laurabikinas6

A fine WordPress.com site

Electroforming Tutorial

Leave a comment

While searching online for help with electroforming, I found that it took me hours of my time, as well as 8 or 9 different websites just to get a somewhat clear understanding of how to begin electroforming. In this tutorial, I will simplify what I have found, and I will add in what I do personally, to achieve beautiful electroformed organic art and jewellery pieces.

 

BEFORE YOU BEGIN

 

Materials

Information

Cost

An object to electroform

you can use acorns, leaves, shells, insects, buttons, bones, lace, seeds, etc.

free

Superglue

To attach the Jump Rings and other findings to your item before you lacquer it

Less than $3.00 at Bead It

 

Metal Jewellery Findings

Jump Rings, clips, chain, or other findings to attach to your item

Less than $5.00 at The Sassy Bead Company

Small Paintbrushes

to apply the lacquer, and conductive paint to your item

Less than $2.00 at Dollarama

Water-based Lacquer

to seal your item before painting it with conductive paint

Less than $6.00 at The Home depot

A Plastic Table Cloth

to protect your work surface

Less than $2.00 at Dollarama

Arm and Hammer Baking Soda

to neutralize acid spills on skin

Less than $2.00 at Walmart

Conductive paint

You can purchase it online, at a hobby store, or make your own to make non-conductive surfaces conductive

Note: Graphite paint is not the same as chalkboard paint, and the spray paint available at your local hardware store, even those that claim to “have real metallic flakes”, do not conduct electricity

Graphite Powder $10.00 at Canadian Tire. Glue $1.00 at Walmart

A large measuring cup

Labeled “For Electroforming Only”.- to measure the Copper Suplhate for the Electroforming Solution

$2.00 at Dollarama

A Glass container large enough to hold your piece

Try to find one with a lid, so that you can contain the solution between electroforming objects

$20.00 at Walmart

Copper Electroforming Solution

This comes in the form of a premixed Electroforming Solution that you can purchase online OR you can make it yourself easily with Copper Sulphate and water. I Mix 1 ½ cups of Root Away into 15 cups of boiled water.

Root Away $12.00 at The Home Depot

Distilled or Boiled water

To mix the electroforming solution

free

Rectifier

I am using a 0 to 10 amp, which is more than enough for copper electroforming small items

$118.00 from circuitspecialists.com

Positive and negative lead wires

to attach to the rectifier, or battery and your piece

Less than $6.00 at a local electrical parts store

Copper anode  

I use around 2 feet of copper wire (made with 6-8 thick strands of wire wrapped together) but you can use copper pipe, copper sheets, or scrap copper.

Less than $10.00 at The Home Depot

Copper wire

I use 18 gauge copper wire from a jewellery store. You will need this to attach your item to the clip that attaches to the rectifier or battery.

Less than $10.00 at Bead It

Rubber gloves

as you will be working with acids that are strong enough to burn your skin, you will want these to handle the crystals (Root Away) and your item when you take it out of the solution

Less than $5.00 at Walmart

Long Plastic Spoon

to stir the electroforming solution- Remember to label it “For Electroforming Only” to prevent future contact with food

Less than $3.00 at Walmart

Eye protection

in case of splashing acid while stirring the solution

$2.00 at Dollarama

Scotchbrite pad

or steel wool or very fine sandpaper to shine up your electroformed item when it is finished

Less than $5.00 at Walmart

 

Total Start-up Cost to Electroform : 224.00

 

DAY ONE

Step 1: Find and Prepare your Materials

Begin your electroforming journey by collecting your materials. Find interesting things to cover in copper. They can be organic or inorganic, conductive or nonconductive, unique or not. I electroform acorns, leaves, buttons, shells, insects, bones, and anything else that I can find that would look better covered in copper!

 ImageImage

This step includes collecting your organic materials, cleaning them, and attaching the findings to make them a “one of a kind” jewellery piece. After collecting the items you wish to use, clean them thoroughly in soapy water. Acorns, for example, will have a natural “dust” on them, and if you do not scrub it off, the lacquer will adhere to the nut with ripples and bumps, which creates problems later.                                                            

After the items are clean and dry, attach a jump ring, or any other findings with super glue, or an epoxy. Make sure your glue is completely dry (leave for 30 minutes) before moving on to the next step.

 

Step 2: Lacquer your Materials

Before lacquering your items, you will want to prepare a place for them to dry. You may want to modify a cardboard box, adding wires across the top, to act like little clothesline for your items. You could also use a large block of Styrofoam, poking wires into the foam with each item.

            To lacquer your item, you may wish to paint the item in a water-based lacquer, or dip the entire item into the container, and allow it to drip dry. (I find that wood lacquers work very well, but you can use Mod Podge, or clear nail polish if you already have it. As long as it seals the object, it is alright)

 

Step 3: Allow your Items to Dry Overnight without Touching Them!

            Hang the item from a wire with at least 2 inches from any other object, and leave it overnight in a dry place. Do not check on them, or touch them at all during the night, JUST LEAVE THEM ALONE!

