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Instructions for the Cu Electroforming Starter Kit, or with your own materials


Step by Step Electroforming Tutorial
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Overview

Step 1 - Design & Prep
Step 1b - Preparing Organics

Step 2 - Anchoring

Step 3 - Sealing

Step 4 - Conductive Painting

Step 5 - Electroforming
Step 5b - Clean Up

Step 6 - Polishing, Patinas & Finishes

Step 7 - Preventing Oxidation

Tips & General Guidelines

Health & Safety Information

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:: Overview ::

What is Electroforming?
Electroforming* is the electrochemical deposition of metal (in this case, copper) onto an object. An anode (copper) and a cathode (object) are immersed in an electrolytic bath that is composed of a solution of metal salts (Copper Sulphate [CuSO4]).
A direct current (DC) of electricity is passed through the solution via anode(+) and cathode(-), affecting the transfer of metal ions present in solution onto the cathode surface, building up over time and bonding the metal onto the object.

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*There is a semantic difference between electroforming and electroplating; both are chemically and procedurally the same from metal to metal, but where electroplating only deposits a very thin layer of metal onto the object, electroforming is intended to build a substantial amount of metal on the object, and in some cases even supplant the object all together, leaving a robust metal shell after the object is removed. In other words: Electroforming is when a non metal object is formed over with metal, and Electroplating is when a metal object is plated over with metal.  

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:: Step 1 - Design & Prep ::

Materials needed in this step:

  • Piece(s) you want to electroform
  • Embellishing elements
  • Sketchbook and pencil

Design
When creating design ideas, it can help to sketch out what you want the finished piece to look like. Sketching future designs can also help you get your ambitious ideas all out on the page while you learn and develop your craft. Start with something simple while you are still learning how to electroform.
Popular design mediums are made from crystals, gemstones, leaves, acorns, pine cones, resin, seed pods, wax, feathers, toys, bone, glass, sculpted clay, metal findings, laser cut or 3-d printed plastic, and of course a mixed media of all these items and more.

Surface Area Calculation
You will need to calculate the square inch of the surface area to be electroformed on your piece to determine your amperage settings. You’ll be setting your amps at 0.1 amps per square inch of surface area.
For example, if your design measures at 4 square inches of surface that you wish to plate, then your number will be 0.4 amps.

Measure only the areas to be plated, keeping in mind that you'll have to take all sides of the object into consideration during calculation. For complex shapes, it helps to measure the areas in sections that you add up together.
Write down your number, as it will come into use during Step 5: Electroforming.

Here is a very handy link to a surface area calculator to use and bookmark:
https://www.calculator.net/surface-area-calculator.html 
Again, you’ll be setting your amps at:  0.1 amps for every square inch of surface area.

  

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:: Step 1b - Preparing Organics::
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Materials needed in this step:

Dry to remove moisture
You will need to fully dry any organic material. This prevents the object from wilting during the prep stages, and also prevents inner rotting of the finished piece.

To create skeleton leaves, follow my instructions here.

Press dry
The easiest way to dry multiple batches of leaves is to press dry them in old books, weighted down with something heavy. Typically they are dry after a few days, but it’s best to wait at least a week. A flat iron with a low setting can help speed up this drying process. Keep in mind that even though leaves are flattened and prepped dry with a thin shape- they will regain some natural aesthetic again once they go through Steps 3 and 4.

Vegetable Glycerin
To soften and preserve organic materials that need to be flexible for your project, soak your item in a container with a 1:1 ratio of warm water to vegetable glycerin for a few days to a week. Rinse and pat dry. Store the items in a plastic bag until you're ready to use.


Oven Bake
For fresh acorns, pinecones, wood, etc, bake them on a flat pan or baking sheet on a low temperature(175 - 200 degrees fahrenheit) for about two hours, or until all moisture has been evaporated. Glue the acorn cap on, as they will easily come off after they bake.

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:: Step 2 - Anchoring ::
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Materials needed in this step:

Products listed above link to Amazon listings

Once you have your design, you may need to attach an anchor to the object as an attachment point for the suspension wire. The anchor is usually a jewelry finding that is incorporated into the design.

Anchors may not be needed if your design already has a hole, is a ring, or if you are incorporating the suspension wire to be fused on your design.

