Here’s how a Viking dragon pendant design begins. I established the top half (dragon head) first with pencil, followed by inking, scanning and Adobe Photoshop cleanup. Then I tailored the lower half (dragon body) to the head. Above, the basic design is about half complete.
Fleshing out the details on the titanium Viking Dragon Pendant. I typically add to complex designs like this in increments, with lots of editing in between…notice the center image has a much different bottom to the Celtic knotwork than the version on the left.
Making the eighth inch thick Grade 2 titanium blank for the Viking Dragon Pendant. Sawing it out on the bandsaw. With a decent bi-metal bandsaw blade (I have a Starrett), this little Harbor Freight hunk-of-junk actually does a very credible job, sawing eighth inch thick titanium quickly and easily.
Grinding and filing the edges true.
Here I’m filing a crown on the front surface. The red is Sharpie™ permanent marker, which shows me the remaining low spots. As you might guess, filing titanium isn’t one of my favorite activities. I use a little pitch and glue it to a narrow hardwood chunk and hold it in the end vise of my woodworking bench – simple
, but very handy.
I end up by sanding the blank to a satin finish using increasingly finer grit sandpaper, rubber cemented to hardwood blocks.
Here’s a handy little trick I use to file the edges of the titanium blank – a Jorgensen wood clamp held in the end vise of my woodworking bench.
Now to get design approval from my client and we’ll start this show…
I begin by mounting the knife on a hardwood holder (originally designed by engraver Mitch Moschetti) with Thermolock™ plastic. By the way, you can see the transfer on baking parchment in the upper image – I print out a number of patterns (mirror image, of course). It took me three tries to get everything centered properly on this one – and that’s not unusual.
I got the design transferred onto the titanium Viking Dragon Pendant, and mounted it in Thermolock, ready to start engraving. I use baking parchment, laser printer and dammar varnish.
Laser printer toner is actually a plastic that is melted onto paper – laser printed on kitchen baking parchment
, the melted toner barely sticks to it.
Dammar varnish is a varnish that is painted onto a dry oil painting for protection – for this transfer I paint the varnish onto the metal, let it partially dry to VERY sticky, then burnish the baking parchment and toner – the toner comes off of the parchment and sticks to the varnish on the metal. Solvent will remove the varnish after engraving.
The titanium Viking Dragon Pendant with all of the basic design lines engraved…that turned out to be a lot of cutting! Next, I’ll begin to add in the gold inlays…
Here’s a graphic detailing the basic wire inlay process. Should I need a wider inlay, I simply add in parallel wires, punching them down until the seams can no longer be seen. High karat gold (if it is clean!) will readily cold-weld to itself, resulting in a solid metal inlay.
Inlaying most of the 24 karat gold in the titanium Viking Dragon Pendant. Above, you can see the four major steps (numbered in order) of making the pockets for the gold wire inlay. I begin by using a V-graver to make parallel cuts in the waste areas (Number 1 above). I follow with tiny carbide burs to remove the excess metal (Number 2). Once the waste metal is removed, I follow by using a really tiny flat graver to undercut the edges. In this case, the wide areas of these inlays require more than one width of gold wire, so I also add tiny little hooks in the bottom of the inlay pockets for additional holding power (Number 3).
Above (Number 4), I’m adding 24 karat gold wires (28 gauge AWG) into the pockets, lightly tacking them lightly into place with a small brass punch. The brass punch will flatten the gold nicely but won’t damage the surrounding steel.
Once all the wires are in place I use the same brass punch to heavily smash the gold into place. The gold will flow into the undercut edges and hooks, permanently locking it into place. A properly finished inlay like this will require complete destruction to remove the wire.
In the image above, you can see the inlay scraped and stoned completely flat. Four more inlays to go, but I’m done for today.
All of the of the 24 karat gold inlays are installed in the titanium Viking Dragon Pendant, except the eye, which will go in after sculpting the head. A really tiny line cut around the edge of the gold with a really tiny V-graver (in the titanium, not the gold!) adds definition (see the teeth and claws). I follow the definition line with stippling around the gold inlay to really make the gold pop.
Sculpting the head of the Titanium Viking Dragon Pendant. First, I remove the background around the head. I begin by using a V-graver to make parallel cuts in the waste areas (1st image above). I follow with tiny carbide burs to remove the excess metal (2nd image).
Next, I use flat gravers (images above) to begin sculpting the curly-cues on the head. I’ll follow with flat-nosed punches to smooth out the facets left by the flat gravers.
Above, the head has been fully sculpted. The final inking will be done with Rustoleum Flat Black Enamel, but these interim (and temporary) blackenings are just black Sharpie™ brand permanent marker.
Bit of a chore on the Titanium Viking Dragon Pendant – background removal. Not loads of fun, but the results end up being stunning…
Adding a little surprise to the Titanium Viking Dragon Pendant – and completing the background removal.
Not much longer on the Viking Dragon Pendant – maybe 70% of the background stippling completed. Stippling requires a lot of concentration and attention – not much fun, but in the end the resulting increased “fineness” is well worth it!
Stippling complete on the Viking Dragon Pendant, and the gold eye added. Shading and detailing left to go.
Above, you can see the fine shading cuts where the Celtic ribbons go under each other, and the crosshatching on the dragon’s tail. These will really leap out once they’re inked.
The Viking Dragon Pendant is finished! Two and a half inches tall, in Grade 2 Titanium and 24 karat gold. Just in time, since my compressor sacrificed its’ last gasp bringing this Dragon to life! Not to worry, though – new one in by the end of the week!
Thanks for Looking!
This is so cool! I especially like the detail work and how you did the inlay and I’ll be able to use your techniques on some Viking axe heads I’m creating
Thanks for the kind words, Raul. I hope my worm tracks help!
I have be looking for a Viking dragon pendant and I saw this. I love and was wanting to know how I could buy one, such great work.
Thanks for the kind words! I very seldom take commissions and I don’t have a waiting list. Most things I make are because they speak to me at the moment (I’ve got to stop listening to the voices). My own work takes up most of my time. Below are links to the two knife websites where I sell most of my work. Maybe stay tuned to see what kind of craziness shows up? Tom