Mokume Gane Process

How to Create
Mokume Gane Jewelry

If you’ve ever wanted to learn how to create Mokume Gane jewelry, this article outlines all of the painstaking, detailed work that goes into this ancient Japanese metalwork.

1. MOKUME GANE PROCESS: BILLET

The Supplies You’ll Need

  • sandpaper (between 180 and 260-grit)
  • scotch-brite pad
  • pumice powder
  • pure, distilled water
  • latex gloves
  • metals (e.g. yellow, gold, white gold, platinum, palladium, sterling silver)

1.1 Select, Clean, and Dry Your Metals

You’ll need to start by polishing the outer layers of the metals you’ll be working with. Using a small amount of water, lightly scour each metal piece with sandpaper. We recommend following the same direction each time (e.g. lateral, diagonal). This entire cleaning process can take between 90 and 120 minutes.
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When you’ve completed this process, there will be a distinct difference in your metal (as seen below):
Mokume gane multi layered gold silver cleaning process
Next, rinse all of your metal pieces with water and repeat the process with pumice powder and the scotch- brite pad.
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After this round of cleansing, place your metal pieces inside a bowl and cover with distilled water to minimize oxidation
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When you’re ready to work with your pieces, carefully dry them with a high-quality paper towel and set aside on a new piece of towel.
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Pro tip: We start drying metals with larger amounts of copper first.
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To ensure that each strip is fully dried, we use a dryer machine. A hair dryer may work if you don’t have an industrial option.
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1.2 Order the Metal Billet

Next, stack the billet in the order you want. You could choose to layer something like an 18k gold-copper-white gold pattern. You might select a simpler palladium-gold pattern. There are endless ways to produce Mokume Gane.
layers of metal ready to start Mokume gane process by jaume labro

1.3 Press with Torque Plates

Now I take torque plates and cover them with graphite. This keeps them from bonding to the metal billet once heat and pressure are applied.
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Next, I place the metal billet between the torque plates and press under 12 tons of pressure for about one minute.
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1.4 Prepare the Billet for Firing

Because charcoal absorbs oxygen, it’s ideal to pack any empty space within the torque plates . This ensures that oxygen isn’t able to reach the metal inside and keeps the metal free of oxidation (which is the worst thing to happen during the Mokume Gane process).
Another option is to use an atmosphere-free oven with nitrogen or argon.
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Mokume gane metal preparation for the oven by jaume labro
Next, add stainless steel foil to cover as much of the crevice as possible. During the firing process, high temperatures will burn the paper while keeping the charcoal intact.
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1.5 Fire the Billet

Now I put everything inside the kiln, then choose the time and temperature according to the metals I’m using for this firing. The rule of thumb is keeping the metals below melting point yet hot enough to ensure they bond together. This differs between pieces of equipment and is typically learned through trial and error. Simply put: Using a variety of metals requires different heat and time.
Mokume gane billet ready to be fired on the kiln with the torques pressure

2. MOKUME GANE PROCESS: BILLET FORGING AND SHAPING

Once the billet is finished, we file the sides to ensure that the metal layers are evenly lined up. We also check for any potential cracks.
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2.1 Cover the Billet with Soft solder

Once the structural integrity is determined, we fully cover the billet with soft solder. This helps to strengthen the billet against potential cracks during the forging process.
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2.2 Anneal Often

Throughout the forging process, we anneal our billets with a torch to bolster their structural integrity. This makes the billet more malleable which prevents it from producing cracks. Billets should produce an almost-red glow. You should start working with them as soon as the reddish color fades to black (though it will still be hot).
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Mokume-gane-billet-forging-technique

2.3 Use a Rolling Machine

To thin the billet by more than 50%, we use the rolling machine to reduce both sides. It’s incredibly important to do this progressively.
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Anneal after every second round (both sides of the billet).

2.4 Begin Shaping the Billet

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Once the billet is reduced to the desired width, it’s time to give it some shape.
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2.5 The Shaping Process

When the billet is “rounded” using a hammer, file off the soldering that was added before to get a clean surface.
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Anneal then fix the billet to your bench. With your hammer, continue to hammer (e.g. forging, twisting) into the desired shape and anneal again.
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2.6 Take Your Time

Mokume Gane is a methodical process, so be sure to shape your billet slowly, annealing regularly. You cannot anneal too much or too often, as long as it’s done correctly.
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2.7 Flatten the Billet

Using your hammer, flatten the billet and anneal once again.
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After running it through the rolling machine again, you will have a square billet that showcases a soft, flowing pattern.
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Alternate between annealing and feeding the billet through a progressively smaller rolling machine space. Typically, we repeat this process at least 10 times until the desired thickness is reached (determined by the ring design).
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creating your Mokume gane ring in Japan using sustainable metals by labro

3. MOKUME GANE PROCESS: PATTERN

Creating Your Mokume Gane Pattern

We start by marking the desired pattern with a pen. There is no wrong way to develop a brand’s pattern, but it’s important to remember that they will be 3-dimensional and then flattened. The chosen pattern will dramatically affect the piece’s depth and angles.
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To minimize the loss of precious metal during our pattern-making, we carry out work within a plexiglass box.
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Hammer and Anneal Repeatedly

