ishikawa,
Hirotoshi Ito, Kazuma Ohshita, Keiko Kubota and Ken-ichi
Suganuma. These were some really fine artists, in a very
different tradition than any of us here in Memphis had ever
experienced. They really treated us to some fabulous work.
They alloyed the gold-based metals used in mokume-gane as one
series of demonstrations. The process was quite similar to what
Mr. Eisenberg gives us below, but with some relatively minor, in
my eyes, differences, which may be due to the traditionalist
approach of these artists. Although I am a ‘newbie’ to this
whole subject, as well as to jewelry, I would like to comment on
these differences and similarities, with your indulgence.
Perhaps Mr. Eisenberg and/or others could comment on the two
A non-ferric cylinder two and a half inches in diameter and
three inches tall with three hemicircles <grin> or arcs cut out
of the base so it looks like a tripod is constructed. Three
copper rings are also required.
The frame work used by our traditional friends was made of
copper wire, or strips. I remember four legs, but there may
have been three. It was definately fabricated, and not cut from
Place three layers of white unbleached cotton six and a half
inches in diameter over the top of the tripod and use one
fabricated ring to push the cotton down into the tripod
actually called a "casting cradle". Down is an inch or so. <snip>
Place the fourth layer of cotton over the casting cradle <snip>
Add a small smooth depression in this cotton disk
There were two shapes of “cradle” used by Kosugi-san. One was
round, and the other somewhere between a rectangle and an oval!
Both were of the same relative scale as Mr Eisenberg mentions.
The round one was two-and-a-half or three inches in diameter, and
the rectangular/oval one a little narrower and a little longer.
I remember the fabric as a single layer of heavy cotton twill or
light weight canvas, sewn to the framework. The very slight
depression resulted in natural sagging of the cloth. I presume
the volume of the pour was guaged to the size of that
depression, as it did not overflow, but resulted in a somewhat
This unit is put into a non-ferric container about
six inches in diameter and six and a half inches high. Very
hot water is added to the container so it covers the casting
cradle. A quart of water is set to boil. The numbers are such
that when the extra quart of water is added to the container it
will cover the the casting cradle by two inches.
This part is quite different. A much larger container of water
was used. We used a galvanized wash tub, set up on bricks. A
propane “rosebud” about four inches in diameter was used to heat
the water to the point where it was just shy of painful to put
your hand in the water.
The metal is melted in a flask, and is poured onto the cotton
cradle JUST after the quart of boiling water is added to the
large container. The molten metal passes through the water
giving up the oxygen as it settles on the cotton cradle.
Pretty much the same, except that the flask we used was heated
in a charcoal fire! No additional water needed to be added to
the tub. The water in the wash tub was eight or ten inches
deep, so the gold was poured through five or six inches of
Now your going to ask if I have done this (as a test of my
metal) and the measure of success.
I envy Mr Eisenberg! All I got to do was hand the cradle to
Kosugi -san, and to feel how hot the water was! BTW, Kosugi
contended, partially in jest, I am sure (hope?) that even in the
last century an outsider observing this might have been killed
to preserve the secrets of this process!
I have usually missed getting all the metal onto the cotton
So did one of us ignorant Americans! Kosugi-san and group found
The produced ingot is kind of egg shaped but seems very dense.
Very dense, and very clean. Shiny from the moment we reached
into the steaming water to retrieve the still-hot ingot.
Although it seemed denser, the Japanese still took the ingot to
the hammer, thinning it down and squaring it up a bit to make
One reward is the generation of interesting sounds.
Someone in the group watching the pouring remarked that the
squeals, moans, whistles and thumps sounded almost alive.
Between adding the boiling water, holding the molten metal in
place, looking where to pour through the steaming water, and
keeping the torch in place too, it is a bit much for one person.
The process was not quite this much of a juggling act to start
with. Since the water wasn’t as hot, there wasn’t as much steam
– until the metal was poured! Since we didn’t use a torch, we
didn’t have to juggle that. It was impressed on us that the
crucible must be taken from the fire, and gently, but quickly
poured into the cradle. An even, uninterrupted, undisturbed
stream was the goal.
When next I try this, I will enlist another pair of hands.
This requires a little extra help.
Even with a somewhat simplified pour right there at the end, it
wouldn’t hurt in the least to have help. The trouble at the
museum might be avoiding a crowd!
The article is from an unpublished manuscript not mine.
Should the manuscript ever be published, or otherwise available,
I would really like to see it, as would, I am sure, several
other folks at the NOMM, and other metal artists from the
Memphis College of Art, etc., that really appreciated the work
of these fine Japanese artists. It is nice to see a variation
on this technique.
Thanks for letting me add my $0.02!