Anchor Types
Jump rings, formed wire, a charm/pendant that has a loop on it, a fold over or glue on bails, or sculpted clay are just a few examples of different anchors that are commonly used. You can get creative as you’d like by incorporating something else as a connection to attach to your piece.

Electroforming will add copper onto every surface, so take that into account when designing this part. For example, if you use a jump ring with a small diameter, you may find that after it has been electroformed, the resulting copper may have made the ring’s opening too small for the necklace chain.

Similarly, this will concept will affect sizing of rings made to be worn on fingers, post electroformed.

Glue
Always be in a well ventilated area when using any type of glue.

E6000 is a multipurpose solvent glue used for jewelry. It will begin to set in about 2 minutes after it’s been exposed to oxygen, and has a working time of  about 10 minutes.

Super glue(gel or regular) will also work well to adhere your design. You can sprinkle a little bit of baking soda over the super glue if you need to the glue to set instantly.

After you are satisfied with your design, let the glue cure at least 6 hours, or overnight before continuing to the sealant and/or conductive painting stage.

Building Mass
The electroforming process will build up mass of copper, however, some artists wish to create differentiating levels of sculptural mass on their design by using apoxie sculpt (two part mix, air dried) or a polymer clay(which requires baking at a low temperature).

You may want to gently use fine grit sandpaper to smooth out any fingerprints or uneven texture on your hardened clay designs, or use acetone on a q-tip for polymer clays prior to baking.

These techniques used in conjunction with an anchor will bypass the need for glue, but may need sealing if they are porous.

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:: Step 3 - Sealing ::
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Materials needed in this step:

Products listed above link to Amazon listings

Sealants
Polyurethane lacquer is a great sealant to use. It comes in a liquid or a spray form. You can also use Modge Podge, resin, or clear nail polish(if using a water or alcohol based conductive paint only- NOT a acetone based paint).

Application Methods
When painting with a brush, make thin, even strokes, keeping in mind that any texture may show up in the finished electroformed surface. Lightly thin if necessary by periodically dipping your brush in water between dipping in the sealant. Use small spring clamps and alligator clips to help hold up the piece while painting.

For the dipping method, hook an opened paper clip to the loop of your piece and use the other end as a handle to dip your piece directly into the container of sealant. Hang it on the drying rack and catch any excess sealant that builds up at the bottom or edges of the piece.

When using a spray sealant, hold your piece upright on a combination of alligator clips and spring clamps and spray from about 9 to 12 inches away to ensure an even coat. Work in a well ventilated area that is free from dust and wind. Always wear a safety mask.

Drying
Allow your piece to fully dry. If needed, apply additional coats.
Use an opened paper clip to hook your piece to hang dry on a rack. Jewelry or merchandise displays work great as a drying rack. Have a tray, a mat, or plastic sheeting under the drying rack to catch any excess paint drippings.
It is important to let the sealant completely dry before you move on to the next stage. Approximately 6-24 hours is recommended, depending on the size of your piece, and how many coats have been applied. Without a full cure time, you’ll find that painting conductive paint over a layer of sealant that isn’t fully cured will result in a surface texture of many little bubbles or bumps. 

Retain the black tape(if a kit from us was purchased) to reseal your jar when not in use. This will help prevent evaporation.

When to use a Sealant
If your design is anything organic such as leaves, flowers, pine cones, acorns, feathers, insect specimens, seeds, honeycomb, shell, wood, bone, etc. must be sealed. Sealing will make the item waterproof, preventing contamination your conductive paint, and also your electroforming solution. Unsealed/non painted areas of porous materials(such as wood, bone, and some shells) may get dyed blue from bare exposure to the solution.

If your item contains metal (which would make it conductive), you will need to seal it if you do not wish for it to be electroformed over. Aluminum, steel and iron must be sealed(if you wish to retain the original metal type) or painted over with conductive paint. If the metal type is questionable, then you must seal it to prevent contaminating your paint and your electroforming solution.

When preparing a design that has areas that will remain unplated with it’s original surface exposed, you will want to create a protective barrier from becoming damaged from the acid that is in the electroforming solution.
Most gemstones must be sealed. Anything under a 7 on the mohs scale hardness level definitely needs to be sealed. Hardness level of 7 and over(for example, a quartz), may be unaffected, but it’s always better to be safe than to ruin your piece and your electroforming solution. 

