Wedding bands are beautiful things. And mokume gane (Japanese for “wood-grained metal”) lends itself well to the symbolism of weddings. It is created from two seperate metals that are forged and twisted together to make a striking and beautiful pattern. I love how the blending of two things can combine to make something much different and unique than either one alone.
One of the main challenges of making a mokume gane wedding band is to make it without breaking the pattern, since the traditional method of cutting out a strip and soldering it leads to a line of unmatched pattern. Below are the steps that I used to create a continuous pattern mokume gane band with pictures taken during the process.
I started the project with a 16 gauge sheet of argentium and copper mokume gane from www.riogrande.com. This sheet came already annealed and ready to work.
The argentium silver has the same percentage of alloy as sterling silver, but is made up of silver, copper, and germanium (an element simular to tin) which makes it very resistant to tarnishing. The sheet is backed with a layer of argentium, which keeps the copper from contacting the skin and makes it easier to wear.
I used a Swanstrom Disk cutter with a center punch to create an even, symmetrical washer. First, I punched a 1/2 inch washer. Since this plate was 16 gauge, it took a lot of whacking! Then, I used a 1 inch center punch to center the plate. I tightened down the punch and then used the 1 inch punch to cut out the outside perimeter of the washer. Be sure to leave room around your original 1/2 inch punch so that you don’t run out of metal…I came perilously close!
Once it was cut out, I measured each side, just to double check that it was even. Call me overcareful…I always like to double check before I start.
I put the washer on my steel ring mandril pattern toward the tip. Then I hammered…a lot. I beat, banged, battered, clobbered, drove, forged, formed, hammered, knocked, pounded, pummeled, shaped, struck, tapped, thrashed, and whacked. And slowly, slowly, the inner circle of the washer stretched. When I got about halfway, it became too stiff to work any further.
Next, I annealed the washer. Since argentium melts about 60 degrees lower than sterling, I used a black permanent marker as a visual clue to help me keep from overheating it. The mark from the marker disappears at about 1000 degrees, so once it faded, the annealing was done. I let it rest a couple of minutes and then quenched it in water.
I turned the washer and started hammering from the other direction. When I approached size 10.5, I used a planishing hammer and started tapping the band to even up the flared edge (outside of the washer) and the stretched edge.
After a couple of hours of work, I had a size 12 band. These measurements would have made anything from a size 10 to a size 12.
Next, I used 250 grit sandpaper to clean up the edges on each side. Once I had even edges, I used a file and a flexible shaft tool to round the edges. Then I polished the band in a rotary tumbler with steel media for 8 hours in order to work harden the finish. Once I pulled the ring out, I roughed up the finish with a Scotch-bright pad and applied Baldwin’s Patina to darken the copper.
Stay tuned for better images of the finished ring, which will soon be listed on my Etsy store at www.etsy.com/shop/moonkistdesigns – Thanks for reading!