Shaping mokume

I’m working with 24 gauge mokume 18k pink gold & shakudo – is there
some trick to shaping it (dome, flared tube, shells, barrels and
such) . I sometimes mess up the top layer, and thus a part of the
pattern. I anneal and use an old plastic zip lock bag to protect when
bending with pliers, and rawhide and rubber hammers where I can when
shaping on an anvil. I have really never done much shaping of metals
with hammers, mostly just plier bending. Any ideas or even book
suggestions. Maybe my metal is just to
thin—I don’t know… Marty


Pliers are always hard on metal surfaces. If you have to use them
coat them. From your local hardware pick up a can of Tool Dip. This
is the heavy rubber coating usually seen on tool handles. Dip the
jaws. Replace when it wears out. I would also suggest using a stump
rather than an anvil. Carve the shapes you need in a nice hard wood
stump. Then make hard wood tools to drive the metal into these
shapes. Irregularities in the surface can be hammered out
with a polished planishing hammer. Bill


The best way to avoid marring a work surface is to use delrin or
nylon stakes and hammers. You can get the materials from a local
plastic supplier and make your own. Also you can use Protaplast, a
plastic that becomes soft and pliable when heated in boiling water.
About 180 degrees softens it nicely and leaves it not too hot to work.
You then just apply it to the stake or hammer head and form it around
so it will lock mechanically when it hardens as it cools. This is one
of the easiest solutions and the product is reusable. Protoplast is
available from the Aquaplast Corp. 30 Lawlins Park Wyckoff, N.J.
481-1443 ph 1-800-526-5247

Marty -

I find that I have more success in shaping the mokume if I start with
a thicker piece - 18 to 20 gague has worked well for me. I shape my
pieces using dapping blocks and punches, or rawhide mallets and wooden
forms. Beginning with a thicker piece has allowed me to do more
finishing of the shape and remove any imperfections in the surface.
When I began, I tended to roll the metal out too thinly and so I
didn’t have enough thickness to sand and finish properly. I am not
working with gold or shakudo (I work mainly with billets of
copper/sterling or copper/brass and nickel) but I have been able to
make all sorts of shapes out of my mokume.

If the billet is sound, using thicker materials should solve your
problem, I think. If this seems like a waste of material, you can
also solder another piece of metal to the mokume and use the mokume
like a veneer. This increases the problem of marring the surface but
does spread the mokume out a bit.

Finally, one of my first problems was falling in love with a
particular pattern on the sheet, incorporating it into a piece and
then being unwilling to sand or polish out any imperfections because I
would lose/alter the pattern I loved. I just finally got over it and
my work is better now.

A good reference for mokume is Steve Midgett’s 2000 book Mokume Gane.
A Comprehensive Study. Earthshine Press. ISBN 0-9651650-7-8. I
ordered my copy from Reactive metals.

Cheers -
Debby Hoffmaster