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I've taken some time off from blade work for a while, but am feeling quite motivated to pick up a project I was just starting the design of last winter.  Depending on which way I go with the design, I may be trying to replicate some of the gilding that was done on cloisonne pommels.

 

I've done some gold leaf work on wood and leather, but don't really see that as being a good solution for gilding iron. 

 

I've never done it, but I think I understand how inlay type of gilding is done where the gold is hammered into a keyed surface texture to hold it in place.  As I understand it, that can be done over broad surfaces, but I don't think it is applicable to the type of surface I'm looking at.

 

I think the most famous cloisonne pommel, the one from Sutton Hoo, may be made of gold, but it appears that others of this style are a copper alloy or iron that has been covered with gold.  The safe play may be to just electroplate it.  (I can do that)  However, I'm wondering if a more period approach is possible.

 

The interweb is all over the place on how this is done.  I've seen some references to hammering the gold sheet into a dull read iron surface.  This sounds dodgy, and good way to ruin a lot of expensive material.  I've also seen references to using a mercury amalgam made by dissolving gold in mercury and heating that mixture up to drive off the excess mercury.  No thanks!  Most people think I'm mad enough as it is.

 

What do you all think?  Just cast it in bronze and plate it?

 

 

-Brian

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The Sutton Hoo materials are solid gold.  The "hammering onto a keyed surface" is damascening, or koftghari work if done with fine wire. You do it with slightly thicker than leaf, and you burnish it in rather than hammer.  Then there's old-school plating, done the same way but with much thicker gold/silver and much deeper keys. None of that is done hot.  

 

Are you planning on doing garnet cloisonné?  If so, electroplate may not be thick enough to survive burnishing the cell tops to set the garnets. You could always do if after, of course.  Provided your cells are tight enough to keep liquid out.  

 

I do understand not wanting to do mercury gilding. :lol: 

 

Some of the other Anglo-Saxon stuff used a different process, depletion gilding. Make the object out of low-carat gold, like 9k, then give it an acid bath. The copper will be removed from the surface, leaving a thin skin of porous 24k gold. Burnish that down and you've got fine gold (which forge-welds at room temperature and low pressure!) atop 9k.

 

But yeah, electroplating is by far the easiest way.  

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Thanks Alan,

 

It is real tempting to cast the general pommel shape in bronze and solder in silver wires for the cells.  Then just plate the whole thing.  We'll see...

 

I doubt that I could pull off real garnet.  I've never done any sort of lapidary work so it would all be new techniques to learn.  I have dabbled with stained glass, and think I could possibly do it with red glass.  Then again there are some other pommel types that I am itching to try so I may go in another direction.  So many things to try and so little time :(

 

Is there a reason behind the seemingly random shapes the anglo-saxons used in their garnet work?  Well, I guess there has to be a reason, but to my uneducated eye it looks unplanned.  However, being unplanned doesn't seem to match well with the level of effort and craftsmanship on display so I wonder if I am missing the point.

-Brian

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2 hours ago, Brian Dougherty said:

Is there a reason behind the seemingly random shapes the anglo-saxons used in their garnet work?  Well, I guess there has to be a reason, but to my uneducated eye it looks unplanned.  However, being unplanned doesn't seem to match well with the level of effort and craftsmanship on display so I wonder if I am missing the point.

 

The more I search for examples of these pommel caps, the more I see ones with obvious patterns to them.  There must just be a few that look irregular to me that always pop up early in my web searches.

-Brian

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There are a few basic shapes that repeat with great frequency in the Scandinavian and Anglo-Saxon work. The Merovingian style has more irregular stones to make "beasts." The further you get into central Asia (the home of the technique) the more the shapes simplify into squares and rounds. The one unifying theme is crosshatched gold foil under the garnets in the cells.  

 

Anglo-Saxon and Scandinavian stones come in lots of geometric shapes, usually with a stepped border if the piece isn't part of a circle. There's a mushroom shape, which is often thought to be related to shamanic practice using Amanita muscaria, a stepped pyramid shape, and L and T shapes used to fill borders.  There's also fan and diamond shapes that fill in the spaces between the mushrooms.  Simple rectangles occur as well. Blue or green glass mounts, often swiped from Roman glass, are square or round, usually occurring as a central accent.   

 

If you look at the non-weapon Sutton Hoo stuff, particularly the shoulder clasps, they are obviously from a different workshop than the weapons mounts.  They use a totally different blind cloisonné technique to make the animal borders look like they were inlaid into solid gold.  It's all hollow.  I have a bunch of articles about this stuff from a few years ago when I was experimenting with it using red acrylic and brass instead of garnet and gold, for obvious reasons...  

 

Forum member Eldana was very helpful when I was figuring out how to bend the flat strips for the cells.  They seem to pop up when these project roll around, perhaps they'll pop in again?  

 

 

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One thing to remember about the old fashion method of mixing the gold with mercury coating what you want to guild with it and then burning the mercury off to leave the gold behind can lead to mercury poisoning.  Look at gun smithing site.  I believe they have a product for gildings that won't damage the neurons.

 

Doug

HELP...I'm a twenty year old trapped in the body of an old man!!!

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  • 1 month later...

Ford Hallam does "Butter of Gold" for one of his really nice Tsuba videos. Yes, it's dangerous, and yes, excellent ventilation and air control is advised, along with a respirator, if you decide to try it. I hung on to an old thermostat just for the mercury, thinking I may do it one day. No immediate plans, and gold is too expensive today, but it's on my list before I die.

The Tidewater Forge

Christopher Price, Bladesmith

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First or second grade a kid brought a whole hand full of mercury to school, we all played with it, and IIRC somebody even put some in his mouth.

That was the 80's 

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I keep thinking about those lyrics "growing up in the shadow of a mushroom cloud", and movies that combine nuclear holocaust and the second coming :ph34r:
:lol:

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I remember when the clinic that I worked in had to have its mercury filled blood pressure gauges removed by a has-mat.  There was nothing to it other than having the units dismounted from the wall and having the mercury properly disposed of.

 

Doug

HELP...I'm a twenty year old trapped in the body of an old man!!!

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