Introduction: Making an Engagement Ring From Mokume Gane

About: I am Ashish a civil engineer and a full-time maker and YouTuber. I love innovating and making unique things that entertain, inspire, and educate you. Check out my YouTube channel for more awesome builds & be s…

This project is by far my most failure build I have ever made. The day when I saw mokume gane I just love with this material and decided to make some jewellery out of that, but for me, it's like the worst nightmare mare. Before this project, I made 12 unsuccessful attempts last year and every day I woke up and pledge that today I can build it but all goes in vain, I am saying 12 attempts and for me, it's a lot. Get a lot more demotivated after that attempt and think that I am never able to build this material. I watched two dozens of videos on mokume gane and few of them have a similar method and few have their methods. Another thing is that the equipment which is necessary to make this material wasn't sufficient. In my last year try, I made this with three different material brass, copper and nickel and at that time material seems to be fused but during the cold forging, the material starts to break. I did annealing cycle couple of times during the cold extrusion but that doesn't seem to be plenty enough. It failed. This time during this contest I first try with a different approach like a raindrop pattern but with the lack of jewellery experience, I ruined that ring blank and restarted with the layered method. Even in this attempt, I reached a stage where it seems that material needs to be sacrificed again but that wasn't the case and I can make the ring with my dreamed material. Surely a learning project for me and there are so many new things I learners during this. I am very happy to share my journey with you. I hope a little bit of my experience helps you in your build. If you have any suggestions for me then definitely leave them in the comments section down below. There are a lot of techniques and I wanted to know them.

Important note:- I have been in makers field for quite a long time and I know the tools which I am using. I remain very attentive during the use of power tools. It's advised to you that if you are new then follow the safety rules properly and wear PPE during these kinds of work.


Following are the tools and materials I used in this build. Again as I described above use the tools safely, even in this build there is a use of flammable gas. So do this work in an open environment and do this only if you know about these items or take a good knowledge before using them or making any build by using flammable fuel. Lack of knowledge gave you serious injury and much worse than that.

Material used:-

1. Brass strips

2. Copper strips

3. Ferric chloride

4. Vinegar

5. Borax

6. Acetone (for cleaning purpose)

Tool used

1. Bench vise

2. Hammer

3. Angle grinder

4. Drum sander or sand paper150grit

5. Tongue or long nose plier.

6. Jewellers saw

7. Needle File set

8. Long file set

9. Diamond lapping disk 80 grit and 180 grit

10. Ring mandrel

11. Propane torch

12. Variable speed regulatory

13. Buffing wheel

14. Dermal rotary tool.

15. Carbide rotary burrs.

16. Dermal sanding drum.

17. Mallet

Step 1: ​Preparing the Material.

During my build, I made two attempts and the process is almost the same and I am explaining here both the process.

Droplet process.

To make the droplet mokume I started with a solid piece of copper and cut it into the usable size. That material is a leftover from my knife build and I decided to use it for this project. Form thereafter first step I did here is to sneak the copper blank and that during the cold forging of copper this process needs to be repeated several times. During the cold forging process, the metal gets beatdown repeatedly and the grin structure kept on compressing and if you didn't perform the annealing process then there are cracks going to develop onto the surface and leads to material failure. So keep in mind that during the cold forging of material keep repeating the annealing process couple of time in between the cycle to avoid any failure. Once the blank is ready I move onto the drill press and start the drilling work. For the drilling operations, I am using a 2.5 mm drill. The brass rods I am using has a diameter of 2.4 mm. So I can easily fill the holes with those pins. After the holes have been drilled down I didn't deburr the holes and kept the blank as it is. I drill the holes randomly but I suggest you make a good layout before drilling the holes. After that, I cut down the brass rod with the help of plier according to the length I needed.

Layered mokume billet

For the layered mokume, there is a different approach and for that, I use brass strips and copper strips. The copper I get from the 1⁄2" copper pipe section laying in my drawer. I cut the pipe into stripes and then make them ready for my work. I use jeweller saw to cut the pipe into stripes but you can use any tool you seams easy to work with. Although it gives you a much cleaner cut compared to scissors. After cutting down brass and copper strips I used drum flap sander to clean the oxidising layer. To clean the copper oxidation you can use vinegar mixed in Salt and after 20-30 minutes remove it out from the vinegar and clean it with acetone. Sanding would be good as it evens out the material if the surface is non-uniform. but if you have a perfectly flat sheet and there is an oxidizing layer then this trick will help you.

Step 2: Cleaning the Material

After cutting the material you need to prepare it for the fusion process but before that, you need to clean the material. For that I uses acetone. This is a highly flammable chemical and you have to be very careful while using this material and never place it near the fire. For the cleaning process, you can use two ways either by spraying the acetone directly over the material and rub it with a cloth. You can also dip them into the acetone container and then remove them out of it and rub with a dry cloth and they are ready for stacking.

