Electroplating Non-Metals

I'm looking for input on the process of electroplating non-metal materials. I have never electroplated before and am open to trying the traditional method or the paint on plate solutions that are available.  I'm just uncertain where/ how to begin and what to buy.
The hurdle is that the items I want to plate are not metal to begin with.  One website I read seemed to suggest that painting the object with a paint that contains metal flakes (like Liquid Leaf faux gold leaf, which contains soluble copper) would be enough to get a paintable silver plate to bond.
Anyone have experience to weigh in with?  I welcome suggestions for techniques, favorite products, etc.

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Toga_Dan1 year ago

my experiments have been mostly "kitchen chemistry". I just like the idea of using the simplest, most readily available stuff. Right now, I've got a plastic spoon, coated in grey primer, then rubbed down with an 8B graphite stick. This is in a solution of vinegar, salt, pennies, and a copper wire anode. At 12 volts, there is 1.6 milliamp flowing. My experiments with graphite may have failed to get plating because the paper falls apart. There seemed to be a very slight coppery tinge on the paper, but not much. The spoon should be more durable. If it takes 20 hours, so be it.

Toga_Dan1 year ago

do u still hav any leftover gold leaf stuff from your January beetle gilding, Ashley? It's worth an experiment, I think, even a square cm would tell u if the idea has merit.

ashleyjlong (author)  Toga_Dan1 year ago

Oh, plenty of gold leaf left. My interest in electroplating has to do with strengthening the insect exoskeleton. The beetle didn't need that, but something finer like a dried wasp could get damaged just in the handling it takes to brush on the gold leaf.

I used galvanising sprays for welding purposes with good results.
Most are zink based and only give a rough surface finnish, aluminium based ones provide more shine but I found it very hard to use for electroplating as nothing works on aluminium.
To overcome the surface roughness I started with a quite thin copper layer and then used a spoon or similar tools to flatten the surface manually - on hard things this brings a really nice shiny, soft stuff like fabric however is very tricky.
Once happy with the surface I continued with the copper plating until the layer was thick enough for the purpose.
The ticker the harder, so if the object is quite soft it pays off to add a bit more copper.

thanks for the tip of burnishing with a spoon. I have used a green kitchen scrubby before between metal coats. But burnishing the high spots down will waste less of the plate metal.

One thing I forgot to mention:
Although a really old technique using actual gold leafs is not too costly for smaller things and gives really nice results.
Especially for very uneven surfaces as you can always brush in some more to fill the cracks.
Takes some practice though as the stuff is really fragile.

zinc protects steel by acting as a sacrificial anode, iirc. This is tru whether plated, or painted on in a spray paint. Are u spraying molten Zn, or a paint with Zn powder

Kiteman1 year ago

hmmm. Looks like a pro rig and pro chemicals. What IS liver of sulphur? Is that near the heart and lungs of the sulphurwock? ;)

Toga_Dan1 year ago

One UK based company sells plating stuff, including primer for glass, and conductiv ink which bears silver, iirc. Haven't tried it.

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