Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Helping a couple make their wedding rings

I had the honor to help a sweet young couple to make their very own wedding bands - and not just simple bands, mokume wedding bands.

Mokume gane is a Japanese technique. Different metals are stacked in layers, fused or soldered together, and then forged or rolled down to compress the layers together. The stack is split, the two halves are stacked, soldered and compressed again. This is repeated several times, and each time it multiplies the layers of metal. When the metal is later twisted, punched, forged and/or ground, it reveals the layers of metal in a pattern that often resembles wood grain or burls.

Cindy and Erwin came to the studio for the day and they had never made any jewelry before this class. They personally made each other's rings - every step! The first thing we did is to use our rolling mill to roll their mokume rod, composed of alternating layers of 22kt gold and sterling, from 1/4"x 2" pieces down to smaller square rods for the rings. The rolling mill compresses and elongates the thick billet down to a slender, smooth square rod.

Here you can see the layers of gold and silver in the rod.

Once the rod was a more manageable thickness, we twisted them in a vice to make the pattern for the ring, twisting the layers of metal.

The rod was then annealed and forged back to round, and then rolled into rectangular ring stock. In the picture below, you can see how the once straight layers of silver and gold are now twisted into beautiful angles.

Cindy and Erwin next formed their rings and soldered them closed.

Then I helped them to make the rings round with a ring mandrel and mallet. They had carefully measured their ring blanks, so after soldering and reshaping, and just a little stretching, they were exactly the right sizes.

After all the fabrication was done, I showed them how to file their rings to make them half round, for a more comfortable fit on the inside and to reveal more of the layers and pattern of the mokume.

To bring out more of the pattern, we etched the rings in a dilute solution of nitric acid, which etched the silver faster than the gold, leaving raised lines of gold around their bands. Then we increased the contrast by applying a patina of liver of sulphur, which darkened the silver, but left the gold untouched. A little polishing to relieve the highlights and leave the recesses antiqued, made for a great pair of mokume rings and a very sweet picture.

Cindy and Erwin were great students and did a fantastic job making each other's wedding rings. I'm proud of their work and it was a lot of fun to help them. Thanks to both of them for not only signing up to make their rings, but also bringing not just one, but two cameras to record the whole process, and for sharing those photos with me. Thank you!

If you're interested in booking your own private lesson or in making your own wedding rings, visit my website: Follow the links to email me or call the studio to find out more about how I can help you make your own rings.

If you like these rings and want one of your own, Cindy and Erwin have some left over mokume stock that I think they'd be willing to sell. Get in contact with me and let me know. I can make it for you or help you make it into a ring, too.