One of the knives that I was making was made with simple blackened shakudo scales. The patina is relatively wear resistant (it was uses a lot on Japanese sword and armour fittings) but over time it does wear and I was thinking about ways to use this. I like the fact that my knives will change over time; that when they leave me, their life is just beginning…the story of the life they have with their new owners will be written on them over the years. I’m sure this is a result of all those old Sheffield knives I collect!

I wanted to partially cover these shakudo scales with lace…made of gold wire. The black under the lace will stay really black…the lace will get shinier…and the rest of the scales will just wear as normal. My first job was to teach myself bobbin lace making. I started using an extremely fine silver wire (0.1mm or just under 0.004”) and was quite happy that I would be able to achieve the results that I wanted…

The only problem was getting gold wire this thin and in a high enough carat. I want to put the mesh over the top and colour the whole scale together; with a high enough purity the wire won’t be affected by the patination process and will stay gold coloured. The thinnest that I could find, at a reasonable cost, was 0.3mm (0.01”) at 18ct, but this was obviously going to change how it handled.

So, I did some aluminium samples. Unfortunately, the gold wire (even though it’s the same thickness) handles SO differently from the aluminium that I had to modify my design again – making it coarser still.

I have one piece of gold lace done and another just starting. I don’t know whether I’ll feel that it is worth it in the end and I may yet change to a completely different idea and just scrap the gold. The gold is black because when I annealed it I kept it black so that I could see it more easily, a quick dip in pickle when it’s done and it will be all bright and gold. The ‘lace’ will just cover the area where a bolster would normally be.

I loved the little bits of lace when they were finished but I really struggled to get them working on the knife that I had intended them for. In the end, I changed the design completely and did a more traditional inlaying of different alloys. This lace will just have to wait until I have another opportunity to use it!