WARNING: This is a long post. With an unsatisfactory ending. Sorry.
Have you ever heard of kintsugi/kintsukuroi? If you Google it, you will probably see this picture:
And if you click on that picture you’ll get all sorts of lovely information about what exactly the process is. Because I know your attention span is shorter than that (I mean, you’re here, right?), I’ll give you the skinny. Basically, this method of pottery repair is based on the idea that something can become more beautiful for having been broken, and, rather than throw away a broken vessel, we can make it more beautiful by putting in the effort to fix it. And to fix it in a beautiful way.
The problem is that doing it the real, traditional way is going to take a bit more actual effort than I really want to put in. Not to mention that the real process involves many toxic substances, and many of these substances are not allowed to be imported into Canada. So I couldn’t even do the real way if I wanted to. If you want to see someone go through the real process, read the Kintsugi Blog. The fact that the last post was in April 2013 should tell you something.
And I could buy some fancy schmancy repair kit from some other country, but I’d probably run into the same import issue and they’re expensive, if you include shipping and the fact that the Canadian dollar is tanking at the moment. I don’t like things that are expensive, because I don’t have any money. This is why my main hobby is talking to the internet.
I’ve seen a few attempts, like this one, to “hack” the method and do it more cheaply and easily. But they kind of suck. I can definitely do better than that.
Here’s the thing, though: so far, I haven’t quite managed to get it right — yet. But now I’m obsessed with it. So I figured I’d let you guys know how I was doing with it, and maybe some of you have some ideas about how I can make it better. Sound good? Okay good.
What I wanted to achieve with my kintsugi is a fixed vessel that could be used again. So I did my research and I found a food-safe and water-tight all-purpose adhesive from Dap. I had to order it online from Amazon.ca, because for some reason none of the hardware stores in Ottawa were stocking it.
I also picked up these awesome babies from Lee Valley. They’re teeny tiny condoms you stick on the ends of your nozzle-y glues to keep them from drying out. Because I hate that they come with a twist cap that you use to break the seal and once you add the nozzle the cap is useless. And then the glue dries up in the nozzle and you’re hooped.
These are awesome. And cheap.
Now, to adorn the adhesive I needed some precious, precious gold. Or a reasonable facsimile. I considered gold leaf but again, pricey, and too complicated. So I looked around and I found these nice metallic powders from Neuberg-Ebel that looked awesome. Of course I couldn’t find anyone who would ship them to Canada. But then I found some re-packaged Jacquard Pearl-Ex powders at DeSerres that were in my price range so I picked up a few colours. Make sure you get metal powder and not embossing powder, because embossing powder turns to plastic when it’s heated. Although now that I think about it, that might be a good idea for next time …
And, you know, protective gloves and sheets of newspaper and stirring sticks and containers and all that stuff.
I decided to start my experiments after I accidentally broke one of my parents’ porcelain bowls at Christmas time. Porcelain and ceramic are ideal for this sort of thing, because they don’t shatter when they break (unless you totally smash them, of course). Clay will turn into dust if you break it but porcelain is good stuff for dropping.
This bowl broke cleanly into three pieces, which was a good starting point for me.
My original idea was to mix the metallic powder with the adhesive and then apply it like regular glue. I reasoned that the metallic sheen would shine through the clear glue and it would look awesome. So I painstakingly removed the lid from the powder and tried really hard not to breath on the beautiful glittery copper stuff.
I squeezed some glue into a dish and carefully tipped some powder onto it.
Then I used a stir stick (these ones are left over from my coffee stirrer wall art) to mix them together.
And used a paintbrush to apply the glue to the first piece.
Then I stuck it to the second piece. Unfortunately, it didn’t goosh out around the crack in the nice smooth way I wanted it to, probably because I applied it with a paintbrush.
So then I tried to wipe some of it away. Yup, you saw that coming.
Whatever. This was an experiment. So I continued with the final piece, once the first two were dry. I left it to goosh as it would, though the ragged little wisps were so not cool.
What it looked like on the inside.
I used rocks and a box of matches to hold pieces in place while they dried. I think traditionally you wedge it in sand, but you do what you gotta do.
I wasn’t happy with the final result, so I thought I might try to trim off those wisps I disliked so much. I used an X-acto knife and it was super easy.
Except when the adhesive inside the cracks decided to come with the stuff I was trying to cut off. GARGLEBARGLEGRRRRRRRR …
And really it didn’t look that great anyway.
