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Old 08-25-2010, 08:28 PM
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Default Burnt Silk Metal Finish

Pups, & Big Dogs,

Yesterday, Philip sent me a link to a thread in Sawmill Creek. I found it fascinating and hope that you all enjoy it as well.

The thread was started by a man named Stanley Covington and here is his first post:

"
Burnt Silk Metal Finish
Last night I finished working up a set of chisels I purchased here in Tokyo for my son. The kanmuri and kuchigane were originally bright steel with clear lacquer. Very unattractive. I refinished them with a very traditional but little-known treatment using silk that you may find interesting. This is not a smooth, uniform finish like hot blue or rust-blue or paint, but is much more interesting and attractive in my experience for this particular application. It is also easily accomplished. Warning: if you aren't careful, you can burn your fingeys, or even worse, if you do it in her kitchen and the range hood is not very powerful the odor may drive your wife temporarily insane possibly forcing her to use your money to buy an all-expenses paid vacation in Hawaii for some lucky attorney (may they burn in hell forever amen...).

1. Remove the kuchigane and kanmuri.

2. Heat them on a gas stove until just past the point where the metal turns blue. A camp stove outside is safest due to the smell. A propane torch will also work.

3. Holding the metal with pliers (I like needlenose), scrub the metal with a steel or stainless steel brush to remove oxidized particles of paint or oil.

4. Reheat. How hot? Idunno. If it isn't hot enough, the silk will not melt/scorch/stick properly. Too hot and the silk will bubble and crater. Somewhere past blue, the metal will turn greyish. That seems to be a good point.

5. Wad the silk into your off hand thick enough to protect it from the heat. Be careful.

6. Wrap/rotate/wipe the hot metal in the silk. The silk will smoke and scorch. If it doesn't, you don't have it hot enough. Remove the metal before it cools enough for the silk to build up too thick a layer or globs will adhere to it.

7. Quench the metal in water.

8. You can leave the metal as it is, or use a SOFT, FINE bristle steel or stainless steel brush to remove loose particles. A bit more polishing will burnish it. Too much and you will cut through to bare metal. If that happens, simply reheat and reapply.

9. Apply oil to the dry metal to prevent rust. The silk carbon will retain oil without softening, and is a very effective rust-preventative.

Warning: don't use this treatment on heat-treated metal unless you want it to go soft.

I love this finish. Some won't. Give it a try.

Stan"

In addition he showed this picture:



to be continued.
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Old 08-25-2010, 08:38 PM
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Default Re: Burnt Silk Metal Finish page 2

Jonathon McCullough, who sounds much like our very own POTO, posted next:

"Ooh, I'm a sucker for the mystique of the orient and love to have another tool tinkerer's technique. This looks to be an interesting treatment for tool steels. But I have some questions. Kuchigane = ferrule or tang? Kanmuri = hoop? I take it you're not suggesting we give the actual chisel this treatment (unless, is it part of the tempering process for some Japanese chisels?). Is there some intrinsic oiliness about silk that makes it preferable to something else like, say, paper or cotton?"

Stanley Covington posted in response to Jonathon as well as to add more to this process:

"Don't know about mystique, but it is unusual. I understand it was a common finish for tansu and sword hardware prior to the chemical methods available nowadays. It was taught to me by a sword polisher many years ago.

If you use it on anything with a cutting edge, expect the edge to be ruined. If it is metal that needs to be hard to do it's job properly, expect it to no longer function. Kuchigane and kanmuri are mild steel. Soft is fine. I hope that's clear enough.

Sorry for the romanized Japanese. I don't know these terms well in English. As you say, Kuchigane (mouth metal) = ferrule. Kanmuri (crown) = hoop.

Oiliness isn't the issue. Silk is a protein produced by caterpillars, and when it get's hot, for a brief moment it melts, sticks and then turns to carbon. Some of this carbon gets infused into the metal. Some of the carbon adheres to the surface. This stickiness is something that paper and cotton don't have, even though both turn to carbon when heated.

If you practice and get the procedures and temperatures down perfectly, you can create a smooth, matte or satin-finish black surface. I've been able to do that a few times. But I can get that appearance with rust bluing or out-of-the-bottle bluing. The way I have described is simple, but it creates a very unique finish with a lot of character. Not for everybody."

Finally Bob Strawn responded and his is extremely important for anyone who may be interested in this process:

"It seems logical that breathing hydrogen cyanide would be unpleasant. You wife is quite wise to not like the smell of burning silk.

I would advise extraordinary ventilation and knowing where the vapors were going.


Bob"

I hope that you enjoy this as much as I did.

Fred
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Old 08-25-2010, 09:45 PM
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Default Re: Burnt Silk Metal Finish

That's cool, Fred. Thanks for posting. Jonathan does sound like me, but I can assure you, he's not. Just a cheap imposter, imported from an inferior forum. But he asks good questions, nonetheless.

It's a bummer that Stan didn't post a bigger picture. I can see that the hoop and ferrule are black, but other than that, I don't get much of a sense of the texture.

The Japanese - particularly in Bizen - have a technique of firing pottery in huge kilns called "anagama". It typically takes a week to load the anagama, a week to fire it, a week to cool down, and a week to unload. During the firing, they add wood day and night. It's quite a party. At any rate, Bizen is famous for its unglazed pottery. Instead, they use grasses, leaves, paper, soil, hair, etc. on the pottery. The organic material burns away, leaving the mineral remains - mostly silica. It leaves lovely patterns on the pottery. Much like the silk on the steel.
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Old 08-25-2010, 10:00 PM
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Default Re: Burnt Silk Metal Finish

Quote:
Originally Posted by Poto View Post
That's cool, Fred. Thanks for posting. Jonathan does sound like me, but I can assure you, he's not. Just a cheap imposter, imported from an inferior forum. But he asks good questions, nonetheless.

It's a bummer that Stan didn't post a bigger picture. I can see that the hoop and ferrule are black, but other than that, I don't get much of a sense of the texture.

The Japanese - particularly in Bizen - have a technique of firing pottery in huge kilns called "anagama". It typically takes a week to load the anagama, a week to fire it, a week to cool down, and a week to unload. During the firing, they add wood day and night. It's quite a party. At any rate, Bizen is famous for its unglazed pottery. Instead, they use grasses, leaves, paper, soil, hair, etc. on the pottery. The organic material burns away, leaving the mineral remains - mostly silica. It leaves lovely patterns on the pottery. Much like the silk on the steel.
Peter,

Unfortunately that was it for the picture. I will try and find some others or maybe you and Jonathon can duke it out as to who is the imposter and who is not.

However that "anagama" sounds really interesting as well.

Fred
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