Here's an easy alternative to Mokume Gane that the average maker can put together in their garage without the need for fancy tools.

Mokume Gane, Japanese for "wood-grain metal" or "burl metal" is a technique of metal-working developed by Denbei Shoami in 17th century Japan for the adornment of the guards (tsuba) of Samurai swords. The wood-grained effect is achieved by working diffusion bonded stacks of dissimilar metal plates.  The contrast between the metals can then be accentuated with chemical treatments called patinas. It has more recently found use in the west to create beautiful jewelry.  Although mokume gane can be made at home by the DIY'er, it takes some pretty heavy equipment to make it happen.  Wouldn't it be nice to be able to achieve a similar wood-grained effect with simpler techniques? Enter our old friend the composite.

Back in 1910, Westinghouse developed a composite of resin-impregnated fabric trademarked as MIcarta® (now a registered trademark of the Norplex-Micarta company).  The name micarta (with a small "m") is sometimes used as a generic term for any resin impregnated laminate of linen, canvas, paper, carbon fiber, or glass fiber. These composites are generally strong, waterproof, resistant to many solvents, and are great electrical insulators.  They have been used as knife handles, grips for firearms, printed circuit boards, electrical insulators, pool cues, and guitar fretboards.

In this instructable, we'll use simple techniques to produce micarta-like laminates with Mokume Gane style patterns out of cheap bed sheets and epoxy resin. You can use these laminates for computer case modding, steampunk projects, costume jewelry, knife handles, and a host of other things. I call these laminates Mokume Kireji (wood grained fabric).

Step 1: Gather Your Materials

Here is a list of materials needed to make your own wood-grained composites:

Respirator or Mask: Sanding, filing, or grinding on composites generates nasty fumes, smells, and dusts. You must wear respiratory protection when working with composites.
Gloves: I used cheapo disposable nitrile gloves to keep the epoxy off of my skin
Eye protection: You know better than to use chemicals and tools without eye protection. Foresight is better than no sight.
Clothes you don't mind ruining: No matter how OCD you are, you will almost certainly get epoxy on your clothes. Wear something you don't mind messing-up.

