Tuesday, June 9, 2015
Tuesday, June 2, 2015
It's so important to turn on the power on BEFORE you submerge your piece in the copper plating solution!
Look at the unicorn toy on left, it was in copper plating solution no power for the first 5 minutes. The horse toy on right had power and current flowing right from the start! Both toys were left for several hours to electroform. The horse built a heavy layer of shiny copper, the unicorn never really formed other than a thin dull coat.
I’m always learning something new about electroforming and plating. This weekend Dan and I were electroforming pieces with copper and I put a prepared piece (covered with sealer and water-based graphite paint) into the copper plating solution without turning on the current. I left it there for about 5 minutes before turning the controller on. The result wasn’t good. The piece didn’t plate very well and the copper was a very dull salmon color. The next piece was a similar charm (small rubber toy) prepared in the same way. This time we turned the controller power on and the current was set to HIGH. The prepared piece was then submerged to begin the plating process. We left it on high for just about a minute and then set it to a medium setting until finished (several hours to electroform). The result was beautiful. The copper was bright and shiny with a thick deposition of copper. After several experiments we discovered two important things:
- Always turn the power on first and then submerge the piece into the solution while the current is flowing.
- Start with your controller set on HIGH for about a minute to get the plating started. This will expedite the coverage of the copper over the graphite paint. Since the graphite paint is water soluble, this boost in current minimizes the amount of graphite that might flake or soak off had the piece been left longer before plating. We also think that the boost in current helps to limit the contamination to the solution that occurs when organic materials are electroformed. Even with a boost in current, organic materials still need to be sealed very well prior to applying conductive paint and plating.
I found that by making sure the power and current were on prior to plating, my solution stayed viable for many subsequent pieces. I only had to add a few drops of brightener after plating 5-6 pieces.
Friday, January 16, 2015
Electroforming is easy, yet there is a lot to learn. One of the most FAQs we get is: Why is the copper plating surface not bright and shiny? What am I doing wrong? This happens after plating a few pieces. It's frustrating because it's hard to understand why this suddenly happens when previous pieces plated just fine. The good news is that you can polish it to a high shine because it is simply rough copper. But make sure you formed the copper thick enough before sanding or polishing. Here is a pdf to explain why copper can look dull and how the acids are depleted from the plating solution, even after electroforming just a few pieces. The easiest answer is to buy new plating solution. However, read this to understand the reasons why: Maintaining your copper plating solution
Edited to add:
We also have a new video about how to shine up your piece with a brass brush and polishing pads!