What is Mokume Gane?

Mokume Gane translates closely to "wood grain metal" or "wood eye metal”.  It is a traditional Japanese metalsmith technique for sword fittings which started back in the 1600s in Akita, Japan.  The process entails the layering of different metal sheets that are forged and manipulated to create intricate patterns.  Over many generations this technique became relatively obscure, yet now thrives in various forms – including metal clay.

  

Metal Clay was introduced in the 1990’s in Japan.  With the different types of metal clay available today, metal clay artisans can achieve similar mesmerizing patterns by mixing bronze, silver, copper, and steel clays instead of metal sheets, and a kiln instead of a forge.  This modern twist on an ancient technique is referred to as “New Mokumé Gané”.

 

Although mixing clay sounds easier than layering metal sheets and manipulating them, New Mokume Gane needs a serious amount of work to make the result successful.  Layering clay can be tricky, pre-finishing is a detailed work, and kiln firing is a lengthy process.  Finishing can be laborious, as the shrinkage rate of the different metals used requires a lot of leveling, refining and polishing work.

 

See samples in the gallery below.

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