Resin: I used West Systems 2-part epoxy. This stuff cures slowly (hours) which gives me more time to work.  Do not use quick curing resins like "30 minute epoxy" because they will harden before you have a chance to finish your work.
Plastic Wrap: I used Saran Wrap.  Epoxy does not like to stick to Saran Wrap and this will be used to your advantage.
Fabric: I used cheap cotton bed sheets from Wal-Mart.  Select at least 2 contrasting colors (more is ok).
Scissors and/or a paper cutter:  Something to cut the fabric with
Clamps and/or a press:  You need to compress the layers of fabric together.  If you don't have a shop press, don't sweat it; you can use some inexpensive C-Clamps and wood to make a functional press for small projects. Some of my examples are made using a 20-ton shop press; the others are made using four 5 inch c-clamps (about 5 bucks each) and 2 planks of 1 inch thick wood. No need to buy fancy/expensive equipment if you don't really need it.
Sander/files/sandpaper: You will need to sand, file, or grind away parts of your composite.  You can do it by hand, but it will take some time.  A small power sander will make the work go faster.  Use coarse grit paper to "hog out" larger amounts of material and fine grit paper to smooth out the surface and make it all pretty.
Advanced technology resin application devices: to mix/apply the resin. Wooden popsicle sticks or tongue depressors work just fine
Mixing containers for epoxy: I used GladWare disposable soup and salad containers; epoxy doesn't like to stick to these either; when the residual epoxy cures, pop it out of the container and you can reuse it (for more epoxy, not for food please).
Patterning material:  This can be anything from dried beans to toothpicks.  You'll see what I mean in just a few steps.
<p>Great tutorial, buddy!</p>
Hello. I made the micarta in these pics in 07/08.
WHEN you win that laser cutter make bigger sheets of this and cut or engrave them with this.
Unless you switch to using polyester resin, DO NOT use a laser to cut this material, it will off-gas Hydrogen Chloride and Vinyl Chloride which will damage your laser, it also has the potential to off-gas chlorine gas, which will damage you. Always refer to a Material Safety Data Sheet for the material you plan on lasering. Dying for your art is all well and good if you have plans for being a martyr, but it is quite impractical in the long run.
Wow, thanks! I hope you're right about the laser cutter :-) If I win, I will gladly do an instructable on laser-engraved mokme-kireji. I've also made some coin (U.S. quarter and U.S. dime) mokume-gane and I wonder how engraving would behave on the surface of that. Thanks for the kind words!<br>Cheers!
best ible I seen yet and so well documented with lots of photos. I have more fabric in my basement than you could buy at walmart and now I have great plans for it. How well so you think it would work with suede brown in the wood look?<br><br> Also can't wait for the coin ible. Main hobby is welding so fascinated by that too!<br><br> Great post!<br> congratulations
When doing colors, keep in mind that when it gets the resin in it the color will darken significantly. Also, if you use a polyester resin, you will be able to use a laser cutter to cut your final project to any shape you want, as long as it is less than 0.25&quot; in thickness. (It will stink though) <br>Lasering epoxy resin will off-gas fumes that are not only toxic for the user but potentially bad for the machines as well.
Thanks so much! I wish the epilog judges had seen things your way ;-) <br>Suede brown sounds like a winner. Don't forget to post pictures!<br>Cheers!
I know that real deal Micarta is sometimes made with paper instead of cloth. Would that work in this application as well? I'm thinking of using pages from old books in criss-cross layers. Obviously you'd have to have a lot more sheets, since it's so much thinner than cloth.<br><br>I'm also thinking something like this would make a show-stopping fretboard on a cigar box ukulele or guitar!
Paper works fine for this, I'd love to see your final product.
I know what kind of knife handle I'm doing now! :D
There are several other well documented Homemade Micarta descriptions on the web, this one http://www.fendleyknives.com/LM105.htm and Make had one as well http://blog.makezine.com/2010/03/22/how-to-make-micarta-from-blue-jeans/ Has anyone tried non solid colored fabric composites? <br>As soon as the weather cools down, I will attempt to create some of this stuff. <br>I have been reading about this for a while and will post an Instructable when I actually get around to it. <br>Some of the things mentioned in other homemade Micarta blog posts, is that heavy freezer bags work well to keep the mess factor down, and are less likely to break from the heat that can potentially be generated by the curing, also, submerging and saturating and then squeezing out the excess before placing your layers together, seemed to be faster and more efficient, no need to pick up and put down a brush for every layer. <br>
Whoops, both of those links led to the same Fendly Knife blog, but there are some great videos on Crashbladeknives' YouTube channel, just search for homemade micarta
A well written and well done 'ible. <br> <br>have you thought about using a Vacuum food saver to make a vacuum press? It would provide a lot of clamping force without the need for clamps. The vacuum baggers can be gotten from goodwill/second hand shops very cheaply. Roll bags are available in the box stores as well as wally world.
I wonder how rigid this stuff is. I'd love to use this as a faceplate for an upcoming project. About 8&quot;x18&quot; with holes for a car stereo, charging ports, etc. Do you suppose it could bridge 18&quot; horizontally? Thinking about 1/4&quot; thick...<br>