Hammering and annealing your Mokume Gane rod will allow you to see the pattern better. By repeating the same process several times, we achieve the desired pattern while carving deeper into multiple layers.
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Anneal, Hammer, and Roll

Once it’s hammer-flattened a bit more, anneal your piece again to make it soft enough for the next steps: I recommend annealing, rolling 2-3 times, and repeating the process several times until the desired width is achieved.
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Once the Mokume Gane is flattened as much as possible, the final pattern will be achieved.
beautiful Mokume gane pattern process for japanese rings ethically sourced metals by labro

4. MOKUME GANE PROCESS: RING CREATION WITH LINER

How to Create a Mokume Gane Ring (with liner)

Like most steps in the Mokume Gane process, start with annealing the metal.

Calculate How Much Metal You Need

Next, calculate the metal you’ll need (length). This is the total cubic millimeter.

For example, if a ring is supposed to be 5mm wide and 2mm thick, the circumference length would be 100mm long.

The cubic millimeter, however, would be calculated this way:
5x2x100=1,000mm3.

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wood grain metal Mokume pattern ring creation process by jaume labro

Calculate How Much Metal You Need

Using a metal file, be sure to thoroughly file the ends of the Mokume Gane piece, removing any rough edges.
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Mokume gane ring process by jaume labro award master crafstman
Next, annealing the piece will allow you to bend the metal to produce the external ring (this particular ring will have a liner). A Mokume Gane ring will be thinner without a liner.
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Solder the Seams

After bending and fitting the ring , solder both of the ends (seam).
create your own ring in Mokume gane for your wedding at jaume labro
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Clean the Ends

Next, clean the interior of the mokume, using an electric file (or router) to remove rough edges. Be sure to check that the ring is without pin points (porosity). Finally, gently file the outside and follow with another anneal.
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Focus on Shaping

This is the point in the Mokume Gane process where you adjust the size or diameter by making both edges totally flat and parallel by sliding the ring onto an iron mandrel and pounding it with a wood hammer (to avoid causing surface damage). File any jagged edges and use sandpaper to finish polishing the piece.
Mokume gane rings and bands process by jaume labro
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sustainable Mokume gane engagement rings by labro
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Check the Width

Once the edges and sides are perfectly aligned and polished, carefully check to see if the width is correct using a caliper. Below, you can see a nearly-perfect 5mm-wide ring.
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Because this specific ring will be slightly domed, I will file and round out the sides a little bit.
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Create the Ring Liner

Once the mokume has the desired dome shape, we will add the liner. Note: The interior liner should fit the client’s finger size, not the external ring.
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Creating a ring liner is similar to a simple ring process: It requires proper measurement, smoothing, and fitting to ensure that it fits the client’s finger perfectly.
After soldering, we apply the “pickle” solution, which is a chemical used to remove oxidation caused by firing. Once it’s thoroughly cleaned and dried, we will proceed to clean the edges of the ring from extra material and ensure that the piece is properly soldered.
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Polish the Ring

At this stage, the polishing process begins. First, focus on the small grooves on the sides and then finish the mokume with sandpaper.
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bespoke jewellery designer jaume labro Mokume gane wedding bands process
Mokume gane wedding bands process by jaume labro sustainable jewelry
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Lightly sweep the ring across sandpaper to increase shininess.
Ethical wood eye metal wedding rings process in Mokume gane by labro
Check and file any remaining non-flat surface or solder using sandpaper. Polish with microscopic diamond creams until the ring shines. Typically, we start with a rougher grit and end with the finest to make it gleam.
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Ensure the Correct Size

Check the size to make sure it is correct. We make the rings with the leading edge touching the line of the ring sizing mandrel.
unique Mokume gane rings by master craftsman jaume labro bridal jewelry
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Polish Once Again

Use a very thin polishing paste for the ultimate shine, then clean with an ultrasonic device.
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To etch Mokume Gane rings, we then immerse the piece in a solution of water and nitric acid. That said, every expert has a favored technique to produce their jewelry.

5. MOKUME GANE PROCESS: ETCHING

How to Etch Mokume Gane Jewelry

The final part of the Mokume Gane process involves etching. This is the delicate erosion of silver or gold to create an organic, multi-level look.

Professional disclaimer: Always use protective masks and goggles while carrying out this process.

At Jaume Labro, we’ve developed our own chemical formula to etch our Mokume Gane jewelry. A quick bath that covers the entire piece is required.

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Polish the Mokume Gane Ring

Once the etching is finished, polish the jewelry piece once more and finish with the ultrasonic cleaner.

Never pour chemicals down the drain. Our company is determined to neutralize/recycle our products in an environmentally-friendly way. We pay a waste management company to neutralize the chemicals used during the etching process.

To produce the finest Mokume Gane jewelry, Jaume Labro acts ecologically, recycles precious metals, and leaves as little negative impact on the world as possible.

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