You can protect your objects with a clear sealant, such as polyurethane or clear nail polish, that can aesthetically remain on the final design, or one used as a mask, such as liquid latex or frisket, that will be removed afterwards. 

If using a water based polyurethane lacquer, you can dip or spray the whole piece in the lacquer, and then apply the conductive paint to the desired areas once fully dry. Or, you can use a paintbrush to apply the lacquer with a slight overlap over the surface of where you will apply conductive paint.

If using liquid latex as a removable mask, paint the conductive paint first, with some slight overlap where the stone/protected area will be, then apply the liquid latex to the edge at the overlap. When it is removed later, you can gently clean off any remaining conductive paint visible underneath with isopropyl alcohol. 

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:: Step 4 - Conductive Painting ::
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Materials needed in this step:

Products listed above link to Amazon listings

In this last prep stage, you will make your design conductive by coating with your conductive paint, which can be used to dip or paint on. The purpose is to create a non conductive surface area into a conductive surface so that the copper nano particles will have a map of where to grow.
Be sure to work in a
well ventilated area and wear gloves. Always keep your conductive paint well sealed when not in use. Use electrical tape to reseal your jar. This will help prevent evaporation. Mix and shake or stir well before each use. If the paint jar begins to dry out, or the consistency is too thick, you can add a thin layer of the appropriate type of thinner: distilled water for water based paints, pure acetone for acetone based paint, and 90%+ isopropyl alcohol is your paint is alcohol based.
It is very important that you DO NOT OVER DILUTE your paint! Over thinning can destroy your paint’s conductivity.

Paint Types
There are several kinds of conductive paint types, with different types of bases. Some of these include a graphite with a alcohol base or graphite with a water base, copper with a water base, or nickel with an acetone base paint.
It is important to correctly identify the type so that you may select the appropriate type of thinner/brush cleaner to use.

Application Methods
When painting with a brush, make thin, even strokes, keeping in mind that any texture may show up in the finished electroformed surface. Wherever the paint is applied is where the copper will be in the finished result. It can cover the whole piece, or just portions of it. If you paint just a portion, make sure each end touches another part that is conductive, as the electric current will need a path to flow through.

Lightly thin if necessary by periodically dipping your brush in the paint thinner between dipping in the conductive paint. Over thinning can destroy your paint’s conductivity. Use spring clips or alligator clips to help hold up and avoid directly handling the piece while painting.

For the dipping method, add some paint into separate wide mouth container that has an airtight lid. Thin very lightly only if necessary with a little bit with 90%+isopropyl alcohol(for alcohol based paint), acetone(for acetone based paint), or distilled water (for water based paint).

Hook an opened paper clip to the loop of your piece and use the other end as a handle to dip your piece directly into the container. Hang it on the drying rack and catch any excess sealant that builds up at the bottom or edges of the piece.

When using the paint in a spray brush, hold your piece upright on a combination of spring clips and alligator clips and spray from about 9 to 12 inches away to ensure an even coat. Work in an area that is free from dust and wind.

Drying and Additional Coats
Apply 2 to 3 thin coats of your conductive paint. Depending on your type of paint, allow your coat to dry at least 10 - 20 minutes before applying any additional coats, otherwise it will cause large crack textures, peeling or flaking of the paint on the surface.

Although conductive paint seems to dry quickly, allow a minimum of a few hours of cure time(de gassing) before electroforming. Do not directly touch the surface of your piece, as skin oils or dirt and residue will create unplated spots while your piece is electroforming.

Clean Up
Use the appropriate type of paint thinner/brush cleaner to clean off your paintbrush, by swirling it in the jar and wiping clean on a paper towel or rag.

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:: Step 5 - Electroforming ::

Learn how to Electroform Electroforming Tutorial Free Step by Step Instructions Cu MiniForm Rectifier

Create shiny highlights using a brass brush, steel wool, dremel, or a polishing 

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Materials needed in this step:

Products listed above link to Amazon listings

Workstation Set Up
Select a well ventilated, flat workspace that is out of reach of pets and children to set up your electroforming station. Set your cleaned beaker inside a lipped tray. Slightly open the 
copper coil, and place it inside your beaker with the top end of the wire stick out over the edge of the lip. Wearing your safety glasses, carefully pour your copper electroforming solution into your beaker. Use a safety mask if ventilation is insufficient.

