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Working with Shibuichi?

Is anyone else out there working with shibuichi? I have been casting
with it for a while and wondered if anyone had any tips for using
heat to color it, and finishes to make the colors last. I’ve been
getting some great coloration from straw to orange to magenta and
steel blue, but I’m reluctant to put these pieces out in the art
market with no idea of how long the colors will last.

My favorite allow is 20% silver, though I’ve worked with 10% (too
coppery) to 25% (hard to tell from tarnished sterling). Anyone else

Chas Hofmeister,

Hi Chas,

Yes, I love shibuichi! I also do a 20% silver alloy, which seems to
give the best color/workability combination. It reticulates
BEAUTIFULLY, which is my favorite characteristic. It also forges
nicely. As to coloration, given its higher copper content and the
environmental instability of copper, I do seal the patinas I get with
either a spray lacquer or beeswax/turpentine mixture (my choice
depends on the piece and how it will be worn). While that takes away
some of the interference colors, it does seem to stabilize the colors
very nicely.

I do tell my clients of patinaed pieces that the piece has been
lacquered or waxed and that these finishes have a wear life (i also
tell them how to care for the piece). If they find the patina has
changed or worn in an undesirable way, they can bring the piece back
and I’ll re-patina it for them – with the understanding that each
time the patina will be slightly different because it’s impossible to
reproduce exactly. I have yet to have anyone bring a piece back for
repatination, by the way.

Hope this helps!

Karen Goeller
No Limitations Designs
Hand-made, one-of-a-kind jewelry

I love the stuff! both shibuichi and shakudo.I made a tile set using
different torches ( water torch, oxy/acetylene mecco type,
prestolite type ( room air and MAPP), and standard torch with propane
/O2 just to see if the gasses and pressures ( plus my altitudes,i did
some below sea level and some at 2886 on the altimeter).Got the best
results with the water torch at the highest altitude, adn the Mapp/O2
at the lowest.I have found that masquing out areas helps direct the
colouration considerably if I mix a bit of powdered graphite into
the masque.I get the deepest hues when the material is highly
annealed and cold when i start to essay colours,compared to evenly
heated or using heat sinks strategically placed and a tripod…

As far as permanance: if i use a good stripping stregth Nitric or
HCl acid dip before using the metal the oxide layer has a better
chance to penetrate beyond the surface without leaning towards an
oxidising flame size (except forthe water torch-different rulesand
theorems altogether!).I also never use anything but leather instead
of (scratch) brushing with stiff bristles ( i never cross contaminate
my pure metals with brass or stainless steel scratch brushes as an
side that is evident in the reistance of metal that has been
scratchbrushed to allow as deep penetration,and as evenl a layer
opposed to the unpredictability-some might call texture or
spotty,almost spider webby matrix like appearance as that which has a
microlayer of brass or other undesireable metals deposited on the
surface due to the pressure a person with average hand strength might
scrub with to remove the pickle white,. I have gotten some nice
results making my own shibuichi too by just bumping up the percentage
of 24 kt Au to between 7 and 8.if i’m making thick sheet or
tubing,and a standard 6-7% if it is destined to be thinner, slit
strip, bezel strip or some sort of shaped wire,etc.

JlCollier is quite adept at manipulating the alloy,and you may want
to take look at his works ( claims to be fairly
new to metalsmithing but you would never guess it from his work. His
work is destined for great recognition and permanent collections if
there is any truth to his only having been doing it briefly relative
to the time it takes for an individual to amass the skills he
already has mastered. I cna’t wait to see what he’s doing in about 5
years if he doesn’t get bored working with japanese alloys or being a
metaslmith in general in that time frame…his colourations are
wondrous in some pieces i saw on his site. He is an Orchid member,
and I hope he won’t mind my citing his “experiments” and applications
as illustration for the possibilities…

I would love to list a table of what i’ve found and a range within
certain temps at x time with x equipment, but I’m fairly positive it
would make some cringe.So feeel free to contact me off Orchid if
you’d like to discussit furtherr and compare findings…


Many of the alloys are nice and tough enough for spectacle frames if
high silver content is not an issue (not a selling point) and I
generally try to allow the finished metal to develop its own
colouration because, well, I doubt we can really control what
happens to it ‘in service’. So I used to gently torch it to a dark
colour. All the alloys of sil/cu have a use due to their various
properties. Not all are pretty, though.

However a big issue I had with some of the shibuichi alloys is their
solidus temps being close to the liquidus of the standard HM+E
silver solders. Check the phase diagram. Something to bear in mind if
the piece you’re making has important, accurate and close-by joints.

B r i a n A d a m
e y e g l a s s e s j e w e l l e r y

I just started using some shibuichi and shakudo for marriage of
metals pieces, but am having trouble controlling what gets colored
and what doesn’t. I would love to know how you’re getting all those
colors, if you are willing to share. So far, I’ve been using
chemical patinas-- I thought that was really the only choice.


am having trouble controlling what gets colored and what doesn't. I
would love to know how you're getting all those colors

Here is how we describe the process:

Guide to heat coloring Shibuichi

The following technique is used in the Thin Cast studios of D.L.
Downer to color shibuichi cast products. The temperatures are quite
high and require that hard solders be used in fabrication. There are
a lot of steps in this process and we are unsure if all are
necessary. It works well but can be modified to fit your studio. You
may want to try your own process with this as a guide.

