Mokume Gane — A Comprehensive Study | Introduction

 

From History to Firing Methods to patterning – Everything to know about MOkume Gane

Dear Friends,

Twenty years ago I was deep into the work of creating this book, working with the other contributors, selecting images and writing everything I knew about the art and craft of Mokume Gane. Google was one year old and my son Jacob (the other half of Steven Jacob) was in middle school. Much has changed since that time. Mokume is still not a household word, but I DO actually run into people that have nothing to do with metalwork who say things like, “Yes, I’ve heard of that, my Dad has a knife with a Mokume handle,” or “Our best friends have awesome wedding rings made out of that.”

When this book was first published there were only a handful of metal artists scattered around the world who had dedicated themselves to exploring the depths of this amazing technique. There were many others that encountered it in one form or another in school and made a few pieces with varying degrees of success. While there was a good deal of information in a number of publications about the process, there was no one source for up-to-date, science-based information on a variety of best practices for creating one’s own Mokume Gane. This book, I am happy to say, seemed to fill that gap, and offer the instruction for which many metalworkers were longing.

Mokume Gane — A Comprehensive Study has been out of print now for years, and I have been asked many times to reprint it. My reply was always the same, “I don’t want to just reprint it, I want to write a completely updated, new edition,” followed very closely by, “… and I don’t have time to do that!” The offering of this book in the format you’ll find here is my attempt to do both. It will make this still-very-relevant information in its entirety, available to all — free of charge.

I’m also excited to say that the “NEW LAYERS — What We’ve Learned Since” section at the end of each book post will provide a venue to explore and discuss new innovations in the field of patterned metals and will feature tips, guidance and exquisite new work by the world’s most revered makers. The last twenty years have blurred the lines between Mokume Gane and Damascus Steel, as many knifemakers have started making Mokume, while Mokume practitioners use their knowledge and techniques to create Damascus. I will use NEW LAYERS to update you on what I’ve been learning about patterned metals, and will invite other artists and innovators to share their unique insights as well. Since there is lots of new information to present here, I ask for your patience while I do the work to get it up.

It is my hope that by sharing this information (in multiple blog posts through the end of this year) that the creation and appreciation of Mokume Gane will continue to evolve and expand. My one request of you, dear reader, is that you be respectful in you comments below (which are encouraged!) and also in your actions. Remember, this is a copyrighted work, as are the images that belong to the contributing artists. Use their images to inspire you and this information to help you create your own masterpieces to share with the world. Perhaps, with your help, it will not be long before Mokume DOES become a household word!

— Steve Midgett, May 31, 2019


 
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Mokume Gane — A Comprehensive Study

Steve Midgett, author. Photo by Terra Rose Midgett.

Steve Midgett, author. Photo by Terra Rose Midgett.

This comprehensive book provides solid information about the process of mokume gane (wood grain metal). From its beginnings in ancient Japan to its current renaissance in the digital age, Steve Midgett traces its history and applications. With the help of other prominent artists in the field, he provides detailed instruction for metalsmiths, jewelers, and knifemakers who want to produce their own top quality mokume. Each technique is thoroughly covered, with tips from the finest makers in the world. The text is copiously illustrated with over 150 color photos and includes 25 pages of mokume gane art by accomplished masters. All the technical data is here, too, with step-by-step instructions, information on metal compatibility, and firing temperatures. All this and more makes Mokume Gane A Comprehensive Study an essential tool for any metalworkers shop.

Want to Learn About Mokume?

This book provides a shortcut for those looking for reliable information on the mokume process and methods that really work. It contains instruction and advice from the world’s top mokume artists, who have all spent years perfecting the methods outlined here. You are the beneficiary of their accumulated knowledge. Combined with solid technical data, this gives readers a firm grasp of the mokume process and the knowledge with which to produce their own.

The Author: Steve Midgett

Steve Midgett is internationally recognized as a leading authority on the subject of mokume gane. His fascination with this technique spans three decades, and his company, Steven Jacob, has specialized in mokume jewelry since 1989. A JCK Rising Star Designer and Niche Award winner, Steve presents lectures and workshops on mokume gane and is the author of the book and instructional video “Mokume Gane in the Small Shop.”

Other Contributors

James Binnion, Robert Coogan, and Hiroko Sato and Eugene Michael Pijanowski


Mokume Gane

A Comprehensive Study

BY

Steve Midgett

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©2000-2019 STEVE MIDGETT and STEVEN JACOB INC. All rights reserved. Copyrighted materials – no portion to be reproduced without written permission from STEVEN JACOB INC.

Book design by Steve Midgett.
Book layout and illustrations by Michele Souma.
Photos of all artwork herein are by the artists themselves, unless otherwise noted.
All other photos by Steve Midgett.

