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Keum Boo

Last meeting Ken Rose gave us a great demo on keum boo where he created a piece entitled “Up Sutters Creek without a gold pan.” He has graciously written a short article about the process so we can all try it in our studios! I’ll let Ken take it from here:

Kuem-boo is an old Korean technique for fusing high carat gold foil to silver and other metals, using relatively low temperatures and pressure.

The kuem-boo process, as in all jewelry processes requires planning ahead. Applying the gold foil is one of the last steps. All soldering must be done before the application of the gold foil. Riveting as well as other cold connections along with stone setting is done after completion of the kuem-boo process.

For Sutter’s Creek, I began by cutting out three pieces of sterling silver sheet. I drilled two holes for the rivets in the largest piece of silver. The holes were drilled where the top pieces of silver would cover the rivets. I positioned the silver on the slate where I wanted it and drilled the holes in the slate and the backing sheet/bail. The rivet wires were soldered into place and the two smaller pieces were sweat soldered into place. Final shaping and filing were then completed.

The piece was heated and pickled then rinsed; this process was repeated until a skin of fine silver covered the entire piece. Gold foil is very delicate and can be tricky to work with. I find the easiest way to cut the foil is to put it between the layers of a folded sheet of paper on which the design has been drawn. The silver piece is placed on a soldering screen that is on a soldering tri-pod. The piece is carefully heated from below with a torch to a temperature of 500 – 700 degrees. The gold foil is picked up with either a small brush or a burnisher to which saliva or a thin paste of gum tragacanth has been applied. If the correct temperature has been reached the foil will adhere when burnished with the burnisher.

To complete the pendant I riveted the kuem-boo piece to the black slate and the backing sheet/bail. I chose a brushed finish for the silver parts, as a highly polished silver surface would optically blend with the gold.

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