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Jim Kelso

Feather in shibuichi and shakudo

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Part of a recent sculpture, I made this feather in shibuichi (40%silver/60% copper) and shakudo (4% gold/ 96% copper). Both of these alloys were made for me by Phillip Baldwin of Shining Wave Metals. I chose this alloy of shibuichi for patina reasons that will be explained later. The inlaid shakudo quill makes a striking contrast.

 

I modeled the feather from one from Jean's collection. Sadly I don't know what it's from. I'm making up a tutorial with more photos but this should give the basic idea. The smaller photo should be close to life-size in a full browser(38mm or 1.5").

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More photos to follow

Edited by Jim Kelso

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Great! Just what I need now! Beter than a good book! This should have me captivated!

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Awesome!!!!

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I always get excited when I see you have a new post Jim. Already great looking.

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Holy Cow, Jim, that's amazing! :o:o:o

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Jim that feather is so wonderful. I don't know why.. but the word 'gentle' came to mind immediately.

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Jim that feather is so wonderful. I don't know why.. but the word 'gentle' came to mind immediately.

Wow, thanks very much guys. Scott, we have quite a collection of feathers and they always evoke an emotional response, especially when found in the wild.

 

Much appreciated.

 

Here are two more photos showing the shakudo quill inlay being secured by tamping the previously pushed up shibuichi back down against it, and the engraving progressing.

 

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Beautiful -- as always. Look forward to see the patination.

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thanks Jim. You work always has a serenity to it. It just love it.

kc

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This is poetry. thanks for sharing Jim- Youre my hero!

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excellent work..It is one thing to be able to draw feathers but bringing one to life in 3D and capturing the softness shows great skill in many different aspects.

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Brings back memories of being tickled,(with a feather) and this post has me 'tickled pink!';) beautifull stuff!

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Again, many thanks for all the comments.

Walter, concerning the patina this photo shows it fairly well. I was shooting for lighter edges of the feather that is possible by enriching the silver component of the shibuichi, then selectively polishing back to the original alloy. It's a fairly subtle effect. I'll describe the process more fully below.

 

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Edited by Jim Kelso

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One of the more challenging things to accomplish using Japanese non-ferrous alloys is achieving a gradual fade from one color to another. Inlaying separate distinct alloys for color differential, while very useful, leaves sharp boundaries. With shibuichi one way of achieving a fade is to enrich the surface with silver by repeated oxidizing and pickling, and then polish selected areas back to the original alloy. This can create a very pleasing, gradual fade from the lighter enriched area to the darker original alloy area.

 

The silver enriching works because when the surface is oxidized by heat and oxygen, it is mostly the copper that is oxidized, not so much the silver. When this layer of copper-oxides is removed by pickling in a weak acid it therefore increases the surface silver content and reduces the copper. This can be repeated to increase the silver layer to a degree. At a point the silver enrichment inhibits further copper oxides from forming.

 

The silver layer is thin enough so that by selective polishing the original alloy layer below can be revealed as one wants.

 

I first saw this type of fading on a fish inlaid in a kozuka by Toshimasa-sensei. He said that he used a somewhat different technique than I have outlined here but time did not allow him to elaborate.

 

I have found this technique to work best with a fairly silver-rich alloy, say 40% silver/60% copper. This alloy has enough silver to enrich fairly easily with two or three cycles of oxidizing and pickling.

 

Enriching is done generally after a nearly final polish. I also needed to protect the shakudo quill from oxidizing by coating it and the nearby shibuichi with flux during the oxidation heating. (1st photo). The 1st photo also shows the resulting pink and gray copper oxides. The 2nd photo shows the enriched areas after the oxides were pickled away. Much more silver apparent away from the quill and flux protected area. I subsequently engraved and polished some of the enriched area back to achieve a gradual fade from light to dark. I had purposely left the final engraving close to the quill unfinished as I knew I would be going over it again.

 

The actual patina was done in the usual traditional Japanese niage bath with rokusho. This is the last step after all the engraving/polishing.

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Edited by Jim Kelso

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Wow Jim! Amazing stuff! Thanks for making my day/month, no, year!

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Thanks very much Miles for all your comments.

 

Here is another piece that shows a similar color fade on the dolphin, developed the same way, using the same alloy of shibuichi(for the dolphin). The main body of the bracelet is Sterling silver.

 

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Jim, that is so far above my own level of skills it's just magic!

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Jim, that feather gives me so much to look at just in the technical details let alone the finish and artistry. I'm gobsmacked. Thanks for the tip on polishing back through a depletion gilt area to create those wonderful transitions. I'll put that one to use.

Denis

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Oh Wow! Just got to love that! Alan's right! Sure you're not a wizard of some kind? Pure magic!

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Thanks very much guys. Often the technique hangs around until the lightbulb goes off.

 

Dennis, yes it's essentially the same as is more often done with low karat gold to enrich the surface.

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Thanks very much Gabin. I enjoyed seeing your graceful knives. Welcome.

 

I dug up these photos from 2006. This waterfall sculpture used the depletion silvering technique on the two front-most pieces of shibuichi. Often in the photos it looks just like a shading from the light source but the darker areas are actually darker in the two front pieces. The process shot shows the depletion-silvering being polished back with charcoal. The polishing would be further refined and then into the niage patina bath. The other darker pieces in the waterfall are alloys of shibuichi with progressively more copper toward the back.

 

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