The bowl did, however, hold water. So I had that going for me.
For this one I was out of porcelain but I had this small pottery bowl thing. I knew that pottery would shatter more, but I figured if I controlled the environment in which it broke I might be in luck.
So after washing and drying the bowl I placed it in a paper bag and rolled the top down to seal it in. Then I took it into my garage and prepared to drop it on the concrete floor.
The only damage was a tear in the bag after the pottery shards had their way with it.
I definitely had more pieces than I would had the bowl been of china.
But only a little bit of shatter dust, which means I could still put the whole thing back together.
So I laid the pieces out and got ready to go.
In this attempt, I used the nozzle of the glue to lay a nice smooth bead along the edge of one piece.
Then I stuck them together and had a lovely smooth bit of glue smoosh out both sides. I carefully tipped some of the metallic powder onto the glue smoosh.
And did the same to the other side. What a mess!
Then I set the piece down and let it dry overnight before I tried to get the excess powder off.
Look at that! It’s beautiful!
The problem was that I couldn’t re-create the situation again. The powder got everywhere, and my hands aren’t that steady, so I ended up dropping pieces while trying to glue them together. It’s really hard to maintain pressure on two pieces of odd-shaped pottery (but not too much pressure) while also carefully tipping fine powder everywhere, especially if you have carpal tunnel syndrome and you have no gripping power.
So that’s where I am right now. If you folks have any ideas, I’d love to hear ’em!
36 thoughts on “Kintsugi – Hacked”
Hello! I worked with drywall and its attendant dust so I do know about dust. I’d be wearing a mask; they’re available at any hardware store. Come to think of it, they’re available at any pharmacy. Get yourself a vise. They are soooo handy and you could line the inside of the gripping parts with scrap fabric. Your dish part looked great by the way. Good luck.
I love the theory of this. Hope it works out for you. Make sure you let us know if you figure out a method.
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I think they are great! I never would have thought of doing this. Glad you have a hobby like reading the web. 🙂 If you haven’t got a vice grip (great idea, Ingrid) then try sprinkling the powder before you smush the pieces together. It might still make a mess, but obviously, you will do it over something that lets you recapture the powder. And so you will only be doing one step at a time, rather than two.
Thanks guys – so, use the vice grips at the edge of the pieces I’m squishing together? I don’t want to push them together TOO much because then too much glue comes out. And yeah, wearing a mask, so don’t fret. The major issue with reclaiming the powder is that it’s designed to stick to its surface so I only ever get some of it back in the little bottle. I wish there was a more efficient way!
Oh my, the 2nd try is coming out so beautifully! To expand on the vice idea (assuming this is a table vise we’re talking about), maybe only put the bottom broken piece in the vice with the end to be glued sticking up so that you only have to worry about keeping one piece in place while you powder. Then once the glue sets a little bit, you can just let gravity do the work? Idk if it would work quite as I’m envisioning it, but maybe?
I have a table vise and can see what you’re saying, but the only problem with that is that (a) it’s in my frozen garage and (b) if it’s in the vise I don’t really have any way of re-capturing the powder I spill …
A “third hand” tool might work for holding pieces together, and they’re not very expensive. (https://www.google.com/#q=third+hand+tool)
Oooh, neat! Thanks for the tip!
You’re welcome. I’ve got one, don’t use it much, but every once in a while it comes in handy for some of the jewelry making I do. Hadn’t thought of using it to hold glued pieces together until now though… (found your blog via Googling for Kintsugi; have a broken glass lid I’d done painting on, elaborate celtic knot in copper outlined in black which is now in four pieces, and want to repair it; just gluing it together really won’t look good.)
I can see how that would be a problem. Let me know what technique you end up using and how it works out for you!
i saw a video to fake kintsugi on a broken using a twotube epoxy system , gal mixed in some fake gold powder with epoxy, laid in on edges with tongue depresser/ coffee stirstick , then put edges together. u can use elastic bands or masking tape . u need to wipe off excess with thinner or leave thick bead. it looked ok. i have ordered kintsugi kit from etsy shop- they offer both synthetic and real resin lacquers, real and fake gold ( ie brass) . i am going to try authentic traditional method and materials. looks very time consuming but i have alot of patience for restoration work. good luck – try lakeside pottery website- they have info re kintsugi.
Yeah Lakeside is good. Not sure I have the patience for it though. But if you try it, let me know how it goes!
