Dear Instructables Member
It is my absolute honour to relate to you the following story.
One afternoon last week, quite by accident, while looking for my trusty ivory ophthalmoscope in a tea chest I had not opened for nearly 50 years, I came across one of my old journals. Lazy, late-day sunlight filtered through the dusty attic window, and as time was not pressing, I idly thumbed through the pages. The adventures therein, though captured in such a naive and faded narrative, reminded me of my wilder days, long since passed, and rendered the rest of the afternoon to an oblivion of reminiscing and recollection. Nought further might have come of this chance discovery had not my manservant, Collinworth, suggested over the lightly buttered toast the next morning, that the very pages that had been so demanding of my attention the day before could yet render me, and others, an invaluable service, in permitting me to describe the delicate process of constructing a Golden Filigree Dragon's Eggcase, and the use thereof to extract an original of the same against the auspices of a wary and ever watchful eye of the Tibetan Lung. Now you can read more about this story, follow my instruction herein, find out how it was my endeavours that inspired Carl Faberge to make his first egg for the Tzar and also learn how I got my name.
Your most humble servant,
Step 1: Research the Draco Beast's Eggcase to Get the Form Right
As a boy I eagerly listened to my father's tales of the daring expeditions that had attempted to recover a perfect example of what must be one of the rarest artifacts know to man, the Tibetan Lung's golden filigree eggcase. As soon as I could read and was permitted entry to our small library, scarcely an evening would go by that wouldn't find me sitting in my favourite winged reading chair with a large, leather bound first edition of Dicta Johannis Chrysostomi de Naturis Bestiarum crushing my knees, as I pawed over each page, searching for clues that might one day be useful for the expedition that I planned to make when I was old enough.
Fifteen years passed and by the early 1870s I was in my twenties and already had a few adventurous voyages to my credit, when I was indirectly approached by the King of Norway, whom I learned had heard of my successful exploits, and wished to sponsor me on an expedition of his own bidding to Nepal, to discover and bring back none other than the Golden Filigree Dragon's Eggcase.
A venture of this nature is not one to be taken on lightly, and certainly was no more so in 1872. You will of course be aware that in the latter half of the 19th Century less was generally known of the perils that lurked in the darker corners of the World, and even though I was young at heart and possessed the constitution of an ox, even I, myself would not have considered the trip, had not such an illustrious patron personally requested that I undertake to lead the expedition. It was a question of love:- He wished me to acquire, or procure by any means, one of the rarest artifacts known to mankind; an example of a fabled Tibetan Dragon's Golden Filigree Eggcase, so that he might court the attentions of the woman he desired as his consort, Sofia of Nassau.
In those days, I knew nothing much of love, but in matters concerning the mountainous Nepal's most fearsome Draco Beast, I was certainly no novice, having prepared for this eventuality since I could remember. On accepting the challenge I had immediately decided upon the course of action that had resulted in my success on previous occasions, namely to make a replica and swap it for the authentic piece and having done so make good my retreat.
Our preparations and voyage (a long sea passage, and a three week overland trek) are interesting indeed but too much of a distraction to be related here. Needless to say, we arrived at the locality of the dragon's lair in high spirits and ready for almost any eventuality.
If you possess the talent of drawing, then generally, I urge you to carry a journal with you at all times so that you may make visual notes to remind to you of crucial details later that might othewise be forgotten. On an expedition such as this, a journal is invaluable. In order to steal the dragon's eggcase, you must first make a replica to take it's place while you make your retreat. Choose the most complete eggcase to copy and take, (for many are broken in the hatching process). Make sketches of your chosen eggcase so that you may be able to fashion a replica good enough to fool the Draco Beast, a cunning creature if ever there was one.
Collinworth has reminded me to point out that should you wish to make a Dragon Journal page of your own, blank pages for your own illustrations can be found here
If drawing is not one of your expert skills, then you will have to ask someone else to perform that task for you, or take a camera so that you make expose a plate or two. This is not as satisfactory as might be expected, because of the weight of the equipment, the sensitivity of the developing chemicals and the long exposure needed, which can result in a less than perfect image.
Step 2: Bind Two Small Cups Together to Make the Former
Once I had taken all the reference images I needed, and before we had spent too much time in the vicinity of the dragon's lair, we retreated to our camp, some miles distant and began the replication process.
So that you might follow this process and replicate an egg of your very own. I had Collinworth instruct a local artisan to draw out the fabrication steps in as simple and as clear way as possible. The paper has become slightly aged over time, but I feel that he has done an acceptable job, and you should be able to follow them with little difficulty.
Of course we had bought ample equipment for our endeavour, but metal working apparatus and machinery are far too heavy to carry and i had previously been informed that the locals possessed an uncanny ability to work metal in a way that we were unlikely to better.
