7 Reasons to Try Advanced Mokume Gane with Chris Ploof
There are pretty much three ways that we design with metal, right? We shape it (forming, cutting, curling, doming, etc.), texture it (hammering, rolling, stamping, etc.), and color it (patinas, enamel, etc. or even add gems). And then there’s mokume gane.
What is Mokume Gane?
Mokume gane is a little bit of all three–shaping, texturing, coloring metal. Even if you’ve never worked with mokume gane before, I bet you know more about it than you think. We’ve talked a lot about soldering alternative metals together–copper to silver, brass to copper, and such–so you know that soldering mixed metals requires a little extra attention. For the same reasons, soldering mokume gane requires a little special care as well–an idea that never occurred to me before I watched Chris Ploof’s mokume gane pendant-making video.
Now he has a video that really highlights all the unique, special aspects of mokume gane. Advanced Mokume Gane with Chris Ploof: Create More Metal Patterns is the prettiest, most attractive approach to mokume yet. I wrote ages ago that designs always come back to flowers for me–the shapes I cut, the pieces I stack, the designs I create are almost always flowers. So I was incredibly interested when I heard that Chris’s new video uses chasing and repousse techniques to create floral and other natural motifs in mokume gane. Holy cow!
7 Reasons to Try Mokume Gane
Watching Chris’s newest video made me want to try mokume gane like nothing ever has, because I saw a whole new beauty in the process and the result that I’ve somehow missed all these years. Here are 7 reasons why you, too, should try mokume gane.
1. Mokume gane provides very unusual patterns and designs on metal that are completely different from any other technique, treatment, or application.
2. The jewelry made using mokume gane is very, completely, totally 100% one-of-a-kind. Even if you use mokume gane billets or sheet to produce the exact same shape or style of jewelry over and over and over, the material you’re using has uniqueness inherent in it, built right into it.
3. If you like to challenge yourself or try new things, mokume gane is the craft for you, and Chris’s advanced patterning techniques provide newness and challenge, even if you already know how to make mokume gane billets or work with mokume gane sheet.
4. Scientifically speaking, mokume gane is just cool. And fascinating. There’s no solder between those layers of copper and silver or whatever metals you’re using; the two different metals are fused together, on a molecular level, in a very precise operation called diffusion. If you were a science or chemistry buff in school, mokume gane is for you! If words like metallurgy and alchemy sound mysterious and appealing to you, mokume gane is for you, too.
5. I can’t think of any other jewelry making technique (okay, I just thought of one–casting–but that’s all) that feels as old-world and artisanal and from-scratch as mokume gane.
6. Advanced Mokume Gane is packed full of expert instruction but also lots of metalsmithing tips. As you can imagine, I’ve seen a LOT of metalsmithing videos, attended a lot of classes, read a lot of books and mags. But I’m a collector of tips, and I’ve found some in his video that I’ve never heard or seen before, like the one in the photo caption on the top right of this blog, and also this . . .
7. There are chalky sticks called Tempilstiks (“temperature indicating crayons”) that you can mark on metal to gauge (within about 25 degrees) the metal’s temperature under a flame. Created for welders, they come in 50-degree increments from 100 F to 2000 F degrees. So if you want your metal to be about 1150 F degrees (which is the temp Chris uses for annealing mokume gane rods), heat it with a torch until you can mark on it with the 1150 F degree Tempilstik. If you try to mark the metal with the Tempilstik before it reaches 1150 F degrees, nothing will happen, because it won’t melt and leave a mark on the metal until it reaches the correct temperature. It’s the coolest thing I’ve seen all week!
Enjoy Learning with Chris
Chris is a funny, entertaining instructor who happens to also be an extremely knowledgeable mokume gane expert. There aren’t many chances to learn ancient arts from experts these days, so don’t miss your chance to learn advanced mokume gane patterning techniques with him in his video tutorial, Advanced Mokume Gane with Chris Ploof: Create More Metal Patterns.
P.S. It’s not necessary to own Chris’s earlier mokume videos before you can appreciate this one, because you can buy mokume gane billets and sheet already made. But if you do want to learn to make your own, check out his first video, Mokumé Gané with Chris Ploof: How to Layer and Pattern Metals plus Jewelry Design Tips. His second video, Make a Pillow Pendant with Chris Ploof, shows how to make pillow-style mokume gane pendants, which you can also make using purchased mokume gane billets or sheet. Each video can stand alone, but if you’re interested in mastering mokume gane, I recommend the first one along with the pendant one and/or this advanced one on creating patterns.
Updated June 2019.