Step 3: ​Inserting and Stacking for the Ring Blank

After that, the next step is to place the material in one another. For the pins, I use a hammer to do that work and do this one by one. The burrs in the copper which come after drilling the holes close the open gaps and that also helps to avoid the oxidation. The hammering of the pins allow the pins to stay where they need to remain and they will not move at all. For the strips, the process is slightly different. You can place the strip at any order but I preferred to place them in order. The copper, brass copper and so on. The key here to take in consideration that places the copper on the putter side otherwise because it has a higher melting point than brass and this order help to maintain the stability of the stack. Now to press the material during heating is the crucial part of this overall process. There are a few different methods you can use to ease your work.

Step 1
Wrapping the stack with wire:- In this method, the whole stack is tied up with the help of wire and the wrapping kept pretty tight enough so that the material compresses. I found many Japanese to use this wire wrapping technique to keep the strips in place. Then use a torch to heat the material.

Step 2
Using a vise:- This method is also good if you are using an oxy torch. I am saying oxy torch because it heats the material at a faster rate compared to the normal propane or butane torch. When you hold the material in the billet the jaws act as a heat sink and sucks up the heat pretty fast. So you need something which can heat the material fast and quick. And during the heat slowly tighten up the jaws of the vice. That compresses the material and make a much better fusion between the layers. But you have to use a vice which is scrap because intense heat damages the vise.

Step 3
In this step, you can use compression plates. It's like two thick metal plates which can be square or rectangular, having bolts holes at each corner for so that when you tighten the bolt the whole assembly compresses the material and fused them. But again you have to use an oxy-fuel torch because it's heated up much faster rate.

In all of these setups, it is must to rotate the workpiece for even heat up. In my case, I didn't use a rotating table type thing and instead of that, I made a chamber which is also good. In all of these setups when you apply heat to the material due to the setup the wire, vise or the compression plate apply pressure onto the material and fuse them.

Step 4: ​Heating

Heating. Heating is the most crucial part of this build and this will tell you whether you have billet or molten metal. So definitely this is the stage in which you have to pay a lot more attention.

Points to be considered

1. Try to make even heat onto the material. If you heat the material then chances of successful billet formation are very high.

2. During the heat up remove the flame to see the actual colour of the material. Because the difference in fusion temperature and melting temperature is very small.

3. It would be great to have a sample material which has a lowest melting temperature in your billet and place it around the main material and because of that material you are constantly able to know that when you have to stop. If that material turns a bit tacky that means that the work has been finished.

4. Do not cool down the material instantly that can cause layer separation.

5. Do not hammer your material. Hammer them only when you knew that material gets fused and hammer the billet at slightly low temperature because these materials are easy to work at a low temperature compared to steel. The reason for not to hammer is to avoid shock. If you have a power hammer which compresses the billet evenly then it's not a problem but a regular size hammer delaminate the end layers if you hammer it from the middle.

During the heating, I pour a little amount of borax over the surface to avoid oxidation but it's usually not necessarily while making mokume because sometime during the hot forming it traps between the layers and then it's impossible to get rid of.

So if you are using copper and brass mokume then one thing to identify the exact time to stop is when brass changes its colour to dull yellow. Because after that it's instantly melted. After the dull yellow colour, the next stage is shiny yellow but it comes out of the billet due to the pressure above it and your billet completely ruined. So just by taking care of all these things you are easily able to get a nice even fused billet. Most of the time billet doesn't seem to be fused but by dropping it from your face height confirm whether it fused or not. If it's not fused means there are one or two separation lines visible then you still have the chance to improve the mistake. Just separate it from there and clean them and make the surface parallel and use a brass piece in between those layers and follow the above steps again that will surely make the job done in the second attempt.

On the other hand, the one with pins inserted I approached it differently. I heat the metal and then onto my vise hammered down the surface and forces them to fuse. I never saw that anybody uses that method to make mokume gane but that method is also very effective.

Step 5: ​Stretching the Billet

After the billet formation is complete the next process is to extend the billet. There are several ways you can do. The first one if by cold forming and the second method is hot forming. The cold forming can be done by profession rolling equipment come for jewellery work or you can use the old school method of hammering. But for both of these work you need to continuously anneal the surface. Because there is a limit of stretching the billet after an annealing process. Stretching increase the density of the material and then after a certain interval material starts to crack. So to keep doing the stretching work you need to constantly aneal the billet. If you are using rolling mill then it's not difficult to go against the layers but in the hammer, I don't recommend that but you can do that with hot forming. In my billet, I use both the process. Whenever I go against the layer I heat the material and then do the work. By doing that I get the desired billet shape after which I can start the ring making process.

