Now that my “canvas” is completed, it’s time to turn my efforts to the design phase of the project. I’ve spent an awful lot of time making the knife, and I’m concerned about inlaying the gold ants in the shibuichi. I’ve inlaid one in nickel before, but not shibuichi, so, in keeping with my policy of “graceful degradation” I’m going to employ a little risk reduction strategy. In short, I’m going to practice with the offcut leftover piece of shibuichi from the handle scales, and rather than just doing a practice plate, I’ll take a small risk with my time and make a pendant with an inlaid 24karat gold ant.
Above is the process I often use in designing my artwork.
1) On the left, I start with a scan of the leftover shibuichi offcut.
2) Next, tracing the edges, I print out the outline and sketch in the design, scanning it in again.
3) Using Adobe Photoshop, I “cut out” the pieces and arrange them on the screen, then add/subtract/adjust as required.
4) Finally, I produce a full scale pattern (the image on the right), and print it out.
Here, I’ve begun sawing out the two pieces with a jeweler’s saw and tiny 2/0 blade. I employ a little strategy here, by cutting out the small pieces around the edges first, and have partially cut the top portion away. I do it this way trying to keep everything together as long as I can to avoid handling tiny pieces. They tend to fly away and land in the nearest pile of sawdust or other assorted crud…no reason to make this harder than it needs to be!
Note here I cut away the tiny and convoluted top piece first. The larger piece is still fairly easy to handle, but if there were other chunks needing to be removed from the small piece, it would be difficult to handle.
Above are the sawn pieces. Note the edges are still pretty rough. I’ll be filing with jeweler’s files to clean up everything, as well as also using my NSK micromotor grinder and carbide burrs. Whatever it takes…
Here is the pendant all cleaned and trimmed up. Since shibuichi is a copper/silver alloy, being against someone’s skin will cause the metal to corrode. To prevent that, I’m going to solder a silver sheet on the back. Here I’ve marked the general outline of the pendant on a piece of 28 gauge silver sheet, and will cut it out with some metal shears.
Ov course, when I cut the silver sheet with the metal shears, it will deform the metal, bending it as I cut. Above, I’m flattening the cut bit of sheet between two thick aluminum blocks in my big blacksmith’s vise. Just one big squeeze will do the trick!
Above, I’ve spread a silver-bearing easy solder paste onto the silver sheet and two shibuichi pieces, lying on a heat-resistant soldering pad. I previously cleaned all three surfaces VERY well with my Foredom flex shaft grinder and a ScotchBrite™ pad.
Here I’m getting ready to melt the solder. Note my two little soldering helpers holding the shibuichi pieces in close contact with the silver sheet on the bottom. These things are really marvelous for soldering.
And above, the first image is before melting the solder, and the second image is after. I heat the piece slowly, waiting for the water in the paste solder to boil SLOWLY and GENTLY away. Heating it too fast will cause the water to boil too violently, moving the pieces out of alignment. Once the water is gone, I heat faster until the solder flashes to molten silver around ALL the edges.
After soldering, I wait unto the solder solidifies (usually just a few seconds), then into the Sparex pickle to dissolve the dark oxide crust that heating produces. I keep my Sparex hot in a small crockpot from the thrift store.
Here is the pendant after sawing around the shibuichi with the jeweler’s saw, then cleaned up with files and the Foredom ScotchBrite™ pad. The silver back is the image on the left, and the shibuichi side on the right. Since the silver is just 28 gauge sheet, the sawing and filing go pretty fast.