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Jason Brown

Help with Mokume Gane?

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Hey Yall. I tried making Mokume Gane for the first time today and failed. I was using stacked quarters tied with copper wire. I had them on a piece of flat steel in the forge (charcoal) and heated until I thought I saw the copper sweat (orange heat.) Then I smacked them lightly at first then I whacked them pretty good 6 or 7 times.

 

While they were hot they seemed to be well stuck together. When they cooled they are no longer stuck together.

 

Did I just not get it hot enough? Did I smack it too much or not enough? I tried this with a stack of 10, 6 and 4. Same results all: burnt looking flat quarters.

 

 

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Whenever I see troubles with Mokume, I dust off this old blog post I wrote a while back. Hopefully there's something of use in there. From what it sounds like, not consistently hot enough. It will still give the illusion of being up to temp when the edges sweat, but that really only means that the outside is hot enough. If the middle is still below an acceptable temperature for fusing, the stack will fall apart later. Also, working non ferrous metals is a bit different. I would go slow the whole time rather than escalating your hammer's force. It is slow going, but for specific pieces (depends on alloy too) of non ferrous metals, I work it really slow, using little more than the weight of the hammer until I have a feel for what is damaging and what is reasonable. Delamination can occur, like in pattern welding steel, after the weld seems to be fully set. Also, non ferrous metals like to crack and crumble if you work them in the wrong temperature ranges or for too long before annealing, and with a lamination like this, that stress propagates easiest along existing cracks, dislocations, inclusions, or faults. Hope this helps!

 

John

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I have had some luck holding the stack of quarters in a pair of tongs with a tong clip. The tongs are just flat jaw, and when I get the right heat I use a vise to squeeze the stack (tongs and all). I give a solid squeeze, but not much more than should flatten all the voids from the coin faces. After that I go gently and work it hot. I have not a great deal of it but I have had fairly consistent results. Best of luck

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I have never had any luck using quarters for mokume, but I have had major success with copper/nickel-silver, copper/brass, fine silver/copper, and bronze/copper, using all thin (.032) sheet stock. I don't set it with a hammer either, never been good enough for that! I use 3/8" steel pressure plates held together with bolts and press the whole mess at once. If you are working small pieces (say 1-2 inch squares) you can rig up a hydraulic press using a 8 ton bottle jack for a car and some heavy plate for the frame. Once you get the stack welded, you can move to hammering, but hammering by hand is best done very gradually. Forget about giving it "a few good whacks", that will delaminate the stack faster than you can spit. If you can find it, Mokume Gane by Ian Ferguson is an excellent book on the subject. Lots of great "How to" info there. Here's an example of copper/nickel-silver work.

 

Mokume close-up.jpg

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Thanks Joshua. That is beautiful work in your photo too! I think I'm going to fix up some pressure plates for my next attempt.

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Jason, I used to have a WIP of making a Mokume billet on my website. I just went and put it back up. It's on the SHOP STUFF page.

The technique is the same no matter what tooling or size billet you use. I cannot stress the importance of cleaning the material enough. Oh yeah, and once you start, do not stop for any reason until you have the billet welded. This is a time sensitive process as the metals oxidize rapidly. Oxidation is the enemy of mokume.

Edited by Joshua States

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I've done mokume a few different ways.
Lots of fun,very challenging and can turn into heart break really really fast.
I've done coins and the best way I've accomplished it is like Joshua said, clean clean clean.
Then I stack the quarters or half dollars in a copper plumbing fitting end cap.
They usually fit with a slight bit of play but you are going to end up trimming the edges as you go so no worries.
You can flux or not. I've done it both ways.
But, fluxing can puff the coins up off of each other as they get hot.
Bring them to heat.
They will look like they are sweating a little.
Take them out, leaving them in the fitting and put them on the anvil and take a wooden dowel.
Put the dowel in the fitting, and firmly tap it with a hammer.
This will drive the material together and down into the fitting.
It will spread them out and sometimes even capture them in the fitting.
You can put them back in the forge and repeat the process.
After the second round.
Trim the top of the fitting flush with the coins.
And start heating and slowly gently forging 1/3 thinner.
Then pattern and continue to forge to your finish dimension.
If you want to check and see if they are bonded.
File through the side of the fitting and you should be able to see the layers.
You'll know if they are bonded just by looking at them.
If you want to get advanced.
doing what Joshua's tutorial shows is great.
You can also do this in a steel box with a weep hole..
You need a press for this.

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My experience has been this: proper fusing of non-ferrous metals requires no hammering, pressure plates, or other tooling beyond just being held together in the smallest pick-up tongs I have. The heat, capillary action (when I use coins), and clean surfaces accomplish everything. Hitting it just disrupts what you're trying to do, until all the body is fused into one.

 

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Edited by Christopher Price
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That's awesome Chris!

How many quarters have you been able to fuse successfully using that method?

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