The traditional Mokume process yields very beautiful results but is extremely labor intensive. Along with the high price of labor is the large amount of waste. The shape of the finished product is also limited to the limits of the ancient process, no cast pieces. The Satow method gives you the ability to transform almost any finished piece that is cast, hand fabricated or even a wax model to create your own custom Mokume piece.
This two tone piece is a great example of the versatility of the process. The white section will be turned into Laser Mokume and the rest of the ring will remain high polish yellow. If you are planning on acid etching the finished ring use a different content for the base ring and your wire. Like an 18k ring and 14k wire, or if your gold standard permit it an 18k ring and 10k filler wire, or for more dramatic results use the new 950 Palladium alloy for the ring and acid etch away 14k filler wire for more pronounced veining.
Pick the section to be transformed. Use a extra fine tipped permanent marker and draw out your pattern. Be creative you can duplicate the traditional wood grain pattern or any variation as well as letters, numbers and symbols. After your happy with the pattern or after the customer approves it your ready for the next step. ( Not Shown )You can also be draw on a wax model. If you draw on a wax model use a sharp tip carver and scrap in your pattern about 0.75 mm deep. Then cast your ring like normal and proceed to step 5.
Decide that size you want the veining it can be all one thickness or vary in size. Ball burs in sizes from 0.4 to 0.9mm seem to work best. Dip the ball burr in oil and draw it across the line you want to grind out cover the whole line with a fine layer of oil, then grind it out like pictured. If you use different size ball burs it makes the pattern more random. After you get a feel for the process try another burr size. If you have a micro motor it works well here.
Ball burr out the entire section, try to maintain a depth of at least 0.75 mm deep on each vein. When your done the ring will look like a casters worst nightmare. Now the fun begins.
Choose what colors will make the biggest contrast if your doing it for a customer allow them to choose. If a customer chooses you can allow them to use a fine tip marker and color the veins the color they want this will eliminate any error. Then start filling the veins with your different color laser wire, you can even do multiple colors in a single vein. I prefer to use a beam width about the diameter of the vein I am filling with a 30ga or 28ga wire. I usually work at 10 hz to speed the job up. After you fill the whole ring open up the beam width to about 1 1/2 times the width of the veins and ramp up your power and smooth out all the veins to help remove pits. This also helps save time on burnishing.
Now use a rotary burnished that is fairly aggressive like the one pictured. Burnish the ring at high speed until its almost glossy.
This is what the ring should look like after burnishing. The better you burnish now the less pits you will encounter after you file it smooth. I had only 6 pits on the whole ring after burnishing.
In this step it’s up to you how you want to smooth out the lasered area. You can file, grind, or sand. I was able to stack 9 separating disks on a flex shaft mandrel like pictured and smooth out the whole area in just a few minutes with very little waist.
Here we see the whole lasered area ready to have a lighter grit rubber abrasive wheel finish applied. This is the last step before sand blasting and you can already see the defined patterns emerging in the lasered section.
It’s time to sand blast the ring to make the pattern show up. If it is easy to polish the solid color area without disturbing the lasered section sand blast the entire ring, then high polish the solid area and inspect the Laser Mokume section. If it’s hard to polish the single color area mask it off before you sand blast. If you used lower carat filler wire so you could acid etch the area cover the high polished area with bees wax and acid etch the ring. Check it frequently until you have the desired separation in the veining. Then rub it in baking soda and remove the wax.
This is a close up of the Laser Mokume veining on the finish ring. This ring was all 14k with rose, yellow, and green inlayed into the white section.
This is the finished ring ready to be set with a stone. This same process can be done on metal sheet also except don’t bur more than 1/2 way through the sheet. After you have done step 5 roll it through a rolling mill before you sand it to help save waist.