Prepare Your Piece
Next you will be creating a means of suspending your item into the beaker:

  • Cut a piece of your thin gauge wire to loop around your wooden suspension bar
  • Using your pliers, create an “s” hook on the other end of the wire onto your prepared piece(cathode). It should be long enough to fully submerge into the solution, but not too long that it will touch the bottom of your beaker
  • Lightweight items such as plastic, wood or other organic material, will need a weight. You should use glass and a short piece of nylon thread(each are non conductive) as an anchor to help keep your item from floating out of the beaker. Attach one end of the nylon thread to the hook of the suspension wire, and the other end to the glass anchor

Remember to wear gloves when handling your painted piece, otherwise you may experience conductive resistant spots due to skin oils from your fingers.

Power Up!

For this stage, you’ll need a power supply to apply low direct current from your anode to your cathode. 

If you are using the Cu MiniForm power supply, follow these instructions:

  • Plug in your lead wires to your Cu MiniForm power supply
  • Attach your red lead wire clip to the end of the copper coil(anode) that is slightly sticking out of the beaker, and the black lead wire clip to the top of the cathode suspension wire that is wrapped on your suspension bar. Do not let the clips directly touch the liquid solution
  • Submerge your suspended piece into the solution bath, so that it is evenly placed in the center. Clamp a small spring clamp on your suspension bar near each side of the beaker to help keep it in place
  • Plug in your Cu MiniForm to an electrical outlet to power on
  • Using the + / - buttons, bring the number on the screen to the calculated amps per square inch of surface area to plate. (get the number you calculated in Step 1, Design & Prep)
  • Make note of what time you started

If you are using a DC regulated bench power supply, follow these instructions: 

  • Plug in your lead wires to your power supply, and turn the amperage knob all the way to the left (off) and volt knob all the way to right (on)
  • Attach your red lead wire clip to the end of the copper coil(anode) that is slightly sticking out of the beaker, and the black lead wire clip to the top of the cathode suspension wire that is wrapped on your suspension bar. Do not let the clips directly touch the liquid solution
  • Switch on the power supply and make sure the numbers are all set to 0 (amp knob all the way to the left/off, volt knob right/on)
  • Submerge your suspended piece into the solution bath, so that it is evenly placed in the center. Clamp a small spring clamp on your suspension bar near each side of the beaker to help keep it in place
  • Slowly turn the amperage knob to the right until your numbers begin to move up to the calculated amps per square inch of surface area to plate. (get the number you calculated in Step 1, Design & Prep)
  • Make note of what time you started

Wait and Monitor
Next, copper will gradually form over your piece. Depending on the item’s size, original base material, and your desired thickness of copper buildup, this can take several hours (Anywhere from 5 - 24+).

If you are using a bench power supply, the amperage number may drop a bit while the first layer of copper is covering the surface of your piece. This is normal, as the total surface area is increasing as the copper spreads over the areas that are conductive. When this happens, slowly increase the amperage knob to keep it at the correct number.

If you are using the MiniForm, it will automatically adjust to the correct amps. 

Gently giggle the wire if you notice any air bubbles on your piece, as they will prevent plating from happening on those spots if not removed. 

Check on it every hour or so, making sure that the texture and thickness is how you want it.

 

Rinsing Off
Once you have the desired thickness of copper deposit on your piece, power down and disconnect the lead wires. Remove it from the solution bath and rinse it in a container of distilled water. You can run it through tap water, but only if you don’t plan on putting it back into the tank again, as minerals in tap water can contaminate the plating solution.

Notes on Consistency

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Your piece will sometimes come out of the bath looking pink/salmon colored, with a dull or matte texture. DON’T WORRY! As described in Step 6, it will shine to perfection with a few simple tools.


If there are any bare patches on your piece that didn’t plate, pull it out and rinse it off in distilled water. Pat dry or use a blow dryer to get all of the moisture out. Touch up with your conductive paint on the spots that are not plating. Let the paint fully dry before submerging into the plating solution again.

Make sure that your suspension wire and piece don't touch the anode/coil wire. If you are using a metal bus bar as your suspension bar, avoid contact with the top of the coil. If this accidentally happens, you’ll notice that your piece will not plate.

