[Mokume-Gane] Layers and Rolling


Saw the post recently on Mokume-Gune. I’m also learning this
technique and I have a couple of questions. I’ve recently made a
large piece of Mokume-Gane with three sheets of metal; copper,
fine silver and 14k yellow gold. I’ve gone the easy route and
soldered them together, rolled them out one direction, cut &
resoldered them three times, rolling and anealing it each time.
How vivid will the color difference be since I now have so many
layers? Also, just how thin are you supposed to roll your piece
for optimum use? I’ve stopped at the final rolling and await
your advice.



I consider myself a novice mokume artists still, so you may get
some better advice from the pros. At this workshop I just
attended, we stacked (and fused - not soldered) about 30 sheets
of 18 - 22 gauge metal. I was about an inch to an inch and a
half high. The important thing is when you make the impressions
into the billet - the deeper the impression the more color
variation you get. We pressed a piece of rebar about half way
through the billet for the linear elements. Then we ground the
piece flat with a right angle grinder and rolled the billet
through a rolling mill for the final sheet. This process worked
very well. We wound up with a billet 3/4 of an inch thick before
we rolled it.

Chris, Kansas City

Steve I’ve done Mokume this way as well but used brass, silver
(2) and copper. I tried it several times (once used bronze in
the stack) rolling out the metal so that I had 32, 64 and 128
layer samples and several other variations. The samples that
looked the best had the copper on the top as it produces the most
dramatic contrast. I liked the 64 layer as well as the samples
with more layers. The 32 was OK but didn’t present as rich of a
surface. I used this in band rings backed by other metals and
pendants so rolled it to 20 and 22g. I have a 64-layer sample
with the brass uppermost and like it less than the copper topped
samples. The highly polished brass doesn’t oxidize as well as
copper. I found that the critical part is the patterning of the
metal from the back. I did a traditional wood grain effect with
circular swirls(similar to Reactive’s raindrop pattern) but
actually liked the linear pattern (more of a moir=E9 done with an
elongated chasing tool) better. I rolled the metal several times
between annealings. The drawback to this method is that
sometimes, when soldering to other metal components, the solder
between layers of the mokume flows and makes pits. What did you
use for the soldering operations?

I have also made mokume in the traditional manner with the nice
arsenic bearing alloys and have used Reactive Metals Studio’s
product. I have used dikon radishes to color the metal as well
as liver of sulfur. (I think the radish thing only works with
the shakudo and the shibuichi traditional method but have never
tried it with the soldered variety. I know you get a slightly
redder color.) All seem more rigid than other metals of similar
gage and I kept hitting air pockets at inopportune moments even
though I slammed a brick on top of the stack, not, BTW, my
smartest move. (I had to use a torch instead of an oven.)

My main problem with mokume used in rings is that the oxidation
wears off rapidly. The rings consequently look a lot less
exciting than they did when they left my hands. Does anyone have
a solution to this problem other than lacquer? Has anyone used
Baldwin’s Patina on Mokume? Does it actually produce gray/green
and bluish results? Sorry this is so long. Linda M

Linda: I just took a class with Carol Webb, and she uses a
lacquer spray called Nicholas Spray Lacquer to hold the
patination colors after she is through. The company is at 2800
Washington, Belwood, Ill. 60614. I don’t have a phone number or
e-mail address but you might find it on-line through Infoseek as
your search engine. Hope this helps! Shael

Hello Linda!