Step 6: Making Round Ring Blank

To make the ring blank I need to round the blank and for that, I go with a hot forming method. I don't want to take the risk of breaking the billet. Because brass didn't stretch too much like copper and I am afraid that it might be risky so I go with hot forming method. I use a ring mandrel to form the ring blank. During that the material ends start to open up and I was a bit worried about that at the time but I decided to proceed the work and I noticed that the layers didn't get separated too much. After making a blank I cools down the material by quenching it in water and then cut the excess portion with the help of jewellers saw. Now my ring blank has been created and it's a mokume gane ring blank about which I waited for almost a year.

Step 7: Rounding and Soldering the Joints

After the blank has been formed with the help of a mandrel I make the blank round in shape and this is a time-consuming process. During this work I aneal the billet 3-4 times so that everything works smoothly because I don't want to lose at this stage. I slowly and steadily hammered the billet and bring it to 11 number ring size from 6. The material thickness is sufficient enough that it will not separate at this stage and I already remove the unfused layers, so no more layer separation. Before doing the soldering work I need to prepare it. For that with the help of jewellers saw I make both the ends parallel to each other by sawing through it. I saw this technique from other jewellers and it's very effective. For the soldering this time I am not going to repeat my previous mistake. This time I use a low melting temperature solder which used for soldering copper and that works like a magic. Just with the touch the solder flows between the gap and fill it out. After that, I cool it down in the water so that along with the cooling it also anneals down. Then again with the help of mandrel, I start the stretching process. Along with that, I use files to clean the material and make it more round in shape. I use an angle grinder and flap disk to do the job faster. Here I am using a speed regulator to reduce the speed of grinder. Don't think that grinder is running at its full speed. I fact during this process the grinder running at its lowest speed. I use carbide burrs to clean up the inside area along with the files. To true up the edges I used diamond wheel as it's very flat and giver much better accuracy compared to flap disk. I also tuned up the outer boundary as the diamond disk is very flat. Once the inside diameter reached to the required size with the help of divider I marked the outer periphery which is the end size of the ring. I marked those areas which I needed flat according to my design and grind them onto the grinder. I leave the small amount so that I can true them up with the help of file. Later on, I true them up with the help of a flat-file.

Step 8: ​Making the Facets

To make the facets I hold the grinder in the vise and made an attachment in such a way that it worked like a belt sander. Now I didn't have a belt sander and with this setup, I tried to mimic that. For the first angle, I kept straight and then grind down the surface. For the second angle, I tilt it around 5 deg and repeat the same procedure. During the tilting facets once I get them on one end I flip the ring and did this to the opposite end. One suggestion for you is that if you want facets then made them with slightly higher grit size like 320 grit. By doing that you are easily able to buff the surface. In my case, I made them with 120 grit disk and when I went for the buffing process it almost ends up grinding to facets. Although I get that finish I am not happy with the look which I have compared to the one before grinding. I leave the top area and the side boundaries untouched.

Step 9: Making the Vine Pattern

To create a vine pattern I first coloured the edge of the ring with the marker. From thereafter with the help of divider I draw the central line on to the edge. Then I open the divider to around 6 mm and then divide the circumference into equal parts which I have marked earlier. Then with the help of triangular file start making groves. The process is like you have to make a grove to the opposite side every time to the previous one. During the marking with the divider if you start from the bottom move equally toward both directions. By doing this you can get the equal distance between your pattern. After making the groove with the triangular file I switch to the round file and finish the job. To add more details with the help of flat-file I made angle cut to the putter periphery where I file the edge with a round file. To make the top to look better I use a drum sander in a dermal and use it to deeper the grove. That will be going to highlight the layers and made it look extremely beautiful.

Step 10: Cleaning and Buffing

The inside area of the ring has been sanded up to 600 grit drum sander but I leave the outside surface to 180 grit finish in the hope that buffing will remove the deeper scratch and it did the same but it also removes the finer detail which I have added because to remove the scratches I need to buff for a little longer time and that removes the finner detail. But even then I think I can live with that. During the buffing, I have to keep cools down the ring because it gets too hot. From my knife making work I found that if there are any scratches onto the copper and brass then its easy to remove them jus only by buffing. The only downside is that it took a slightly longer time than the normal way but its effective.

Step 11: ​Etching

Buffing creates a very high lustre finish onto the ring and it's difficult to see the layers and to highlight that thing I dip it in ferric chloride solution for about 2-3 minutes and after that rinse it in water and clean it with soapy water to neutralize the acid. From thereafter I place it in the vinegar and kept it for about 20 minutes. The result is in from of you.

Step 12: ​Final Thoughts.

If you ask me then I am ok with how this thing turned out and I think I can do better in my next try. The thing which seems difficult to build a year ago, now it seems much easy to build and I think that how experience gained. Rest you are the judges and I leave up to you whether to like it or not. If you have any information which helps me feel free to comment down below.

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