Saw this when I was looking for kintsugi way to repair a teacup knocked over by hyper fuzzballs. It looks like the big problem is the pouring and loss of metal dust. What about waiting until the glue is tacky and almost-dry, and then dab a damp paintbrush in a small amount of the dust, then paint it over glue? Or make a very small funnel from wax paper for a controlled pour, and use wax paper as a liner instead newspaper? Clearly I have no real idea of how well this would work or if the dust also sticks to wax paper, but I’m hoping your experience with the dust might offer a clue, because now I want to try this.
The waxed paper is a good idea, as is the waiting for the glue to almost dry. The main problem is that I don’t have a means of holding the pieces together while I wait. I know there are gadgets out there that make this possible but I don’t have one at present. I think the dust probably sticks to the waxed paper just the same, but you are getting a controlled pour that way. I’ll have to give it a try …
did you finish the piece? how did it turn out? and did you leave the now-colored glue on the outside as it oozed out? or did you try trimming it? I guess if you trimmed it, the color would be trimmed away?
When I trimmed it, it went all dull and ugly, alas. It was too difficult to hold the pieces in place so I haven’t finished it yet, no. 😦
I think your first attempt at mixing the powder and the epoxy would work best. As far as cleaning it up, I would suggest using glass sandpaper (I think that’s what it’s called). It’s designed to not scratch glass or glazes on pottery. I’m planning on doing kintsugi on figures for my senior exhibit for undergrad, and so I’ve been doing a ton of research on it. I think your method shows a great amount of progress:)
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I think I need to use some kind of epoxy that’s a little bit harder. If I sanded this stuff it would just stretch like rubber. I wonder if maybe that resin you use in craft stores to create plastic shapes and miniatures would work? Obviously the traditional resins would be the best option but they’re a little hard to come by …
Ah ok. I don’t know what the best type of epoxy would be:/ I’m trying to find a cheaper alternative than buying the true traditional kit, because it’s so expensive. I start on my senior show next semester, but when I get it done I’ll try and send you a link if everything works out 🙂
Yeah it’s crazy how expensive the old-fashioned stuff is. If you figure out a good epoxy I would love to know, and definitely I’d love to see the finished product! Good luck!
Also I’d love to see this senior project of yours!
Below is a link to a blog entry where the person used one of the kintsugi repair kits. It looks like it would be easy to replicate using your own ingredients instead of buying the kit. Essentially, it’s quick-setting clear epoxy and metallic powder. The epoxy is mixed with some metallic powder then applied to the piece. After a short wait the pieces are joined, then after another short wait to let the epoxy set to a firm-but-still-tacky stage, additional metallic powder is applied with a brush. From the pictures it looks like the result is the same as the authentic method: a raised metallic-looking bead at the location of the crack. Unlike another faux method I’ve seen where liquid gold leaf is painted on, it doesn’t leave a visible dark seam in the center. Sounds promising, at least. Hope you’ll give yours another shot using this technique one of these days. I think your main problem was in using a silicone product instead of clear epoxy. Epoxy is incredibly strong, and sets to a very hard surface. I’ve also found it to be easily trimmed with an exacto knife if caught at just the right point before it sets completely hard, so if you wanted to minimize the size of the raised bead, you could trim it before the final dusting of metallic powder. I use epoxy all the time for things like repair and inlays in wood. Next time I break something in the crockery department, I plan to try a kintsugi-type repair since it looks like the results are beautiful. Cheers.
Wow, thanks for this John! I think my main objective in using the silicone was to make the whole thing watertight but I will definitely check this method out!
Came across this page while researching kintsugi. The only comment I have to add is that you need to determine what you want your ultimate result to be – pure art, or a functional piece of crockery. Obviously, if you plan on using the completed piece for food or drink, toxicity is of primary concern and will definitely limit your options.
Absolutely, and I’d like it to be as functional as possible, so it’s something I’m still looking into.
Most of the things I’ve read on repairing ceramic or porcelain talk about 2 part epoxy. I think they set harder and sand easier if necessary. I really like your mix method and I just saw a lady do it who both mixed the glitter in and then sprinkled glitter on after for more shine. I read using molding clay to stick it together or a dish of dry beans /rice holds shards together while they dry. Maybe those would make things easier?
I definitely want to try the beans method if I do this again!
Hello, i also tried the Epoxy Kintsugi method. As far as my experiences went, Epoxy Kintsugi is quite limited to the amount of skill your hands got.
