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Joshua States

Mokume Gane (a quick How To Do)

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A while back some folks had asked about a tutorial of sorts on how to do Mokume Gane. I had done a pictorial of my process, and couldn't find the photos anymore, so I left it alone. Well, I found them again on a thumb drive and figured I would post them here for reference. 

I have noticed that most folks suggest using coins, like US quarters. I tried this with limited success and when it was successful, the resulting piece was so small it's applicability was very limited. I graduated to using pieces of 1" by 3" strips in order to have enough material for a set of knife fittings. Eventually, I moved to 2" by 3" plates in order to have enough material for a guard, spacer and a frame handle. It's roughly the same amount of work for twice the result. This is what the following pictorial uses.

First up, the parts and equipment. There are 10 pieces of 18 gauge (.04") nickel-silver and 11 pieces of 20 gauge (.03") copper plate cut to 2"x3". You can get the pieces precut from Otto Frei or Rio Grande. A slab of smooth granite, a jug of distilled water, several small pieces of 220 grit sandpaper with a small sanding block (mine is micarta), some Simple Green cleaning fluid, tissue paper, stainless steel foil and the pressure plate set of 3/8" x 3-1/2" steel strap cut 4" long with 1/4" holes drilled in the corners. There are 4 bolts with nuts and washers long enough to go through both plates with the stack of Mokume in between, a roll of lint-free paper towels, and a plastic tray for the distilled water bath. Important: The pieces of material are sheared at the retailer and wind up coming to you with a curved edge or edges. These must be ground or filed off straight before processing. Before you start, arrange the press plates on the counter so that the bolts are through one plate  pointed up and the top plate is on the side in the orientation that it will slide over the bolts easily. Set this aside. The tissue paper & stainless foil should be cut to size and ready to wrap and set aside.

1 Parts.jpg

The scrubbing station: I fill the kitchen sink with warm water and some dish soap (sometimes I will use Comet cleanser instead of the soap, I think it leaves less residue) and I put all of the NS and copper pieces in there. Warning: Most of these pieces come from the supplier with a thin coating of mylar on one side. Remove this before soaking in the sink. Spray the surface of the granite with the simple Green and wrap the paper around the block.

2 Scrub station.jpg

Drop the first piece of material on the block and using latex or nitrile gloves start polishing the faces with the sandpaper. You want the entire face to be bright and shiny with no oil or other contaminants. You will know when it is sufficiently clean when water does not ball up on the surface. Rinse the piece off under the tap and watch what happens. If the water retracts into a ball, you aren't clean enough. keep scrubbing. You want all of the sanding lines running in the same direction. Do not swirl the sanding or alternate directions. Keep everything going the same way on all the pieces.

3 Scrubbing.jpg

As you get a piece clean and rinsed under the tap, drop it in the tray of distilled water. It should be completely submerged. This will keep it from oxidizing while you scrub the rest of the pieces. Once you have all the pieces cleaned and in the water tray, clean the work surface (counter top) and dry it well. The next series of steps should be done quickly and in a clean & dry environment. Throw your gloves away and put on a fresh pair. Lay out a couple layers of the lint free paper towels in front of the water tray. Lay out the pieces of material on the paper towel, cover with another layer of paper towel and pat dry with your hands.

4 Drying.jpg

Take the stainless foil and tissue paper, fold it and start stacking the material in the fold, alternating the layers. Get the edges lined up as close as possible using the sanding block as a gauge to push the edges in line.

5 Stack in foil.jpg

Fold the foil wrap and tissue paper over a few times to close the package. leave the folded seams on the edges of the billet. Make it as tight as possible. Lay the package in between the bolts on the bottom plate, cover it with the other plate and apply the nuts to the bolts. Hand tighten the nuts. Now run out to the shop and put the entire thing in a vice to compress the plates and package so you can torque the bolts down.

