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Question About Nunome-Zougan


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I'm beginning to practice nunome-zougan but I don't remember if I should anneal the metal (shibuichi, brass, shakudo) before making the tiny groove texture with the chisel. I will start with brass to practice and after I will try with shibuichi.

I made also two pieces on iron in Tokyo and I'm sure I annealed the iron plate before making the texture but I don't remember about other softer metals....

Do somebody can give this information? I'm am really impatient to start!!! Thanks in advaaaance!! :)

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I have never done this type of work but I can say that I always anneal any metal I am working on. I think if you are going to be texturing with a chisel if you do not anneal the metal the chisel will not make a very deep impression. I know there are people on this forum that do this type of work hopefully they will give you some insight.


All my best ................. Danny

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Thank you Danny! I guess so as well... The best is to try both ways. After making this texture you go to inlay a realy thin sheat of a softer metal, so I wonder if the annealed metal becomes not to soft to catch te other metal after...

I'll try my selve but if any body haves a suggestion I would be happy...

Thanks again!! Elisa

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Yes Elisa, Dan is right, in general you want the ground metal as tough as possible(except, of course, not hardened steel). Its always a good idea to do a small test with the metals you want to use to insure everything is working correctly. It is best to use only pure gold and silver for the overlay metal, and you do want them as soft as possible. You can anneal the overlay foils by heating them in a small metal lid from a candy tin, with a torch underneath. This will prevent melting them. Dull red in a dark room.


Here are photos showing silver being attached to iron for the frog's belly:



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Please excusemy for the late reply....

Hi Janel, thank you for the suggestion, I looked for nunome-zougan using the button 'search' and I found a lot of interesting informations which I can good need in the next time, fantastic!

And Jim, thank you also for taking your time for explaning me this detail. Now I am sure, and I understand why I wrote no where on my old notes about annealing the ground metal before making the cuts, exept for hard metals like iron.

About annealing the the pure silver or gold foil I remember I used to do it on a thin iron plate (0.50 mm ca) giving the flame from below.

Thank you for the pictures, some where on the forum I have seen the finished piece, beautiful!

I finally have found pictures of tree of the pieces I've made in Japan.

I know those are student works but I am still proud, thise were my first tree works. unfortunately the photos are not so nice.

If you have any feed-back to give I would appreciate it!

above every picture is a short description.

Thank you again for your help!!



Pendant; gold on iron, silk



Brooch; gold on shakudo



Brooch; silver on shibuichi


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Hi Jim, thank you for your positive comment! I made those pieces three years ago, since then no more. That's why I miss some details now. But I'm not afraid, I see I can find many informations here and there in this forum and in the 'following the iron brush' forum and if I should get stuck some where I can still post a question. I'm making right now the first texture on brass, I enjoy it!

thank you again, it's very inspiring to see so many interesting discussions and the images of beautiful works.



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Hi everybody! making my first attempts in nunome-zougan some doubts are arised:


1) which kind of pitch is best to use for this purpose, softer or harder? mine is a german soft one. When I hit the metal plate with the cisel it sinks, which is not so practical, as soon the pitch is cold and hard again the plate comes off.


2) In which position should I hold the cisel, 45 degrees or 90 degrees? when I hold it and hit it in perfectly perpendicular position in stead of creating deep grooves the plate beginns to warp (but this could also depend on the too soft pitch) and the grooves comes out too superficial.

If in stead I hit it holding it in inclined position then the grooves comes out deep enough to hold the silver or gold foil. Is this ok? the more I practice the texture, the more I have the filing to remember that this (holding the cisel 45 deg) is a rule in thise tecknique.

Do somebody can confirm it?


Thank you!! Elisa

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  • 2 months later...

Hi Elisa. I'm sorry that I missed your post.


1) I use a "medium" pitch from Northwest Pitchworks. It is firm enough to hold the work solidly, but not brittle. You can search here for more information or look at Ford's site.


2) I have good results holding the chisel at 75-80 degrees. I think 45 is too acute to make functional teeth. Experience is the best teacher. Again searching wii reveal more information.



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  • 3 weeks later...

Hi Jim,


nice to receive your replay :)


In the mean time I made many tries and I found out as well that 45 degrees is too much!

