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Working on katana fittings a few weeks back made me realize how much I enjoy working with Japanese copper alloys. I decided to do a practice piece that would be more focused on the carving this time and chose the swallowtail butterfly as my subject. This is cut and carved out of a piece of 20% silver shibuichi leftover from the fittings.




Cut with a piercing saw and filed to shape before starting with the actual carving.




At this point, I'm in way over my head, and it's all about to get a lot worse before it gets any better...










It's still a bit of a "flat" carving, but I'm new at this... baby steps :) Since it went okay, I decided to incorporate it into a larger design, as a pendant for my better half, who suggested pairing it with a cattail.


I cast some additional alloys for the extra pieces to inlay.




950 sterling (for the body of the pendant), 20% shibuichi (the butterfly), copper (for the cattail sausage), 40% shibuichi (for the stem), gold (for the spike). 




I hammer-textured the back because I had no idea what else to do there... (no I'm not making a Star Trek communicator :P)




I soldered a piece of silver tubing to attach to a chain because I'm not really a jeweler and that seemed simple enough.




Then I got busy on the carving / texturing / inlays






After a good bit of cleanup, but with still more needed:




After giving the critter its legs and antennas, and after yet another cleanup, I patinated the final piece with rokusho:




I experimented with a two-tone patina on the butterfly by interrupting the process after 40m (basically after the shibuichi was done coloring, but the copper wasn't). I carefully polished the body of the critter and the outer portion of the wings, did a very light clean in baking soda, then put the piece back into the niage bath for an additional 20m (kind of a "differential patina" I suppose...). It's not perfect but it worked out okay and is more visually pleasing (imo) than solid dark grey was. In retrospect, had I thought about it early enough, I might have practiced flush inlays on the wings to add color, and perhaps tried the method Jim Kelso describes for patina gradients on shibuicho via silver enrichment.


Although I don't have a ton of experience to compare it to, I thought the copper got surprisingly reddish for only an hour in the solution (not quite the deep "elusive red" people talk about taking 8 to 10h to get to, but not bad, if I may say so myself :rolleyes:).




She seemed to like it :) 

Edited by Francis Gastellu
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Those are some impressive baby steps.

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I think that came out splendid. What a beautiful piece!.

Edited by Joshua States
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