Mokume Gane

If you’ve never seen mokume gane before it might look like magic to you. It sort of is magic. I love the wood grain look of mokume and making it is one of my greatest creative joys. It is a very old technique that originated in Japan, alongside some of their intense sword making techniques. Have you ever heard of damascus, or pattern welded steel? Damascus and mokume are very similar in some ways, the distinction is that mokume gane is made with non ferrous, and sometimes precious, metals while damascus is made with ferrous metals (metal containing iron).


The technique I use to create Mokume starts with many sheets of at least two different metals. The idea is to create a loose or tight pattern based on the number of layers and how far they are compressed. The sheets (in this case silver and white gold) are stacked together and fused with a torch in a forge/ kiln sort of thing. The process can be very simple but also very very picky. One small bit of dirt left on even one sheet can cause catastrophic cracking later on. Also if you get it slightly too hot the whole pile can melt, forcing you to start over with new metal. A good bond is the goal here so the metals can be seamlessly formed into a final product.


When the metal has fused and is forged out some, the bonds have become stronger and the piece can be patterned. The words mokume gane refer to the wood grain like pattern that emerges from the bonded metals when some of the material is removed. Once carved the lower layers become visible and are pushed up to the surface during the forging  to create a flush, detailed pattern.


At this stage I love its resemblance to some ancient artifact of a lost culture. This blackened little slab will now be turned into a pair of wedding bands carved from the same source, a wonderful little metaphor for a marriage itself.