Titanium Tiger and Bamboo Dogtag Tutorial


I’m starting a new project

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, a Tiger and Bamboo themed titanium dogtag in Japanese shishiaibori-style (sunken relief). All of the design is carved below the original surface of the metal. This has the advantage of protecting the engraving from damage and/or wear and tear.

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So far just extra deep outlines with some flat graver sculpting. Obtaining these very deep outlines is a bit of a tricky technique. I make several successive cuts with gravers of decreasing width, going deeper each time, but trying to make certain I don;t widen the original line width.

Above is a simplified graphic explaining the Japanese Shishiaibori technique.

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Lots more sculpting on the titanium Tiger and Bamboo Dogtag. The paw and the right hand bamboo stalk are finished. Notice how much smoother and refined the appearance of the second image is after using the punch to smooth the head. The punch leaves behind a nice texture as well.

I spent the day refining the punch sculpting and doing kitty dentistry. Above, I’m carving the teeth and tongue with burs.

Here, I’m punch sculpting the teeth. Notice how they immediately take on a smoother and more “toothy” look.

Here, using a tiny 90 degree V-graver to refine the border around the teeth, tongue and lips. This tiny, almost invisible to the naked eye line provides a very finished look to the mouth.


, above, the whole dogtag.  I’ve done a little temporary inking with a Sharpie™ brand black permanent felt-tip marker.

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The titanium and 24 karat gold Tiger and Bamboo Dogtag is finished (except for inking). I’ve also added inlaid 24 karat gold eyes, and they’ve really made the tiger’s personality shine.

I often make my own titanium jewelry blanks, but this one is a Boker-manufactured grade 1 titanium dogtag. I got a great deal on a few blank ones, and couldn’t resist. The Grade 1 titanium engraves and sculpts like a dream!

Here it is in the finished configuration and inked. Now you can really see the stripes – they are simply tiny shading cuts, very closely spaced.

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Above are some oblique views of the Tiger and Bamboo Dogtag.

This one surprised me – it’s a LOT more effort than I had anticipated. Difficult modeling on the tiger, but these things occasionally sneak up on me.  I spent easily double the time I estimated working on this.  If I was to price it based solely on time and materials, the price would be double what I think I could realize for it.  I’ll have to reserve this sort of detailed sculpting for only the more involved pieces.

Hand engraved in Japanese-style shishiaibori (sunken relief), Grade 1 titanium and 24 karat gold, 20 inch leather neck cord included.

Thanks for Looking!
Tom Sterling

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2 Responses to Titanium Tiger and Bamboo Dogtag Tutorial

  1. Love your engraving style, so beautifully crafted. I find great inspiration in your blog. Thank you!

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