For me, i mix epoxy with my metallic powder, and put a few metallic powder after a short time. I think this is the best way. But with this method, you will always have an amount of glue that will pour out of the crack (sorry im not english native speaker, i dont know how to describe it better).
I think you can achieve good result if you put the exact necessary amount of glue and the right pressure, but this is really difficult to get an even quantity of glue pourring out from the crack along the whole crack. As i said, it depends on your mastery and experience.
I had nice results in some place of the crack, and some less good results at other places.
I think you have to practive over and over until you master it, or decide to go with the traditional method (allowing you to clean the excess and achieve a very neat result).
I’m looking for materials at the moment (Urushi lacquer and other lacquer).
If you know any place that sell it quite cheap and can ship it in vietnam i’d be thrilled to know it.
Have a nice Kintsugi time, this art is so relaxing and phylosophicaly beautiful. I like it a lot, but this is frustrating as hell.
I love that you called it relaxing and frustrating as hell in one sentence. I think you’re right that the best technique is probably the one that they perfected a long time ago – it’s really hard to get those supplies here in Canada so I have no idea where you’d find them to ship to Vietnam. Good luck though – may you have better success than I did!
I decided a while ago that I’m going to repair all my broken stuff as kintsugi. I just use a quick-setting clear epoxy – JB Weld – and add gold powder (Schminke) which I buy at an art supply store. It works great. I’m in Calgary.
The hard part is getting just the right amount of glue on the edge so that it squeezes out nicely. It doesn’t always, but I just tidy it up as best as possible. That’s all part of the “in perfection there is imperfection” philosophy!
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I have just begun some practice pieces to experiment with to find out what works, what doesn’t, and what to watch out for.
And I am sure glad I did. This stuff can get out of hand really quickly!
Something I tried was, I took a rounded file to the broken edges, and beveled them off (I have found the drawing the file in towards the break works best, as there is a risk of large chips coming out of the outer surface when “pushing”)
Once you have done this too the edges, in addition to making the pieces safer to handle, this process creates a sort of “valley” along the joint.
I Experimented on a bowl, beveling half of the edges, and leaving the other half flush fitting.
I then mixed the clear JB weld, and golden pigment, and applied it to the breaks, and pressed the pieces together.
The epoxy globbed out as expected, but on the beveled side, most of it settled in the valley I had created. I went back over it with a razor blade to clean it up (it was pretty clean to begin with), and ended up with a very nice, clean, flush, 2mm golden seam.
On the unbeveld side, there were the globs, which looked pretty sloppy. I tried shaving them with a razor, and ended up with a golden hair line seam, which I found pretty uninteresting to look at.
Another added plus I found was that with the epoxy settling in the valley, it was very near to flush of its own accord. I feel this is an advantage since the epoxy will set with a relatively smooth surface, where as when trimmed it can end up rather dull. I think it will make polishing easier, or possibly unnecessary. I also am not sure how much of a luster one can achieve with this stuff, seems pretty soft, so if I can let the epoxy do the work for me, all the better.
Now I want to experiment with the amount of epoxy applied, as well as finding at what point is the best time to trim the flash (the epoxy squished out of the seam). I trimmed it the day after I had left it to set, and found that it worked well.
I am very pleased with this beveling technique, though dont forget to wear a mask if attempting this. No one needs glass dust in their lungs.
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Wow, you’ve definitely been working hard! Let me know when you figure out the best time to trim the flash … and send a picture if you think of it!
What if, and this is really crazy, you simply dremel a crack pattern into the surface and then paint it ? I know, cheaters never prosper but even better, dremel a crack indentation, buy real gold ceramic glaze, apply that and refire it at a local kiln. Then it would be totally sturdy, shiny, cool, and as as good as new. Totally fake damage repairs.
Well I *guess* so but then you’re kind of negating the whole point of putting something back together.
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Kintsugi is the method of repairing cracks and breaks with gold, as opposed to trying to repair to the original. It comes from the Zen concept that flaws and imperfections are beautiful. It has to do with consciousness, continuity, and acceptance of circumstances.
But yea sure, one could break something on purpose so they can add some bling.
Hi, cool project!
In traditional Kintsugi one used flour or a rice paste mixed with urashi (laquer used for dishes). After the piece totally dries from the first step, the gold (mixed with urashi) is painted on.
If these materials are unavailable to you, I would suggest using epoxy putty to put the pieces together. After it sets, you can gently sand any excess you don’t want. Then I would mix gold specks with laquer to paint on at the end. This method won’t be food safe, but it will be beautiful.
Best of luck!