Mokume-Gane Metal Techniques

Mokume-Gane Metal Techniques with James Binnion. This is a very old technique of fusing various different metals together using pressure and heat.

4 Minute Read

HomeLearning CenterJewelry and LapidaryMokume-Gane Metal Techniques

IGS may receive customer referral fees from the companies listed in this page.

Mokume-Gane Metal Techniques with James Binnion

Of all the demonstrations this is the one I wanted to see. I have always been fascinated by this metal working process.

James Binnion starting the lecture/metal techniques

This is a very old technique of fusing various different metals together using pressure and heat.

No solder is used, solderless fusing is required for the metal to be worked. Solder is not strong enough and will break apart during forging.

This method is finally beginning to become better known and used by a wider variety of metal smiths.  This method was in danger of dying out and is just now being revived.

If you have ever seen a Damascus knife blade or heard of the ancient Samurai swords that were made by working and folding the metal hundreds of times to create layers, this technique is similar.

The main difference is that in this application of the technique, precious metals are used. Gold (of different carats, compositions, and colors), platinum, silver, copper, brass, iron (of all types), and others are used.

In general, precious metals like Gold and Platinum are used together, and less precious metals like Brass and Copper are used together.

Stainless steel bag

The metals that are going to be used together are generally cut to similar sizes first. Then the metals are cleaned and scrubbed very carefully and fitted together.

Note: The metals are usually clamped together under high pressure using a steel clamp with bolts made out of metal that will withstand the oven heat.

Then the clamp and metal are put into a stainless steel bag, made out of a thin stainless steel sheet. The bag is filled with charcoal, sealed and heated at whatever temperature is required depending on the metals being fused.

Note: Commercial makers use an atmospherically controlled oven to achieve a reduction burn (no oxygen). But the stainless steel bags work fine for someone that does not have the $40,000 plus it takes for a controlled oven.

A fused block of metalIs an example of some metal that has been fused together using this technique.

Once the metal has been fused together it is time to manipulate it to create patterns.

The block of fused metal (left) is usually milled for various thicknesses, depending on the patterns, effects and final use that the metal is going to be used for.

Various stages of milling, annealing, milling, stamping, carving and cutting are applied.

Knowing what technique or action makes what patterns and effects is where the real knowledge and expertise is required.

Marks being cut in the layers of metal

Metal block being sanded

Marks being cut in the layers of metalThis is the same piece of metal as above and as you can see there are various marks being cut and incised before this piece is milled thinner.

Once the metal has been textured, incised, or carved, it will be milled and forged.

Then the metal will be annealed, reforged and milled again. It can be stamped, and reworked many times and was.

Different thicknesses of metals are needed for making different pieces of jewelry or items.

This example is copper and silver, it really is quite pretty together and you can see the metal layers in the stamped and incised areas.

Marks being cut in the layers of metalThis is the same piece of metal as above viewed from the fount side.

The stamped marks are on the back of this piece of metal.

Once the marks are made in the block of metal and it has been milled… the metal is ground off on the fount side.

The grinding cuts through the various layers that have been stamped into the metal from the back.

Note: As you may have guessed the round type stamps make a bullseye effect.

Mokume metal sheet being formedOnce the proper thickness and patterns have been created in the metal, it is time to make it into something.

There are all kinds of ways to form metal. Cutting, soldering, hammering and so on.

But with Mokume, the patterns are in the actual metal sheet, and it is often desirable to form the metal with methods that do not actually change the patterns and layers of colored metal that you have worked so hard to achieve.

Left - One good way to form the metal is with a hydraulic press.

 Formed jar lidThis is a formed jar lid from a sheet of Mokume. This lid was for a mokume jar that Jim Binnion made.

As you can see the patterns in the Mokume metal were not altered during the forming. Forming makes a very nice clean shape, without soldering, grinding or soldering.

In general, almost all of the Mokume pieces are finished in a flat sanded look. Mokume, because of the layers and the contrast shows best in a flat finish.

Of course, sometimes pieces are polished and there are several different levels of flat and polished finishes available to a Mokume metal smith. It just depends on the piece and the impact the artist wants.

Here are some more examples of Mokume.

Left is several examples of Mokume from the fount side.
The back sides of the same pieces of Mokume. As you cans see, depending on the process the sides do not match.
This example is Gold/Platinum/Iron.
This is an example of mokume that has been rough ground, but not finished. This piece of Mokume is Platinum, Gold, and Iron. As you can see the effects that can be achieved using Mokume methods are quite varied.

I think that this method of metalworking is one of the most interesting and unique techniques that there is.

James Binnion
Phone 360-765-6550

Here is a cool full screenshot of a piece of Mokume.

Jeff R. Graham

The late Jeff Graham was a prolific faceter, creator of many original faceting designs, and the author of several highly-regarded instructional faceting books such as Gram Faceting Designs.

Never Stop Learning

When you join the IGS community, you get trusted diamond & gemstone information when you need it.

Become a Member

Get Gemology Insights

Get started with the International Gem Society’s free guide to gemstone identification. Join our weekly newsletter & get a free copy of the Gem ID Checklist!