I made contact with the local village elders and after only a short negotiation, had secured the employ of the province's most skilled precious metalsmith. The language is melodious but difficult to master, nevertheless, using the few words I had learned on the voyage, my rough and somewhat ready empire French, and hand gestures, we managed to communicate reasonably enough, and the first task was completed swiftly without incident.
Two hollow ivory cups were fashioned and joined together using a short piece of adhesive bandage.
Nowadays, I learn from Collinworth, you can create an effect not unlike ours, by using the closures from any suitable beauty care product (such as, deodorants, hair sprays or shaving gels) as the cups, and that they may be bound together using any suitable clear adhesive tape.
Step 3: Coat the Bound Cups in Release Agent
Once the cups are securely joined, you must coat them in a release agent of some kind. To the local Nepalese, oil is a rare and expensive commodity, and knowing this we had brought a couple of barrels to use as payment for the many and various services we required during our stay in the area. Notwithstanding this, the metalsmith refused to use any other than his own oil preparation, which by various utterances and animated hand signals, he managed to convince me was better suited to the task than our own.
You may not be able to get his preparation where you live and I therefore recommend the use of a thin coat of vegetable oil and or silicon furniture polish, which I understand comes in small metal atomiser containers these days.
Step 4: Apply the Filigree
Since I had first considered this expedition and known that at some point I was going to have to fabricate a Golden Filigree Eggcase, I had pondered the creation of the filigree itself, and more importantly how I might hold the egg-shaped cups while applying the filigree in it's hot and liquid state. Tough as I am, even I wish to avoid unnecessary burns to the fingers.
The night before the filigree application, when everything else was ready and I had still no notion as to how this step was going to be successfully accomplished, when by chance it came to me in a flash of inspiration.
It was a beautiful evening and the labour of the day had passed. All about we were settling in for the night and Collinworth had just served me a pre-dinner cocktail dressed with the fruit of the olive tree. As was my habit, idly I chewed on the olive, when as a flash, it came to me... why not use a cocktail stick to hold the egg shaped blighter while applying the filigree. Much to the party's consternation, I had the men unpack the equipment and drill a small hole in the end of one of the cups, just large enough to insert the very same cocktail stick by exerting a little pressure. It provided the perfect purchase on the slippery egg shaped forme.
In fact, I was so excited by the discovery, that I ordered dinner to be delayed while I coated the bound cups in their filigree there and then.
I used a hot glue device of my own invention. The hot glue device is an invaluable tool, which I hope to commercialise upon my return to England. It is of solid construction and is endowed with a central cavity just big enough hold a glowing coal taken directly from the fire. When the coal is placed in the cavity, a small door is closed, securing it in place, and by way of a heat conduction path, a reservoir of animal adhesive particles are heated and by degrees rendered into their liquid state. A leaver exists at the bottom of the device which is employed to pump air into the reservoir, which due to the increasing pressure may expel the liquefied adhesive through a small nozzle, on the pressing of a trigger leaver, thus allowing the user to direct the adhesive as and where required.
The device takes some skill to master, but the effects are useful and pleasing. I am currently working on a device that will be able to melt the glue using electrikal-discharge energy, but I believe that the perfection of that device will take many years.
Step 5: Carefully Remove the Filigree
Having coated the bound cups egg shaped forme in hot glue, I set the piece down to harden and dinner was at last served.
It was late and we were exhausted after our labours of the day. The Sherpas had joined us in the main tent for a nightcap of the most evil tasting wood spirit, the drinking of which, we had discovered was the only way to keep warm through the freezing Nepalese nights. When the general hubbub of voices had quietened our head guide began relate to us his old family's tales of the dragon we sought to trick out of one of it's most precious possessions and its various natural and perverted habits.
I asked him if he knew of the reason for the golden filigree itself, as such structures were not to be found on any other dragon's egg. He told us that like all dragons, Tibetan Lungs often jealously guarded a large treasure horde. Despite its size, the lung was an anxious beast and over centuries had developed the nervous habit of gnawing at such pieces of gold that it might conveniently claw into its terrible jaws, which by degrees it ingested. Over time the beasts had evolved the curious trait of excreting a layer of fine golden filaments over the surface of the eggs that they were brooding. The villagers thereabouts had long believed that this "golden filigree" was beneficial to the survival of the dragon chicks, as it had been seen to protect their brittle egg shells from damage on the hard rocks and stones that littered the draco beasts' nests.
We retired, I at least, satisfied to know at last something of the evolution of the Golden Filigree EggCase.
The next morning the filigree was set and I was able to remove it from the forme. To do this, using a sharp surgeon's scalpel, I first made an incision from top to bottom on one side of the egg shaped piece, taking extreme care not to injure myself. I then began to gently peel the filigree away from the former. In places it was easy, in others, it resisted my efforts somewhat, but by careful working and the occasional use of one of our butter knives, I was able to work the filigree free all round and slip the egg shaped forme out from inside the filigree latticework.