Published by:
Earthshine Press

Printed in Hong Kong.

Library of Congress Catalog Card Number: 99-96732

DISCLAIMER

Earthshine Press, Steve Midgett, Steven Jacob Inc. and the other contributors to this book, specifically disclaim any responsibility or liability for damage or injuries as a result of any construction, design, use, manufacture, or other activity undertaken as a result of the use or application of information contained in this book, or for any result arising from any additional use, process or activity not herein described or recommended, when such additional process or activity may be affected upon any product or activity depicted herein.

ISBN 0-9651650-7-8


Acknowledgements

There are a number of people who I would like to thank for their help in making this book possible. Thanks first, to Jim Binnion and Bob Coogan for the in-depth articles they wrote sharing the knowledge of their firing techniques. I am also grateful for the technical and historical information provided by Hiroko Sato and Eugene Michael Pijanowski. Others who have been most generous with their knowledge and information, include Jerry Gould, Ian Ferguson, Nicole DesChamps, and Alistair McCallum. A special thank you to all the mokume artists who contributed photos for this project. It is only through the use of these fine photographs that the techniques described herein can fully be appreciated. I would also like to acknowledge several people who generously shared technical and historical information which has allowed me to piece together the story of mokume gane, among them, Brian Chaix, Wayne Victor Meeten, Caleb Conelly, and Tim McCrieght. I wish to thank the people who helped me put the book together; Michele Souma, and proofreader Chris Weston. I can not stop without saying a big thank you, to my stellar assistant, Melinda Siri, who puts up with my creative process on a daily basis. Last, but not least, I want to thank the many people who bought my first book and video, as well as my many students who encouraged me to write a second book; to them, I am most grateful.


This book is dedicated to my children,

Aaron, Jacob, and Terra Rose.

Shield Series Pin/Pendant by Steve Midgett. Platinum, shakudo, 22K gold and tourmaline.

Shield Series Pin/Pendant by Steve Midgett. Platinum, shakudo, 22K gold and tourmaline.


Contents

Chapter I: The History of Mokume Gane
Part 1: Development of Mokume in Japan
Part 2: Mokume in the West

Chapter II: Mokume Gane Basics — An Overview of Bonding Methods

Chapter III: Metals for Mokume — Copper, Silver, Gold and Platinum Alloys, and How to Alloy Your Own

Chapter IV: Metallurgical Theory for Mokume Gane — Understanding Metals and How They Bond

Chapter V: Tools and Equipment — Necessary Tools for Mokume Gane

Chapter VI: Preparing the Billet — Planning and Preparing a Billet for Firing

Chapter VII: Firing Methods
Part 1: Making a Mokume Mini Kiln and Using It
Part 2: Forge Fired Mokume Gane by Robert Coogan
Part 3: Electric Kiln Fired Mokume by James Binnion
Part 4: Solder Bonded Mokume by Alistair McCallum

Chapter VIII: From Billet to Sheet

Chapter IX: Patterning — Patterning Techniques for Mokume

Chapter X: Finishing Techniques — Texture and Color

Project Demonstrations — Step by Step
Project 1: Mokume Accent Ring
Project 2: Cast Inlay Ring
Project 3: Fabricated Mokume Band
Project 4: Gouge Patterned Pin
Project 5: Twist Patterned Bracelet

Afterword, Troubleshooting Guide, Bibliography, Resources

IMPORTANT NOTE: Please be aware that I will be releasing the remaining chapters of the book throughout the rest of this year. There is a lot of new information that I wish to include with them, and ask for your patience. Thank you! SM


Introduction

I wrote my first book, Mokume Gane in the Small Shop, to provide individual metalsmiths, students, and jewelers with a means of creating top-quality mokume with limited equipment and resources. This book is different in several important ways. It still covers the “low tech” method, which I have been using and teaching others to use for the past decade, and all of this information has been updated to give the reader a complete understanding of my process. In addition, I am very pleased to have contributions to this book written by some of the most revered mokume artists in the world, presenting their own different approaches to the technique. James Binnion has contributed some fabulous information born of years of experience with kiln fired mokume, while Robert Coogan relates his technique of gas, forge firing mokume and working it from the perspective of a knife maker. You may notice in this book, that some of the information is seemingly contradictory. One artist may suggest a certain part of the process that another shuns, and yet both have success with their techniques. My advice to you, is to take what you can from all of the contributors in this book and use what seems most appropriate, based on your own experiences with metal and the tools you have available to you. Scattered throughout the book are photos of work and quotes from some of the finest metalsmiths and designers working with this technique today. So whether you’re a jewelry student, designer, manufacturer, bladesmith, or a collector of this unique style of metalwork, this book has something for you. Enjoy!