Keep a 2:1 anode to cathode ratio in your beaker. You can adjust the amount of anode coil that is submerged inside the beaker, based on the size of your cathode(piece to be plated). Following this ratio will help maintain the copper to acid levels in your solution, resulting in a smoother plate. 
A 10 gauge coil has .33 inches of surface area per inch of wire length. Use this formula for your 2:1 anode to cathode ratio when using 10 gauge coils:
(Area of cathode/.33) x 2
For example, if you calculated that your cathode/design is 2 square inches of surface area: (2/.33) x 2 = 12.12
So that means you’ll need ~12 inches of 10 gauge copper coil for your 2 square inch piece (and you’ll set your power supply at 0.2 amps!)
If your coil is precut much larger that the size you need, then have the excess amount sticking out of your tank. Only the calculated amount will need to be submerged in the solution, and everything sticking out won’t affect it. You can still clamp your red lead wire to it at any place, and the electricity will still flow through.

Use an anode bag/sleeve to filter your solution while you are using it in the tank. They are typically these are made from 1 micron thick polyester felt. They can be sewn together or fused with hot glue to form a bag or sleeve to fit over your copper anode.

Having your amp numbers too high will “burn” your piece, turning it brown and flakey, or give you bumps and other unwanted texture.

If the temperature is below 65 degrees fahrenheit, then you’ll need to keep your solution warmer by setting the beaker on top of a heating pad(on low!) to prevent plating issues due to cold temperatures.

You can use anything for a bar that goes across the top of the beaker that you’ll hook your piece onto, as its purpose is just to hold your cathode up from dropping into your electroforming solution. If you prefer to use a metal bus bar, you can cut a piece of or 10 gauge copper wire. This method is useful if you plan to hang multiple pieces off it, as the entire bar is conductive. You can either use spring clamps near each side of the beaker, or hammer flat both ends of the metal bus bar wire to keep it from rolling. Keep it clean and free of corrosion for a good connection.

Also consider adding some means for agitation to your tank setup. A magnetic stirrer, a simple fish tank bubbler, or even a small air pump with a tube held at the bottom of the tank will suffice. The bubbles will cause a stirring action within the bath that helps the copper ions coat evenly over the surface of the object. To avoid splashes caused by agitation, use a taller sized beaker, or cover the top with saran wrap.

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:: Step 5b - Clean Up ::

Materials needed in this step:

Products listed above link to Amazon listings

If you aren’t planning on electroforming any other pieces that day, you should filter and store your solution back into the bottle to prevent excessive evaporation and deterioration of your copper coil. Always store out of reach of pets and children.

Filter
Place a few layered filters inside your funnel and place it inside your empty electroforming solution bottle. Wearing your safety glasses, carefully and slowly pour your solution into the bottle through the filter lined funnel. Repeat if necessary. Evaporation is normal during electroforming, so you should top off your solution with distilled water(NOT tap, filtered, or bottled!) if the liquid level is significantly less than when you started.

Rinse
Thoroughly rinse out your beaker and coil and fully dry them with a shop towel to ensure there is no residue left from the tap water. To be environmentally responsible, heavily dilute any remnants in your beaker down to a clear liquid, and neutralize with baking soda before allowing anything to drain down the sink.

Scrub
Scrub off any residue or buildup that is on your lead wire clips. Keeping these clean will ensure a good connection when electroforming. Use a 
scouring pad under water to clean off the residue of your anode coil. If the coil becomes pink or matte, it will not affect future plating. After thoroughly rinsing, completely dry it off with a paper towel. An or 10 gauge coil should last you through electroforming many pieces of small/average size. The coil will get thinner during use until it breaks off at the weakest point. Simply replace it with another coil of bare copper wire, found online or at any hardware store. Bare copper pipes or sheets may also be used for anodes.


Sealant/Masking Removal
After your piece has been electroformed, you may wish to remove certain protective sealants or masking you applied in the prep stages. If you used a clear sealant, it is definitely not necessary to remove the protective layer, however some designers choose to if it doesn’t work for them aesthetically.

