Next, using smooth jawed pliers held close to the scoring, I bent the wire easily. The wire joint is still stiff, so I wiggled it until it close to falling off.
Next, I used a tiny amount of gap filling CA glue on the single segment of wire and inserted it into the mortise and held it as perpendicular to the surface as possible, but just long enough until the glue started to set.
I then immediately made sure the new mortise cover plate was laying even. If not, I adjusted slightly with the rest of the wire as a “handle” and with the tip of a hobby knife, if necessary. Then, when I had waited long enough for the glue to fully set, I just wiggled the wire a little more until the joint broke, leaving the tiny piece of copper in the mortise.
This method was about the only way I could keep from losing tiny 3mm long pieces of narrow copper strip. The scored and broken-off ends might not look too good in an extreme close-up image. But at only 3mm long, it’s really hard to see close enough to detect any irregularities in the ends. Still, I would run a file over the end of the long wire strip before continuing to the next piece.
The process didn’t take that long, and I had the copper plates done in short order. The next step was the one I was less sure about, and that was the fitting of gold mortise cover plates.
Gold Mortise Covers
I considered some ideas for the gold plates, but I found that gold wire was readily available in the same gauge as I used for the copper plates. Solid gold wire is a bit expensive. Enough so that it generally came in 3 foot lengths, and I had no idea how much I would need. Then, I ran across something called “gold filled wire.” Apparently, this is wire that is gold on the outside with a different metal at its core. It differs from gold plated wire in that the layer of gold is far thicker in gold filled wire than it is in gold plated wire.
I did a little bit of Internet research on gold filled wire, as I need to pound this stuff flat. Would it ruin the outer layer and cause the inner core to break through? My fears were allayed by a post by a person who claimed to pound the stuff all the time without any problems. Given that gold filled wire is not that expensive, I went ahead and ordered a small roll off of Amazon. A 5′ roll, which was enough to decorate dozens of kobaya was only about $16, shipped.
The wire ordered was specifically called 14/20 gold filled, which I learned means that the gold is 14k and that 1/20 of the total wire content, or 5%, is gold. All that matters here is that it’s the outside 5% that’s 14k gold. Now, 14k gold is far from 24k gold, but it’s the only type that I could find in the form of gold filled wire. Any purer gold wire would have to be solid gold, and I wasn’t ready for the extravagance of spending $100+ for one foot for 18k solid gold wire. 14k gold is “whiter” in color than 18k or 24k gold, so I’m not sure at this point how this will affect the appearance at later stages of the decoration of the kobaya’s hull, but that’s all part of the journey of the build.
The gold filled wire turned out to be no more difficult to work with than the copper wire. I chose the same 22 gauge diameter as the copper wire, so the plates worked out to be about the same width. The only real difference in working with the gold was that it was used on longer mortises, so they had to be 4.5mm long.
The only issue I had with the gold plates had more to do with the material I used for the hull planks, which was sugi, or Japanese cedar. The grain is tough, and in trying to fit the gold plates properly, a couple are angled down just slightly. I tried to correct this, but the wood is soft and I was starting to mar the hull. The result is that a few of the plates don’t reflect light the same as the rest, making it sometimes look like those plates are missing or dirty. I may go back and try to fix those plates, but it may not make much difference in good lighting conditions.
Lighting again is not very good here – I should probably use a darker, colored backdrop. But, you can see that the starboard side of the kobaya is done. The copper plates are also completed on the port side, so I just need to add the gold pates, which is basically just a one evening project.
You may notice too the gold colored rectangles above the plates towards the bow. The kobaya’s lower transverse beams probably pass through the hull planks to lock into them for strength. The ends of these beams were covered with plates. I couldn’t determine if they were actually gold or if they were copper. But, as they are up high above the row of gold mortises, I think I will make them gold.
I experimented with taking a piece of tape and applying gold leaf to that first, then adhering that to the hull. In this case, I tried applying the gold leaf to a strip of adhesive backed copper tape – the kind used in stained glass work, and which I have on hand for copper sheathing hulls. This is just a test and I will refine the technique. But, you can see the immediate results here.
The only thing here is that these are very flat, and they look it. I believe these would stand out more as the beams would protrude slightly. So, I may make the plates out of something thicker, which I will apply the gold leaf to. I may try a fine grained wood or perhaps thin cardboard.
More decorations to come.