When the latticework was free of the form, I opened it slightly and painted the inside of the filigree with a black lacquer. Once that was dry, I reheated the molten glue applicator and neatly welded up the cut edges to make the filigree egg whole once more.
Step 6: Coat the Outside of the Filigree in Gold
You may choose to have your filigree egg case metalised using electroplating or dipping, or you may choose to paint it carefully with a brush, as the local Nepalese had been doing for centuries before we came to their mountainous land, but I set my heart on coating the piece using another of my inventions, my patent golden lacquer atomiser.
It must be borne in mind, that in our endeavours it was only necessary to make the filigree eggcase sufficiently close to the appearance of the actual Draco's Eggcase to fool the Lung while we made good our escape. It is widely known that the dragon has a very sensitive sense of smell, and by means of some strange infernal olfactory mechanism, can smell the presence of gold, many yards distant. In fact as you will know, the dragon's nose has been an invaluable tool employed by generations of gold miners using quenched and de-clawed juvenile dragons to find new precious metal seams in their workings. However for us, this strange ability is not to our benefit. Despite the fact that we were gaining a priceless return, I did not want to leave one ounce more gold on the mountainside than I needed to. I had learned that this particular Tibetan Lung was an old specimen and knowing that a dragon's sense of smell dulls with age, I had calculated that the quantity of powdered gold present in my lacquer coating preparation was going to be more than adequate to fool the aged beast for long enough for us to successfully work our treachery.
While I was waiting for the first coating to dry, Collinworth advised me that the party was nervous that we were not using pure gold. After some discussion I managed to quell their fears by employing an extra coating of the bright golden lacquer. Personally I think that a sprayed metallic finish provides an more than acceptable end result.
Step 7: The Finished Eggcase (and How I Came to Be Known As Kaptin Scarlet)
The final day arrived. The morning was still and we left the camp before daybreak. All was quiet at the dragon's lair, the fearsome beast either asleep, or still out at on its previous night's hunting. Carefully we located the original filigree eggcase and without any trouble, affected the swap.
We never knew what became of the dragon; if and when she discovered the switch we had made, and if so, what wrathful vengeance she must surely have rained on the locale after our departure. Upon my return to Europe, I gained audience with my sponsor, the King of Norway and presented the Golden Filigree Eggcase to his Royal Highness at Court; along with a model of the tiny dragon chick that must surely have come from that very egg.
After our extensive journey, our supplies were running low and in order to finish the presentation case we used to store and later show the egg, the luscious scarlet velvet lining of my favourite all-weather coat had to be cut up for to make the pillow covering. I made such a fuss over this calamity that the rest of the party nicknamed me Kaptin Scarlet, and name that has endured to this day.
Now, after all these years I am honoured to be able to relate to you the story of the construction of the Fabled Golden Filigree Dragon's Eggcase in such a way that might easily enable you to make your own copy, so that even if you never have the opportunity to behold an original, you will be able to make something capable of deceiving even the most cunning of creatures, and a treasure to keep for all time.
Step 8: Fine Copies of the Golden Filigree Eggcase
On making copies and the origination of the Faberge legend.
On the sea passage back to England, I had the pleasure of dinning at the Captain's table and it was there I made the acquaintance of the Russian jeweler Carl Gustavovich Faberge, next to whom I was seated on a number of occasions. He was a similar age to me and it seemed that we had a great deal in common. Carl told me he was traveling to England to gain inspiration for his jewelry.
Though I am a modest man, it was not long before he had pressed me to reveal the nature of my trip and the artifact that I so proudly bore to my sponsor. I opened the ship's safe and was pleased to see that he took a great interest in the specimen. Over the following decade we kept in touch by occasional correspondence, and it was by this means that in the early 1880s I first heard of his endeavours to produce a gift for Tzar Alexander III, whom he wished to win as his patron. I wrote back immediately suggesting that the subject of his work should be none other than the Fabled Golden Filigree Eggcase that I had shown him all those years before on that sea voyage across the Baltic Sea.
In subsequent correspondence, he thanked me profusely for the assistance I had rendered to him and later to my amazement, presented me with one of his copies of the Filigree Eggcase.
The Faberge Eggcase is a beautiful object. Pure gold latticework coated with a rich, deep and lustrous azure enamel on the inner surface. It is presented and displayed in its own climate controlled, unbreakable, domed display case, which has been kept under 24 hour guard since I received it over a century ago.
If you would like to be able to make a Victorian glass case exactly like this one Collinworth, old though now he is, reliably informs me that full instructions for its easy manufacture may be found on the telegraphic internet here.
All that remains is to wish you the best of luck with your Instructables and remember my family motto:
Vita Est Vestri Adventum
Participated in the
The Forbes Fabergé-Style Egg Contest