If polyurethane was applied, use a toothpick or any tool to gently scrape a spot of the lacquered area to create a break in the seal to lift and peel it off. Soaking it in hot water first can help to soften the lacquer. This technique only works if your polyurethane lacquer is water based. 

If you used liquid latex as a removable mask, it will easily peel off. Gently clean off any remaining conductive paint visible underneath with isopropyl alcohol.

If clear nail polish was applied as a sealant, and you wish to remove it, only do so if applying acetone/nail polish remover won’t damage the material(such as certain gemstones) that is under the nail polish.

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:: Step 6 - Polishing, Patinas & Finishes ::
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Materials needed in this step:

Products listed above link to Amazon listings

It's quite easy to turn that flat salmony colored copper that you may have pulled out of the tank into shiny penny colored copper. Always use safely protection such as a face masksafety glasses, and disposable gloves.


Polishing Methods

A dremel with a wire brush wheel attachment will be the fastest and most effective method to get your piece to a high, smooth shine. 

scouring pad, a brass brush, or steel wool are also effective methods for polishing.

tumbler (rock polisher) with a polishing medium can also be used to polish large batches of items at once. Use a little water and a drop of soap as a lubricant when tumbling. 

After you’ve finished polishing to your desired shine, you can either patina it, or leave it this color, which will be a raw copper or rose gold looking finish. You’ll need to seal it in(seen in Step 7) to preserve this color and prevent natural oxidation.

Patina/Oxidation/Antiquing 

Liver of sulfur creates a dark “antiqued” or oxidized look. It comes in a gel or powder form that mixes with hot water. Varying water temperatures and water types can give blue, rainbow, or even gunmetal black tones to your copper. Preheating the piece before hand can also achieve vibrant colors.cloth. Water and baking soda can alternatively be used as a scrub paste to clean and make highlights.

Black Max, Brass Black, and Blacken-It are types of selenium dioxide solutions that also achieve a quick oxidation on metals.

Modern Masters creates agents for natural green or blue patina aging solutions. These results are similar to the look of aged copper water fountain fixtures.

Gently applying flame via a handheld butane torch to your finished copper piece can achieve brilliant colors as well. Be cautious on thinly plated items, or designs that have gemstones on them.

Apply a sealant to your finished product to preserve the patina, although you may find that this will dull most of the vibrant colors that you may have achieved.

Color Dying
Transparent alcohol inks can dye your metal any color you wish, while still preserving the metallic undertones of your copper design.
Alcohol inks are highly concentrated liquid pigments that can be mixed together and diluted with isopropyl alcohol to achieve the desired strength of color.
Any unwanted dye can be removed with isopropyl alcohol.

Mix it with with a sealant such as polyurethane or clear nail polish to seal in the dye color, without making it run.

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:: Step 7 - Preventing Oxidation::

Materials needed in this step:

Products listed above link to Amazon listings

What Causes Oxidation?
Natural oxidation can occur when your copper piece is exposed to moisture and other natural elements. This normal copper patina is what causes the “green mark” that can rub off on to skin when worn as jewelry.

Oils and sweat from skin, as well as perfumes, lotions, bug sprays, sunscreen also causes unwanted oxidation and patina build up. Always avoid wearing any copper jewelry in the shower, pool, beach, or when sleeping. Protect the items from high humidity areas by storing in an airtight polyurethane bag.


If you wish to keep your copper design from naturally oxidizing and tarnishing, you can use some sealants to either slow the process, or prevent it from happening all together.

Sealants
Polyurethane lacquer and Protectaclear both come in a liquid or a spray form, and in glossy or matte finishes. Apply similarly as done in Step 3. Hang dry after application, and apply additional coats if needed. To help prevent evaporation, use electrical tape around the lid to reseal your jar when not in use.

Clear nail polish is also widely used as a quick and inexpensive sealant, especially for the inside of copper rings. Gel style polishes make a great and strong sealant.

Another simple and popular sealant product is Renaissance Wax. This is particularly good to use if you don't want your design to have a glossy shine or a slick surface. Work in a well ventilated area and use disposable gloves and a soft rag or shop towel to buff the wax into the copper.

These methods may wear down over time, so for a more permanent solution, use clear resin as a sealant.

Oxidation Removal
Unwanted tarnishing and natural oxidation on copper can easily be removed off of uncoated/varnished copper.