My chisel had an accident before I could beginn to practice nunome zogan, unfortunatelly it is fallen to the floor and the edges are rouded a little bit off. for this reason I tried to get the cutting edge as before sharpening it with really fine sandpaper and oil.

I'm afraid that's the reason that my chisel don't works so good any more. I don't have much experience in sharpening tools. If I hold it at 75-80 degrees it makes too superficial grooves. Holding it at 45 the groves seemes more deep but also larger and rougher. this is not the result that I wish.

This chisel I am using was a present of Ando sensei, I have to fix it perfectly. Also I'm trying to make new ones my self. The result is still not perfect but I go on trying.





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Hi Elisa,


As you seems to be about getting additional chisels, you'll need to sharpen them on a regular basis of time.


In that case, you should better buy a good sharpening stone (can find some with both medium/fine grit). Or even buy machines with accessories to keep the correct sharpening angle ( here ). Dictum is not one of the less expensive in Europe but the service level is very good and prices are fair.


Have a look at these links if the one above is not what you were looking for:



Abrasive center

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Hi Thomas,


I'm am just wondering about which kind of stone I should buy. Is the Belgian bench stone a water stone?


I heared often that oil stones as Arkansas are very good for thise purpose. But even in this case I have seen that there are different kinds of Arkansas, white, black, softer, harder... I don't know exactly what to choose.

What do you think is the difference between a belgian stone and an arkansas and theirs effects?

Tanks for your suggestions.



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Hi Elisa,


Common water stones are maybe more easy to find in Europe (and yes, belgian stone is a water stone). But I don't think that water or oil stone will change a lot the result.


The most important is how you manage to keep the right angle of bevel when sharpening.


I proposed the Belgian stone as I usually sharpen knifes to a razor cut level. But as DanM wrote, a simple India stone may be enough (here) and far less expensive. In addition, I found that sharpening chisels on too soft stones can damage them.


So yes, in that case:

- Learn how to sharpen on India stones (to be used with oil)

- Lower the grit using water sand paper on a flat surface (or mouse pad for gouges if you have some)

- Finish on an old piece of leather glued on a flat surface.


Once you manage to sharpen your tools at the required angle, grinding regular surfaces, then I believe that you should be able to do it well on almost every kind of stone of abrasive tool.

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Hi Dan and Thomas,


Thanks for the suggestions! I will surely use the India to exercise in keeping the right angle.

Actually I have an india stone, It's the stone I used to get the cutting angle of the cisel. but the surface came out really too rough. That's why I used very fine sand papers with oil after the india stone.

As I wrote about this to my teacher Ando from Japan he told me that I should use an arkansas in stead of finest sand paper.

The original cisel (Mekiri-tagane) he did for me in front of my eyes was dann this way. the metal he used was very hard iron which doesn't need to be quenched, I remember well that after he shaped the cisel on the grinding wheel he used Arcansas to sharpen it. The tip had a perfectly smooth and shiny surface and a really sharp cutting edge. It changed after the accident and after the try to fix it my self.


The cisel I made recently my self, here in Italy, never had this perfect tip. I made it in steel and I had to quench it because I couldn't find here the kind of iron which is used in Japan.


I'm quite sure that this depends first of all on how I manage to keep the right angle (still not good) and, second, on which kind of stone or paper I am using.

I think I will buy the belgian bench stone, but I would like to order an Arkansas as well.

If somebody knows wich kind of Arkansas is suitable for this purpose I would be glad to receive suggestions.

I have checked also on ebay where I found this italian page for example: 



But I see somebody is offering the stone for 13.-€ and somebody else is offering may be the duble mesure for 80.- €, this big difference of price does confuse me, are the two stones diferent??!

Karl Fischer in germany for example sells on internet just 'white' arkansas, Dictum haves a black one.

Is some body able to tell me which is the difference between the colors and how important the difference is?
 Finally I would like to know which kind of arkansas is the best for sharpeing the cutting edge of very hard iron or steel cisels.


I attach a couple of photos of Ando's cisel and mine...


