CRKT Burnley Squid Shishiaibori-style Engraved Bamboo Knife Tutorial

Beginning a hand engraved bamboo theme in sunken relief on a CRKT Squid knife, with an inlaid gold Ganesh cartouche.

I begin by mounting the knife on a special 2-piece hardwood holder (originally designed by engraver Mitch Moschetti). Don’t forget to tape the blade edge and point – don’t ask how I know to do this…

Note the cheap shopping bag between the knife and the grey Thermolock plastic for quick disassembly and easy cleanup. See, these bags do have a valid use after all…

The completed assembly with the bag removed and the knife in place. The copper bit is a thick shim between the scales to provide a solid base for later punch sculpting.

CRKT_Burnley_Squid_Bamboo_Knife_Tutorial_5The bamboo themed CRKT Squid with all lines cut in, first with a wide V-graver. The outside bamboo edges have been cut again with a narrower V-graver to make them much deeper. Next, I’ll begin sculpting the bamboo to a near “carved in the round” but completely below the surface. This is called shishiaibori carving, and ancient Japanese carving technique.

Here’s a graphic detailing the basic Japanese-style shishiaibori (sunken relief) process. Step 3 may or may not be needed, depending on the chosen engraving subject. Not shown is Step 6 using a flat nosed punch to smooth the carved surfaces.

After the outlines are deeply cut, then I go back with a flat graver and begin rounding over the edges of the bamboo stalks. It will take at least two passes of the flat graver to achieve the rounding I require, more passes may be required in some areas.

The second pass with the flat graver, removing another flat facet.

Here’s the bamboo themed CRKT Squid knife with the first steps of shishiaibori sculpting completed. Note the faceted look of the bamboo stems. Punch sculpting will smooth those facets out. Also, I’ve textured the bamboo leaves with a tiny round graver, leaving longitudinal cuts to define the texture of the bamboo leaves.

Once the basic carving with the flat graver is completed

, I go back in with a flat faced punch and pound all the sharp edges of the carved facets into shape. This leaves a nice texture behind, and by either using a smooth faced punch or a textured face you can achieve all sorts of surface finishes. I’ve chosen a smooth texture for the bamboo. In the above three images, you can see the surface left behind by the flat graver versus the smooth punched surface.

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.

Above, you can see the process of making the pockets for the gold wires. I begin by using a V-graver to make parallel cuts in the waste areas (1st and 2nd images above). I follow with tiny carbide burs to remove the excess metal (3rd image). 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 the trunk and ears require more than one width of gold wire (4th image). I also add tiny little hooks in the bottom of the inlay pockets for additional holding power for the gold wires.

Above (1st and 2nd images), 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 (3rd image). 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 4th image you can see the inlay scraped and stoned completely flat.

A really tiny line cut around the edge of the gold with a really tiny V-graver (in the steel, not the gold!) adds definition (1st image above). I follow the definition line with stippling around the gold inlay to really make the cartouche pop. We’re nearly finished!

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A little chemical patination for the bamboo stems

, followed by inking with a high quality flat black enamel really adds definition. The bamboo themed CRKT Squid knife finished! An evening or two for the inking to set up and a little quality control to detect what I might have missed, then it’s off to its new home.

Thanks for Looking!

Tom Sterling


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2 Responses to CRKT Burnley Squid Shishiaibori-style Engraved Bamboo Knife Tutorial

  1. outstanding tom..great video we will talk often should you allow me to in order that i can learn more.

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