It will depend on several factors, including the type of epoxy you use, the type of fabric you use, and how much pressure you use to create the laminate. When in doubt, make a small test piece. It will let you work any kinks out of your set-up, it will give you a piece you can test for strength, it will let you know if your colors are going to come out the way you want them, and it will let you test your pattern; all without spending as much time/effort/materials/money as you would need for the full 18&quot;x8&quot;x1/4&quot; slab. In general though, this stuff is pretty stout if it is made properly.<br><br>I bet it would make a sweet faceplate; please post a picture of your work, it sounds like it has great potential.<br><br>Cheers!
Sadly I never got around to using this technique on the boombox, but since you asked:&nbsp;https://www.instructables.com/id/Waterproof-Solar-BOOMbox-AKA-Post-Apocalyptic-Po/<br> <br><br> <br>
I really like this technique! I'll be trying this soon!
The mokume gane technique is also used (beautifully) in polymer clay....
Absolutely. And if you're a jewelry fan, the same technique can be used with Precious Metal Clay (PMC) to make incredible mokume gane objects out of silver/gold/copper/bronze. Hadar Jacobson is a jedi master of PMC and is publishing a book on the subject this summer. I plan on buying it as soon as it's available. If I make something worthy, I'll post it.<br>Cheers!
I have not yet worked with PMC--primarily a matter of expense and lack of a kiln--but one of these days.....
YES! Thou fine human, thank you for this 'ible. It's answered the &quot;can this be done outside an industrial setting?&quot; question I've been trying to answer with certainty for months.
Thou art indeed welcome (verily). Glad you enjoyed it!<br> Cheers!
This is truly excellent, innovative and extremely well presented. You deserve to win. Hope to see more from you.
Many thanks Dellbar46!
Love your ible. I make this stuff a lot, makes great knife handles. <br> <br>Tool tip, (don't know if you said this, but if you did I missed it) coat your c clamps with a light oil, (wd-40 works good) that way the epoxy (I use fiberglass resin) can be popped off easily if it get's on the clamp. <br> <br>Tool tip #2 <br>A horse hoof rasp works really well for hogging off material extremely fast. Works well on wood too. <br> <br>Nice work Festeezio, I especially like the ladder pattern, I haven't tried it yet.
Thanks. Those are both great tips. I generally use enough saran wrap on the compression plates that the epoxy never gets a chance to foul up my clamps, but you're absolutely right: a little oil, petroleum jelly, WD-40, or PVA/release agent will keep the epoxy from messing up your clamps.<br><br>I see you've done some metalsmithing Instructables. Please keep 'em coming; it seems that home metalsmithing is a dying art and it is people like you that keep it alive. When I show friends a piece of coin mokume gane, they are blown away that it is possible to work copper and iron right in your back yard.<br><br>Cheers!
I would love to try this out, because as soon as I saw this 'ible I immediately came up with a couple project ideas. I'm stuck at one point though...are there any glues that could bond two of these &quot;boards&quot; together?<br><br>I'd like to make one thick piece and run it through a bandsaw, then bookmatch the two boards. It would end up with a nice butterfly like pattern, I think. Could you just spread more epoxy on an edge and clamp the two pieces together? Or would you need some other bonding substance?
Well, it depends on how strong you need the bond to be. If it needs to support weight, adhesive probably won't be enough. For objects that do not bear any load, such as decorative items, I'd try the same resin you used for the composite: epoxy.<br><br>After you've cut the piece, consider &quot;roughing up&quot; the edges to be epoxied with some fine or medium grit sandpaper. For some reason, fresh epoxy doesn't stick to shiny/well cured epoxy as well it does to a roughened/non-glossy epoxy surface. <br><br>I love the idea of the butterfly pattern. Don't forget to post a pic of your work.<br><br>Best regards!
been drawing up an adjustable laptop stand (buddy just got a small cnc machine!!), this stuff would be perfect! you got my vote, dude(tte). good luck.
Many thanks! Please post a pic of your project, I know I'd like to see it and I'm sure I'm not the only one.<br>Cheers!
Awesome write up! Might need to try this myself :-)
Thanks! Time to start mixing the epoxy.
This is so awesome! Thanks for explaining things so well! I voted for you!
Thanks! That is one cute picture BTW.
I'm glad you have made this instructable, to buy these composites already made up cost a small fortune, this has given me many great ideas - and I have voted for you as well, thanks!
Thanks so much for the vote! I did not realize that these kinds of composites were available pre-fab. Glad you found the Instructable helpful. Cheers and best of luck!
Excellent. You get my first contest vote ever. Good work, and I'm off to the fabric store.
Wow, thanks! Please post pictures of your creation; not many people are familiar with patterned composites and your work may inspire others to try it as well.<br>Cheers!
This is extremely well written with lots of insight and detail great work
Thanks for the kind words, they are sincerely appreciated :-)
Very Good !!!<br>I've seen this type of DIY &quot;m&quot;icarta to make nice knife handles <br>Selecting the &quot;right&quot; colors results are awesome
Thanks. This stuff makes great knife scales and handles. Any type of filework on the handle makes the patterns even more amazing.<br>Best regards.

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More by festeezio:Boulevard of Bacon Dreams Waterslide Eggs with Bonus Eggsplosions Mokume Kireji-DIY Woodgrain Composites 
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