It’s been years since I have done mokume’ and look forward to
eventually making more. The fusion bonding method sounds
interesting to me, and that will be my choice when I do. The
soldered together technique I have used simply required 10
second dip in a six to one ratio nitric dip. Longer for more
relief. The nitric attacks copper the most. 24k is not affected;
pure silver is barely modified however. The solder between layers
is your advantage. This provides a hairline crevise at each
junction. It dramatically creates the wood grain effect. Did I
just state what you already knew?
Bye Tim

I took a workshop with Carol Webb also and have the rest of the
info for Linda:

Nickolas #2105 Clear lacquer GJ Nickolas & Co Inc. (708)
544-0320 2800 Washington, Bellwood, IL 60104 $63.77 for case (12

Mc Master/Carr 562-692-5911 by the can. #76885 T62 in Santa Fe
Springs. Louise @lgillin1

I have used Baldwin’s patina on copper and silver mokume. No
gray/green hues, it just deepens the brown of the copper to the
color of an old penny without affecting the silver. One way to
get the gray/green thing would be to rub the piece with some
moistened salt and suspend it in a covered glass container with
a bit of household ammonia at the bottom.

Lee Einer

Linda, there is a great clear lacquer # 2105 made by a company
named Nickolas on the market there address is 2800 Washington
St. Bellwood, IL 60104. The company will only sell it by the
case which holds a dozen cans. Call around your area and see if
anyone has it in stock. This is the product I use for all my
work Mokume and the majority of my fellow Graduate students
swear by it. This lacuqer works very well to solve your tarnish
problem otherwise the tarnish will occur due to air and finger
prints of your customer. Good Luck, Jennifer Peterson


Upon thinking about the process, I would assume there would be a
lot of distortion in the piece adding to the total effect. I’ve
cheated and soldered my billet instead of the traditional method
since I don’t have a sealed chamber in which to form it. I’ve
cut, soldered, rolled and annealed in between steps and now have
a rather large billet about 1/4" thick. As you can see, I still
have some rolling to do and wonder what the optimum thickness is
for general use. Just a sort of general rule. I’ll be doing this
tomorrow and making a wedding band insert with a strip of it.
I’m sure looking forward to the results. Thanks for your help.



Actually, I used my oxy/natural gas torch on a large soldering
pad and used a brick right after soldering. Seemed to squeeze
the solder right out the sides just as I had been told. It took
about 2 1/2 dwt. of easy 14k solder to do the job. Because of
oxidation from anealing, I don’t know yet which metals wound up
on the outside yet but I appreciate your advice. In spite of my
20-odd years at the bench, this is all new to me and I’m looking
forward to seeing the results. One of my fears was that there
would be too many layers to show well but you’ve put that fear
to rest. I estimate only about 12 currently. Perhaps I should
cut & double it a few more times? Oh well, this is how we learn.

Thanks for relaying your experience.


Hello Steve!

The thickness really depends on usage mostly. If you intend to
roll it into bands or rings, consider backing it with 14 yellow.
It adds uniformity inside and helps with those nasty stress
cracks that sometimes are a problem.As you are aware these
dimensions top out at 2 to 2.5mm so you be the judge. For
pendants, earrings etc., backing the piece is noble in my
opinion. Try drilling and adding round wire for gypsy or raised
bezels. Integrate plates for bright cutting etc. All this should
be done prior to backing.

Use a six to one nitric dip for relief. The immersion time is
a few seconds. Check with a loupe, there is more affect than you
see with naked eye. Dip again and check for desired affect. Use
glass and caution, gloves, ventilation, etc. This will give you
the “wood grain” appearance you want. It attacks the solder, the
copper, and alloyed metals, pretty much in that order. For a
wild look you can the liver of sulfur the piece and felt polish
for a very pronounced graining.

Have fun,

Another way to get an interesting pattern is to take about 2 cm
slice of the billet, hot forge it down to about 3-4 inches long.
Then continue to heat it while your striker is twisting it…
This takes two people for best results. The tighter the twist,
the more intricate the pattern. It doesn’t have the same yield
as the other methods but it is gorgeous. Slice and roll.


For a 'quickie" non-acid woodgrain effect, try using round
burs or bud burs on your surface at different stages of rolling
. I"ve also gotten very nice patinas on brass&copper mokume
just using heat from the torch to achieve the desired effect.

For those not equipped or inclined to compress all those layers
of metal, Reactive Metals sells ready-compressed billets in
various metal combinations.