Steampunk Viperfish

Here’s a small Work-in-Progress engraving Serge Panchenko’s exquisite Coin Claw Pendant Knife.

Above is the finished Coin Claw knife.  This was a special version of Serge’s Coin Claw, and Serge went all out by making a lovely stainless steel damascus blade, timascus spacer, 6Al4V titanium frame and spring, and a special Grade 2 titanium backplate created especially for engraving.

This is the starting canvas.  The knife alone is like a small, exquisite jewel.  Everything fits beautifully, and Serge’s finishes are topnotch.

Above is the beginning design for a nasty-piece-of-work steampunk viperfish, complete with gear-guts.

Day 1, I’ve disassembled the knife (seemed like such a shame!) and engraved the major lines of the design, cutting through Serge’s nice stonewashed finish.

The next steps are to add in all of the copper and 25 karat gold inlays.  Above, I’ve begun excavating the pockets for the copper jaw, pectoral fins and tail pivots.  I’ll follow up the excavation with undercutting the outside edges, and cutting a forest of tinyhooks in the floors of the pockets.  I’ll wind copper wire in a spiral, using a brass punch to drive the soft metal into the tiny hooks and undercuts, resulting in a solid mass that is permanently trapped in the titanium parent metal.

Here are the copper inlays left rough from the brass punch.

Above, I’ve used diesinker stones to abrade the copper down level with the parent titanium.  I’ve also begun the copper inlays in the pectoral fin rays.

More inlays, including some in 24 karat gold.  This is the end of Day 2 engraving.

Day 3.  Above, I’ve carved the fins and the tail, and inlaid the gold gears.  Only four more gold inlays to go! And, while I shouldn’t, I couldn’t resist a little background removal just to see how it’s going to look…

Here I’ve begun stippling the background with a tiny, sharp carbide punch.  Background removal and stippling is mind-numbing work, but it really makes the engraving pop!

And, once again even though I probably shouldn’t, I couldn’t resist inking what I’ve engraved so far to see how it’s going to look.  Even if I do say so myself, it’s going to be good!  Day 4, I think?  I’m not sure where Day 3 went…


More background removal, in front of the mouth.  I’m using a graver to remove a lot of the material before I switch to a small carbide bur.

And more background removal.  Did I mention that background removal is mind-numbing work?

Here’s the back plate in the engraver’s vise. I’m still working on background removal and stippling.  You can see the carbide stippling punch in my Lindsay Nitro G20 airgraver.  Its’ extra power is very useful for tough metals like titanium.  I think this is the end of Day 5.

More background removal – stippled.

There’s that section underneath the jaw that still needs the background removed, and then that’s the last of the football-sized areas.  The others should be a bit more interesting and faster.

Above, the rest of the background excavated and stippled.  Didn’t I tell you it would go faster?  This is the end of Day 6.

Above, here’s the backplate finished and inked for the last time.  I’ve engraved all the final details like the pivot pins in the backbone and the plates on the ugly fish’s back.  I’ve also shaded everything, which helps to make it all pop.

And, of course, I couldn’t leave well enough alone, and decided I needed to add a small surprise for Serge.  Since I’ve been spending so much time with his little knife, I couldn’t help notice the little banana-shaped area beneath the blade.  That just cried out for an ugly fish of its’ own…so, above, I’ve engraved the outlines with a small carbide graver.  This frame is made of 6Al4V titanium, which is a notorious material for engravers.  However, I discovered that with a really small carbide graver, I could actually engrave lightly in it without too much grief.

And, of course, since the nasty-piece-of-work viperfish on the back is pretty rich with all of her gold, the ugly fish on the front demanded her share as well.  Above, you can see the eye and the fishing lure light excavated, undercut and hooks raised, ready to inlay.

Here’s a little hint for the engravers in the audience – if all you have on hand is 28 gauge wire and the blob you want to inlay is a little large, just melt a blob on the end of the wire.  Problem solved…

Gold in place, and stoned flat.  Of course, this is where I had a thought.  It’s rare when that happens, but I noticed that the nice stonewashed background would provide a really nice contrast to bare titanium inside the fish…


, a little later after work with a couple of tiny abrasive stones, a nice silvery fish…

Above, shaded, finished and inked

But, we’re not finished yet – the titanium pivot ring is insisting on a little attention as well…  Then, reassemble all of the parts, find the tiny screw that rolled under the bench and into the trash on the floor, try to remember if the bronze washer goes on the bottom or the top; no, that’s not the screw for that hole, careful – don’t scratch that part, and then sit in front of the boob tube and admire my handiwork…I wonder if there is any way I can keep this thing?  Oops, She-Who-Must-Be-Obeyed is saying that I have to send it back to Serge…

Thanks for looking!

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