Till soon,





The first cisel is made by Ando, the second is made by me








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Hi Elisa,


You may know that for a stone, there are two main things to take care of. The grit (or grain, that's how we say in France, so maybe in Italy as well) and the hardness.


For example, two Arkansas stones (white and black) can have the same grain but don't have the same hardness. The black one is harder that the white. To illustrate, let's imagine a piece of fine rock and a piece of chalk. They can both "sharpen" your knife, but one will crumble faster than the other. That's what you'll find with stones.


For the price difference, it's all about regularity of the grain and quality of the stone.


For example:

- For a synthetic stone, it will be about the quality of the original powder (well calibrated, hard or soft, etc...) and the way it has been soldered into a bloc (resin or "glue" quality, etc...).

- For a natural stone (Arkansas, Belgium, etc...), it's based on the quality of the original stone composition. Once extracted and broken into small pieces, they have to sort each new bloc, check whether there are veins of other mineral inside, avoid cracks , etc... Then they sell it at different grades of quality depending on this.

- Finally, based on the brand of the synthetic stone, or the origin of the natural stone (Arkansas, India, Japan, Belgium, South of France, etc...), they are more or less known and famous stones.


To answer your question about 13€ or 80€, let's say that the expensive one may be a "pure" premium grade Arkansas and the less expensive one, extracted from a region close to the Arkansas or made from the same kind of rock but not situated in the Arkansas.


The chisel that your teacher did is made of steel (iron is far too soft), but maybe already quenched (old file for example) and he just took care to not heat it too high, in order to not remove the quench. The proof is that when it fell, the chisel tip broke.


Regarding the stone you may buy, choose a hard one, with a fine grain (black arkansas at 6000-8000 grain seems good). It will last for long, keep a regular flat surface and help you sharpen your chisel with a flat bevel.


If need to roughly shape the chisel first (after a fall), use your India stone, then finish with the Arkansas. For "daily" sharpening, only use the finest stone. If you feel the Arkansas is to hard, try a white one or a Belgium stone (named Coticule).


Hope it clarified things a bit.



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Hi Thomas, I'm really grateful. That's exactly what I wanted to know.


About Ando's chisel I'm quite sure that we are talking about a tool made in iron. As I wanted to order those unfinished chisels through a Japanese goldsmith, a friend of mine, choosing them from a catalog, I was told that it's not about steel, as I thought in the beginning, but about a really hard Iron which is not supposed to be quenched and which you can't shape just with the file. Then I remembered Ando sensei telling me that this chisel was made in Iron differently from the chisels we made for Uchi-dashi (japanese repousse technique), which we (students) did our self shaping them with the file.


That's why I'm still convinced that it's about iron but it's not to be excluded that I'm wrong... I will write this question to Ando who can clear that easily up. I need to know it as well since I'm going to make more of this chisels, if it's just a kind of steel I don't need to order them from Japan.


In any case GRAZIE! I appreciate very much your helpful explanation about stones...



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You're welcome. Glad to know that it helped you.


The difficulty with Japan is that we use different words to define the same thing. For example, I remember a discussion about charcoal used when forging.

They call one variety "chestnut charcoal" where it is for us "oak charcoal". It is not made from real chestnut tree but from an oak variety called chestnut oak.


So maybe when Ando talks about iron, he is just considering a steel different from their white/blue paper steels or tamahagane. Can you try ask him about high speed steel? It does not loose quench below 900 celsius degrees and "auto-quench" when cooling.


If the current chisel works fine for you, we'd better try to find out what it really is :).

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The type of metal you are looking for is W1 in the USA,I'm not sure what the type number is in Italy. It is a common tool steel and shuld be very availible from local machine shop suppliers,etc.Since you are only making cross hatch lines on a metal plate,the chisel metal is not important,it must be harder that the metal plate you are making the cross hatching on.

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Hi Elisa,


Small update. All the guys from the forge forums told me to use HSS (high speed steels), especially the M2 which is a basic one.


If you want to have a try, one of these guys have a lot of small round bars (from 5 to 16mm diameter and 7 to 10cm long) and proposed me to send you some, to test. Already heat treated and quenched, ready to be grinded to the good shape.


By the way, the M2 is used by a japanese engraver called Mali Irie in France.


Are you interested in?





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