6 Post Vice and Torque.jpg

Once the plates are torqued tight, fire up the forge (some folks use an electric oven) and put the whole thing in there. I use a 3-burner NC Tools whisper Daddy forge set at 3 psi. The gas is set low enough that the burners pop and sputter every once in a while. Check what temperature the materials you are working with need to be at to fuse. Different materials have different bonding temps. I think this combo fuses at around 1500*F so when the steel plates are red hot, pull the entire setup out of the forge or oven and press the plates down. I use a hydraulic press. You can use a vice, power or drop hammer, or make a press thing from a bottle jack. Whatever you use, you want to apply even and steady pressure over the entire face of the billet.

7 Press it.jpg

I usually do three welding presses before removing the billet from the foil. The bolts will become loose after the first press, but I don't remove them until I have done 3 welds. I do not want the billet cooling off too much between welds. After a few welding passes I remove the billet from the wrapping and see what I have got. With any luck, the billet is fully fused and ready for forging.

8 finished billet.jpg

This will take a few more welding heats to get it to act like a single piece of material. This I do with the power hammer and forge. I get the billet just glowing red and hammer it in the flat dies on the diagonals a few times. I can then either develop a pattern in the whole billet, or I can cut pieces off to develop different patterning in different pieces. For more on pattern development, see this thread.

I hope this helps someone out there.

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Nicely put, you should add to this and even do some insight on it with using a role of quarters as well.  But no this was definitely helpful in my case.

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I trust this was all done when the Missus was out of the house, either that, or she is very tolerant :-)

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Nicely done!  And pinned.  Any good how-to will get pinned. B)

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Nice WIP!  I have been wanting to make some and that seems easy peasy (which for me it won't be)

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Great how too..... Thanks Joshua

Edited by JASON VOLKERT
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Andrew, I have used the quarters and found it to be not worth the effort. Although, the one time it worked well, I stacked them inside a piece of 1" copper pipe.

On 2/23/2019 at 11:15 AM, Gerald Boggs said:

I trust this was all done when the Missus was out of the house,

Yep. You got it right.

On 2/23/2019 at 1:20 PM, Alan Longmire said:

Nicely done!  And pinned.  Any good how-to will get pinned. B)

Thanks again Alan! Seems I'm on a roll here!

On 2/23/2019 at 4:40 PM, Wes Detrick said:

Nice WIP!  I have been wanting to make some and that seems easy peasy (which for me it won't be)

If it were easy, everyone would do it. Give it a go Wes.

On 2/23/2019 at 5:07 PM, DanM said:

You could cut down on all the hand sanding by using these..............

Hmm. Maybe I'll try that. Or, you could try t and add to this thread with your results. I wouldn't mind a bit.

On 2/23/2019 at 7:35 PM, JASON VOLKERT said:

Great how too..... Thanks Joshua

Hope it helps. Glad you liked it.

Maybe sometime this year I will get around to making some more. Then I can add some pattern development pics.

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I may just have to invest in some copper and nickel sheets just to try and make it.  At least that stuff welds together quite easily even with a bunch of layers in it.  Not to mention a lower welding temp than steel lol. If my local ace has copper and nickel sheets I’ll have to pick some up and give it a go.  I actually really like the look of the finished product.

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4 hours ago, Joshua States said:

Hmm. Maybe I'll try that. Or, you could try t and add to this thread with your results. I wouldn't mind a bit.

 

 

I would like to help,but a little thing called a non-disclosure agreement does not permit it.

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I am deeply curious about methods for polishing and revealing the pattern in mokume gane. Is that something this tutorial might cover?

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10 hours ago, Brice said:

I am deeply curious about methods for polishing and revealing the pattern in mokume gane. Is that something this tutorial might cover?

 mild acid. 

I've seen both mokume done successfully by both methods.  Quarters a few times, the more extensive was copper and sterling sliver.

Quarters seemed to produce and have a lot of the same qualities of a random pattern weld in steel.  You can manipulate the surface to ladder patterns or 'rain drops' cut it to shape. 