DAY TWO

Step 4: Check All Items for Dryness

            After one night (12- 14 hours), your items should be completely dry. If, for some reason they are not, leave them in their box, or syrofoam, and let them sit in direct sunlight for an hour to add a little heat. This should dry them out much more quickly.

*CAUTION*- Do not use this method if you used Mod Podge, as air bubbles tend to form on the object. Also note that the colour of the sealer does not matter as the final coat of copper will be opaque. (It can be easier to seal the object with a bright coloured sealant, as you will be able to see if you missed any spots with the conductive paint)

Step 5: Make Conductive Paint

            To make a conductive paint, you should make a thick paste from water, glue, and graphite powder. It will take time to find out the perfect mixture, but I usually mix a very small amount of glue (3 drops) with about a tablespoon of water, and then add as much of the powder as I can before it gets clumpy. If it becomes too thick, just add a little bit of water at a time, before it is runny enough to paint with again.

Step 6: Apply Conductive Paint

            Although this seems straightforward, you may need to do it more than once. If you are painting with a brush, move all strokes in the same direction, and try to make the layers of paint as even as possible.

*NOTE*: the “paint” is made from graphite powder. To make sure it conducts electricity, you need to be sure that each of the tiny powder bits is touching another one of the tiny powder bits. Although it may appear opaque, it may not mean that all of the graphite powder bits are touching one another. You may need 2 coats before it becomes conductive. Your final object should be completely covered with the powder paint, and should (when dry) appear matte, and not shiny.

If your object looks shiny, you may have added too much glue, and the object will be rendered nonconductive. All you have to do is add some water and a s much graphite powder to the solution as  you can, and then reapply the mixture to your object

Step 7: Allow to Dry Overnight

            The dryer the object is, the more conductive the paint becomes. Leave it overnight with no disturbance! I find placing mine in a closet makes it easier, because I can’t see it, so I don’t bother it!

 DAY THREE

Today is the day when you can finally create an electroformed object!

Step 8: Prepare your Electroforming Station

            At this point you will want to set up an area in your house, garage, or apartment near a window, and an electrical outlet. At your station, you will need to have baking soda (to neutralize the acidic solution, in case of spills), as well as a plain table cloth to protect your surface, and make it obvious if a spill occurs.

Step 9: Prepare your Electroforming Solution

            This part is pretty easy. Boil 15 cups of water, and add them to a glass container (hot water works best to dissolve the crystals, and also is helpful in the electroforming process)

Next, mix one and a half cups of the “Root Away” to 15 cups of water. CAUTION- as you are making a very acidic solution, add the crystals to the water, rather than the water to the crystals. This avoids dangerous splashes, spills and reactions. After the crystals are added, stir the solution until all of the crystals dissolve.

*NOTE* Remember to mark all tools used in electroforming, so that they aren’t used in food preparation afterwards.

Step 10: Preparing your Copper and Attaching your Anodes

Image

At this point you will want to prepare your copper to be added to the solution. I used a multi thread copper wire, and I found it to be cheaper, and more effective in copper electroforming than a rectangular copper anode.

If you are using a wire, you will want to bend it into a circle about the size of your container. You will want to bend it in a way that one end of the wire remains above the solution, so that you can attach the lead clips.

Once the wire is bent into the desired shape, scrub it with steel wool until it shines (use gloves for this stage as you do not want to deposit any oils or dirt onto the newly cleaned copper.

Then, place the copper wire into the acid solution, and attach the red alligator clip to the end of the wire sticking out of the solution

(At this point you should not have the other end of the clip attached to anything)

Step 11: Attaching your Cathode

Here, you will attach the black alligator clip to the item you want to electroform.

The next step will be divided into two subsections (one for those using batteries, and one for those with rectifiers)

Step 12: Hooking It All Up- FOR THOSE USING BATTERIES

            If you are going to attempt electroforming using batteries, you should know that your results may not be as delicate, or even as predictable as those formed with a rectifier. This is due to the fact that a battery does not give out a constant even stream of electricity to your object. Copper may form in clumps and could also crumble away from forming too quickly.    

That being said, if you have decided to try with batteries, you should start with 9volt batteries. I have tried with large 12 volt batteries, as well as with small double A batteries. The AA’s and the 12Volts both ended up being a waste of money in their own ways (it took a million AA’s which was expensive, and the 12Volt only plated one item).    

Begin by Attach the black alligator clip (at the end not already attached to the item) to the negative (-) end of the battery. Then attach the red alligator clip (at the end not already attached to copper) to the positive (+) end of the battery.

Step 12: Hooking It All Up- FOR THOSE USING RECTIFIERS

            Start by setting up your rectifier on a level surface and plugging it in (Do not turn it on yet).  Next, you will want to attach the black alligator clip (at the end not already attached to the item) to the black plug on the rectifier.

