copyright 2006: Jim Kelso






This project demonstrates the inlay of a silver owl into a shibuichi Kenbyo(table screen).
The first step was to draw the owl on paper. I then traced the drawing onto frosted mylar which was cut out with scissors and served as the pattern. The pattern was transferred to a fine silver sheet(Xguage) with a mechanical pencil. The silver has a slightly matte finish applied with a sandblasted  400g aluminum oxide. This finish allows me to draw and adjust the design until I'm happy with it.
The inlay is then sawn from the silver sheet with a jeweler's saw. I like to finish all the edges of the inlay smoothly so there is less cleanup after the inlay is in. The edge is also slightly beveled so the base of the inlay is slightly larger than the face. This is the last chance to refine the outline design.
The inlay is then positioned on the base and the outline traced on to the base with a fine-point scribe. There is a defect in the base shibuichi that will be hidden by the inlay. It's very important to get this outline as exact as possible. I also sandblast the base as described above to give a very visible scribe line.
The next step is to engrave a rough outline of the cavity. Better to err on the side of leaving a little too much at this point. I've used a V-shaped graver of about 75 degrees in the Linndsay AirGraver.
I find burrs to be the most effective way to remove large amounts of material as here. You must be comfortable using the rotary tools as there is no margin for slipping. You can also carve it out with flat gravers.
This is the tricky part. The goal is to refine the cavity so the inlay will fit in and also there must be a burr punched up around the entire perimeter. This burr is punched back down against the inlay to hold it in place and give a seemless fit around the inlay. The cavity edge is refined with a combination of graving and punching. You want to leave enough burr to hold the inlay and fill any gaps, but not so much that it makes clean-up more work than necessary.
This photo shows the burr formed along the upper edge of the wing and half way along the lower. I find it helpful to start on one side(upper in this case) , getting that just right and then proceeding to the other side.
Here the inlay is in place. It takes a lot of time with so many small details such as the wingtips to get it to fit.
Using a flat-bottomed punch to push the burr metal against the inlay.
Here you can see the burr has been punched against the inlay leaving no gaps between the inlay and the base. The burr remnant needs to be leveled using files, gravers, scrapers and stones.
Here the leveling of the background continues. The light sandblasting is again an aid in seeing where the high spots are. The worked high spots stand in contrast to the low matte areas.
Here the background is nearly level. I left the area around the tailfeathers a little high to give some depth to the feathers that will be engraved into the shibuichi. Carving of the owl has begun.

This shows the beak to be inlayed in 22K gold using a similar inlay approach. From here it's on to the final engraved and chased detailing,

and then the patination. (please see patination tutorial)

patination tutorial







































                                                                    Winter Owl Kenbyo


                                                  mylar pattern transferred in pencil to silver


                                                                   owl ready to inlay


                                                                      scribed outline

                                                                        cavity outline

                                                                 carving cavity with burr

                                                         punching burr around perimeter

                                               burr along wing tips and part of lower edge

                                                                        inlay in place

                                                  punching the burr against the inlay

                                                         leveling the burr remnant

                                                           refinement of background

                                                                  further refinement

                                                          inlay of beak & penciled design

                                                                      finished inlay