However, the mokume made by copper and sterling I've seen was much more durable.  That I had seen twisted, and made up like traditional pattern welds into rings.  If I could have afforded one I would have snatched it up in a heart beat!

 

It's always looked like a simple process when I've seen it demonstrated, the hard part of as I've seen is to keep it clean at every step.  Secondly it's like working with aluminum, there is a very short window of time before it fuses and it just becomes a puddle.

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On 5/29/2019 at 8:30 PM, Brice said:

I am deeply curious about methods for polishing and revealing the pattern in mokume gane. Is that something this tutorial might cover?

Another thing is using patinas. Some metals (like copper) take patination very easily. Others, like NS, not so much. If you have a great interest in doing Mokume, get Ian Ferguson's book.

It covers a lot of metals and their compatibility, bonding temps, patinas, pattern development, etc.

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Thanks to both of you, Josh and Daniel.

 

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I followed your general process and was able to make my first 21 layer billet of Cu/Brass/NiS mokume. After cutting 1 x 5" strips, I cleaned with vinegar and bar keepers friend. Water rinse then into Isopropyl alcohol. 

20200502_081452.jpg

20200502_080537.jpg

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Stacked between steel plates then pressed with drill press vise.  I put the whole thing in the forge and heated till brass just started to bubble out.   As it heated I was able to crank the press one full turn. 

20200502_103702.jpg

20200502_120742.jpg

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After two heats, I had a solid billet with some ragged edges to grind down.   Thanks for the lesson Joshua.

20200502_122505.jpg

20200502_154801.jpg

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Can you then fold it and increase layer density like pattern welding ferrous?

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you should be able to forge it out and then cut and stack and weld, but if you had copper and brass in a stack you need to make sure that when you lay it up a second time you still have the layers like copper/brass/copper/brass.... and not brass/copper/copper/brass.

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26 minutes ago, steven smith said:

you should be able to forge it out and then cut and stack and weld, but if you had copper and brass in a stack you need to make sure that when you lay it up a second time you still have the layers like copper/brass/copper/brass.... and not brass/copper/copper/brass.

 

Thanks, Steven. 

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On 5/3/2020 at 9:36 AM, Dave Stephens said:

Can you then fold it and increase layer density like pattern welding ferrous?

This can be dicey. I have had limited success trying to raise the layer count by stacking. Theoretically, it should work, but oxidation is the real killer when it comes to mokume. I have made a 4-bar Turkish twist once, albeit a very small piece as an experiment. Ian Ferguson mentions that anything above 21 layers is not worth the effort. The patterning becomes too difficult to determine as the forging process further thins the layers out. Others may succeed where I have failed though.

 

On 5/3/2020 at 6:36 AM, Doug Webster said:

After two heats, I had a solid billet with some ragged edges to grind down.

It's a beautiful thing. Glad to have it help someone along.

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Josh:

I think I've heard others say the same.

 

So, just a thought: If you wanted a finer grain (personal preference, I'm not a coarse grain guy) it seems like you could start with a much larger stack, just do one weld, and then squish the stack to the thickness desired (for those who have a press).


Question: Do you reduce thickness hot, or cold forge/anneal/repeat?

 

Thanks.

 

Dave

 

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Dave l don't recommend any welds that aren't absolutely clean.  For a finer grain, maybe try material that is 0.005" instead of 0.020".  Something you can cut with scissors.   The copper I used was that thin and seemed to work well with 4 layer in between the 0.020 " brass and silver.  

 

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18 hours ago, Dave Stephens said:

Question: Do you reduce thickness hot, or cold forge/anneal/repeat?

 

I've only done this a couple of times, but I reduced it hot using a press.

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4 hours ago, Brian Dougherty said:

 

I've only done this a couple of times, but I reduced it hot using a press.

Yeah, but do you do it while it's hot, or cold?

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