Copper cleaning agents, such as Brasso or Wright’s Copper Cream can instantly and brilliantly clean and remove all levels of oxidation of your item. This is useful if you have applied too much patina, or wish to polish up an older item that has been naturally oxidized.

Soak your tarnished piece in a container of white vinegar, and add table salt to create a scrub. Wearing gloves, use your hands to rub the salt into the vinegar soaked copper.  An old toothbrush can also be used to aid in scrubbing the salt into the copper. Rinse well, dry, and shine highlights with a polishing cloth.

You can also use fine steel wool, a brass brush, or a dremel with a wire wheel brush to buff and clean unwanted oxidized copper.

A jewelry polishing cloth will help maintain shine and remove any mild tarnish or oxidation. Or, use
 a sealant afterwards to your protect and prevent oxidation on your newly cleaned design.

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:: Tips & General Guidelines ::

Electroforming takes some trial, error, tweaking, and a lot of patience! Here are some helpful notes that I've learned over the years.

Consider joining my Cu Electroforming Facebook Group to post your questions to me!

If you like and appreciate the information and one-on-one help we've included here, please consider donating for further research and development. Any amount is appreciated.
Donate via: PayPal, Venmo (@EnchantedLeaves) 
  • Over time, your solution's electrolytes will become depleted. You can replenish it with acid, brighteners, and distilled water to restore the pH balance
  • If your piece is lightweight, you may experience some frustrating “floating” with your piece and wire. You can experiment with other techniques of floating prevention such as suspending a heavier non conductive object at the bottom of your piece(such as a piece of glass) with nylon wire as an anchor, or creating a sort of “cage” that slightly spirals around your piece that prevents the bottom of it floating up to the surface
  • A safe setting is 0.1 amp per square inch of your piece to be plated (length x height x 0.1)
  • An anode bag/sleeve, which is a filter that goes over your copper anode, keeps your solution very clean while electroforming. Using one will help you to achieve smooth plating results on your piece
  • Air can get trapped in crevices when you first submerge your piece into the plating tank. If you see any air bubbles on your piece, gently jiggle your wire until you see all the bubbles shake off. Failure to do so will cause pockets of unplated spots, as it does not plate under the bubbles
  • Most of the time your piece will appear pink/dull/matte- and that is very normal and common. It will shine up with either a scour pad, steel wool, a brass brush, or most effectively, a dremel tool with a wire brush wheel. Alternatively, you can use a method called electropolishing to brighten and shine your piece by electrochemically removing layers of the copper to create an even surface
  • Always use distilled water when cleaning your brushes, tank, etc, to prevent contamination caused by tap or other types of water
  • Yes, you can plate multiple pieces at once. You'll need to make sure they are all connected on the same wire, or at least all on an conductive bus bar. You'll also have to increase your amps accordingly (0.1 amp per square inch of combined surface areas). To accommodate larger designs or multiple pieces at once, use any container that is polypropylene, HDPE, or glass (safe from the acid solution),and evenly space out your pieces. Use items of similar sizes/shapes, otherwise you may experience uneven and undesired results. Only attempt after you're more confident in your plating practice

  • To accommodate larger designs or multiple pieces at once, you may use any container that is polypropylene, HDPE, or glass. Copper electroforming solution contains sulfuric acid, so be cautious of this when selecting your electroforming tank
    • To create a lacy or filigree look to your leaves, you will need to boil them in baking soda to remove the fleshy pulp on them and reveal the skeleton structure. Its best to do this when the leaves are picked fresh.
      • Bake ¾ of a cup of baking soda at 300 degrees for about a half hour(this turns it into washing soda/sodium carbonate)
      • Boil 2 cups of water in a large pan, add your washing soda, stir
      • Bring the boil down to a simmer and add your leaves. Let them gently simmer for about 1.5 hours, adding any extra water as needed
      • Strain and gently rinse with water
      • Next, you’ll use a paint brush and clean water to gently remove the pulp of the leaf, revealing the veins. You may need to do this to both sides, depending on the leaf
      • Blot with a paper towel and flatten in a book to fully dry
      • When applying conductive paint to your leaf, paint it directly on a flat surface, such as square of glass or plexiglass and blot with a brush to retain the lacy appearance

    How to make skeleton leaves for electroforming | Electroform Skeleton Leaf


    Additional photos and video tutorials & more resources coming soon!