It is important to start with clean metal.

  1. Dip into hot sudsy ammonia. Be sure to be under good ventilation
    and boil it dry with a torch and repeat.

  2. Brass brush with sudsy amonia. It will appear silvery.

  3. Heat to a dull red. As it cools it will appear black.

  4. Using an extreme oxidizing flame pass the piece in and out of the
    heat. The colors will change each time. Use a fan to cool the piece
    when it looks just right. DO NOT QUENCH IN WATER!

Worse case scenario, pickle it and start over again.

If the piece is handled after coloring, wash thoroughly and rinse in
acetone to totally degrease. A clear lacquer like Incralac can help
increase the life of the patina. It is just a patina; wear and the
environment it lives in will affect it over time.

PS Somebody threw in a comment yesterday about the percentage of
gold. oooops, that be shakudo.

Bill, Deborah & Michele
Reactive Metals Studio, Inc
928-634-3434, 800-876-3434, 928-634-6734fx

Hi Noel!

The great thing about these two wonderful metals is that you can
get an enormous range of colors; the tough part for me right now is
consistent repeatability although I am getting much better at the
process. Don’t feel alone in your efforts to succeed.

I can offer some observations that may help sort out of the "why’s"
of one piece going one direction in color while another goes a
different route, but first, let me say that the best source I’ve
found for for coloring these two materials is Japanese
Patinas by Eitoku Sugimori.
There is a wealth of knowledge to be found here.

Initially it might be best to buy your metals from a reliable
supplier such as Reactive Metals Studio

so as to eliminate some of the variables involved with making and
fabricating your own alloys. They also carry Baldwin’s Patina which
could be the answer to some of the colors you want to achieve.

Surface finish (degree of polish), texture (the evenness of the
polishing applied to the texture–hills & valleys), the number of
times the piece has been heated (oxidized) and pickled, and the grain
structure of the metal (through strain such as embossing, folding,
bending, etc.) all have been important factors in the color results
that I’ve observed.

In the same fashion as one would run color sample tests with a set
of new enamels, it is worth the time to test these metals. Do use
pieces big enough that you can accurately evaluate the colors for
each test. With some innovation you can devise ways to overlap some
of the tests to gain additional and possibly save some
time. You should be able to salvage these metal samples for a future
project or maintain them for reference. You also may want to
determine how your favorite wax or Enjen Joe’s Brown Polymer works to
protect the different finishes.

After a few of the tests you’ll find that it is not just the
chemicals of the patina solution that make the colors. All of the
steps in the process have a contribution to the result. Patinas can
be a result of building one color with one solution and then a second
color on that foundation. Restricting the patina process to one area
and not another is definitely a case by case procedure. Depending on
the desired colors and the metals being used it may be as simple as
choosing the right sequence of steps for application of the
solutions. In other situations you may find that you have to mask an
area to restrict the patina solution application. Sometimes you can
wing it and do it freehand.

I hope this helps and does not confuse. It is important to stress
that Eitoku Sugimori’s book will prove valuable to anyone who wants
to pursue the use of the Japanese alloys. If there is anything I can
help clarify, please contact me off line. It genuinely has been just
three years since I’ve started making jewelery as Dr. Rourke
mentioned. I’ve never enjoyed anything more. There have been
countless times I needed help with a technique and I clearly remember
the Eureka moment when I found the Orchid web site. What a blessing!
I feel privileged to be able to share this

Good luck and let us know how your work progresses.

J Collier
Small Scale Metalsmith

I’ve gotten a nice rich brown color on it, but have no idea how
aside from using a torch - and I find the stuff incredibly touchy in
re heat - I’m always reticulating it whether i want to or not! So
far, if I want it flat, I use cold connections - don’t know if anyone
has any remedies for this. Can’t remember what percentages I used
when making my last batch…

But here is an interesting site that I came upon looking for
guidance on how to work w/ shibuichi -,
search for shibuichi.

The next link is to some photos leading to a tutorial on making an
inlaid tray from Shib.


Hi Noel!

I think my all-time favorite source for Japanese patinas is Chapt.
XLV of Henry Wilson’s Silverwork and Jewellery (1902), reprinted by
Pitman. The chapter is based on Wilson’s personal contact with Prof.
Unno Bisei of the Tokyo Fine Art College, from whom he learned
Japanese inlay, damascene work, and patinas. Also Prof. Kobayashi of
Tokyo " for the demonstration and recipes of Japanese methods of
metal colouring at my request before the students of the Royal
College of Art". The workshops I give in Japanese Coloring Methods
began here…:-)…

Chapter summary:

Japanese Patinas and Metal Colouring–Patina–Bronzing by the
Boiling Process–The Smoking Process–The Painting Process–The
Heating Process–Other Recipes and Coloring Methods for Bronze Work.

Janet in Jerusalem

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