Next, attach the red alligator clip (at the end not already attached to copper) to the red plug on the rectifier. Next, turn on the rectifier, and adjust the settings so that both the Amps and the Volts are set below Janelle Zorko, from Pigeon Glass suggests that you, “turn the upper knob (amps) all the way to the left (off) and turn the lower knob all the way to the right (on).  Turn on the rectifier – all should read zero.” (Zorko, 2011)

*NOTE* As was mentioned by Hobbies and Crafts on their section on electroforming, “Current should be controlled at less than 0.1 amps per square inch of surface area being deposited onto” (Hobbies and Pastimes, 2008). For most beads, and jewellery findings, the surface area is around or under 1 square inch, but an easy way to check on 3D objects like an acorn would be to measure the circumference (around the object) and draw out the shape it would make if it were unwrapped and flattened. The reason behind such low amperage is that the lower it is, the more finely, and evenly it will be deposited onto your object. It allows the copper particles to stack around the object in an organized way, rather than just forming a pile.

If you use high amperage, you may have a copper piece that crumbles, or looks bumpy.

Step 13: The Waiting Game

At this point you may need to wait anywhere from 4- 12 hours. Depending on how much copper you want deposited onto your object, you will need to adjust the time. For a fully covered acorn, with a thickness that could resist breaking under a fingernail, or dragging on a table (my test for what I consider daily wear and tear) it took about 3 hours. Leaves however, took much longer (6 hours). At this step you will want to check your item every 45 minutes or so. Try not to take it out of the solution while checking, but rather just look through the solution, or the glass.

Step 14: Removing the Object from the Solution

When your object is covered as much as you want it to be, you can take it out of the acid solution. At this point, you will want to make a 1:1 ratio mixture of baking soda and warm water. Rinse your item in this solution to neutralize the acid. Next, you will want to let the object dry. It will come out of the solution a bright new penny colour like this:

 

Step 15: Preparing for colours/ lacquer

At this point, your copper electroformed object is almost finished. If the copper is not smooth (if there are gritty bumps of copper, or uneven areas) you should use a fine sandpaper, steel wool, or a scotch bright pad to gently scrub the bumps away (I find the Scotchbrite pads work best, as they are easier to control)

If you want it to stay the “new penny” copper/pink colour, you should dry it with a soft paper towel, and move on to step 17. If you want it to darken to a salmon copper colour, let it dry overnight before moving on.

Step 16: Colours

If you would like to “age” the copper, or change the colour in some way, you should do that now.

I choose not to do this, and move straight on to lacquering, but there are a number of techniques that will allow you to change the colour of the newly deposited copper. I have retrieved these methods from a variety of sources, and they will be sited at the end of this tutorial.

Patinas

Patinas allow you to change the colour of your copper object with chemicals. These chemicals can be found in the home, or purchased from chemical suppliers online for the purpose of copper colour change. At home Patinas often require a mixture salt, baking soda, and ammonia which you apply to the copper item (the measurements can be found at the end of this tutorial in one of the links listed). Allow the mixture to do its thing! You will see your item change to an “antique” colour. Rinse the mixture off, and proceed to the next step.

Image 

One that I have tried, I found on Pinterest. Rena Klingenberg shows how to use salt and vinegar to change the copper colour of your electroformed object to a green/blue finish similar to aged copper.

 

One that I hope to try involves “Liver of Sulfur”. This patina darkens the copper to a deep brown black. You would then scrub the item to show the bright copper appear only on raised or scrubbed areas.

  Flame

Image

Torch flaming allows you to change the colour of your copper item to a variety of other colours. With a torch you may change your item from the “new penny” copper colour to deep red, green, orange, blue, and even purple. I have little to no knowledge of this form of colour change, and so I added some tutorial links for this process at the end of my tutorial.

Step 17: Finishing

If you are happy with the colour and texture of your item, you can seal it with a waterproof spray lacquer.Image

 

 

 

Topic

Author

Website

Electroforming Tutorials

MaggieJs

forthegoodknight

Janelle Zorko

Hobbies/Pasttimes

http://www.instructables.com/id/Electroforming-an-Iris-Seed-Pod/

http://www.instructables.com/id/Unique-Geode-Pendant-using-Electroforming

http://pigeonpointglass.com/electro-tut.html

http://www.hobbies-and-pastimes.com/Electroforming.html

Patinas for Copper

Rena Klingenberg

Wiki How

Science Company

http://jewelrymakingjournal.com/vinegar-and-salt-patina

http://www.wikihow.com/Oxidize-Copper

http://www.sciencecompany.com/Patina-Formulas-for-Brass-Bronze-and-Copper-W160.aspx

 

Flame Colouring Copper

Catherine Chandler

George Goehl

http://etsymetal.blogspot.com/2008/03/heat-coloring-copper.html

Best Online Stores

Circuit Specialists

http://www.circuitspecialists.com/

 

 

Baking Soda should be on hand at all times!

It neutralizes acid

(pour on spills on skin then rinse with water)

                                                                     

 

 

 

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s