    This page is a constant work in progress!
    Be sure to bookmark, and check back frequently,
    or sign up for my Electroforming Mailing List for updates:


    If you like and appreciate the information and one-on-one help we've included here, please consider donating for further research and development. Any amount is appreciated.
    Donate via: PayPal, Venmo (@EnchantedLeaves) 
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    :: Health & Safety Information ::

    Copper Electroforming Solution

    Met. Corr.1 H290 May be corrosive to metals

    Acute Tox. 4 H302 Harmful if swallowed

    Skin Irrit. 2 H315 Causes skin irritation

    Eye Dam. 1 H318 Causes serious eye damage

    H372: Causes damages to organs (lungs, central nervous system, inner ear) through prolonged or repeated exposure by inhalation

    • Keep only in original container
    • Do not eat, drink or smoke when using this product
    • If in eyes: Rinse cautiously with water for several minutes. Remove contact lenses, if present and easy to do. Continue rinsing
    • Immediately call a POISON CENTER/doctor
    • IF ON SKIN: Wash with plenty of water
    • If skin irritation occurs: Get medical advice/attention
    • IF SWALLOWED: Call a POISON CENTER/doctor if you feel unwell
    • Absorb spillage to prevent material damage
    • Store in corrosive resistant container with a resistant inner liner
    • Use only outdoors or in a well-ventilated area
    • Wear protective gloves/protective clothing/eye and mask protection
    • Do not breathe mist/vapors/spray
    • Wash hands thoroughly after handling
    • Avoid release to the environment
    • In case of fire: Use dry chemical, carbon dioxide, chemical foam, or water spray to extinguish
    • IF ON SKIN (or hair): Take off immediately all contaminated clothing and wash it before reuse. Wash with plenty of water
    • If skin irritation or rash occurs: Get medical advice/attention
    • IF INHALED: Remove person to fresh air and keep comfortable for breathing
    • Call a POISON CENTER/doctor if you feel unwell


    Conductive Paint / Non Water Based Paint Thinner & Brush Cleaner

    H225: Highly flammable liquid and vapor

    H319: Causes serious eye irritation

    H317: May cause allergic skin reaction

    H336: May cause drowsiness and dizziness

    H372: Causes damages to organs (lungs, central nervous system, inner ear) through prolonged or repeated exposure by inhalation

    • Keep out of reach of children
    • Keep away from heat, hot surfaces, sparks, flames, and other ignition sources. No Smoking
    • Keep container tightly closed
    • Use only outdoors or in a well-ventilated area
    • Do not eat, drink or smoke when using this product
    • Use explosion-proof electrical/ventilating/lighting equipment
    • Wear protective gloves/protective clothing/eye and mask protection
    • Do not breathe mist/vapors/spray
    • Contaminated work clothing should not be allowed out of the workplace
    • Wash hands thoroughly after handling
    • Avoid release to the environment
    • IF exposed or concerned: Get medical advice/attention
    • In case of fire: Use dry chemical, carbon dioxide, chemical foam, or water spray to extinguish
    • IF ON SKIN (or hair): Take off immediately all contaminated clothing and wash it before reuse. Wash with plenty of water
    • If skin irritation or rash occurs: Get medical advice/attention
    • IF INHALED: Remove person to fresh air and keep comfortable for breathing
    • Call a POISON CENTER/doctor if you feel unwell


    Polyurethane Lacquer

    H319: Causes serious eye irritation

    H315: Causes skin irritation

    H317: May cause allergic skin reaction

    H336: May cause drowsiness and dizziness

    H372: Causes damages to organs (lungs, central nervous system, inner ear) through prolonged or repeated exposure by inhalation

    • Wear protective gloves
    • Wear eye or face protection
    • Wear protective clothing
    • Wash hands thoroughly after handling
    • Keep container tightly closed
    • Do not breathe mist/vapors/spray
    • Store locked up
    • IF ON SKIN (or hair): Take off immediately all contaminated clothing and wash it before reuse. Wash with plenty of water
    • If skin irritation or rash occurs: Get medical advice/attention
    • IF INHALED: Remove person to fresh air and keep comfortable for breathing
    • Call a POISON CENTER/doctor if you feel unwell

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