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Picture of Unique Geode Pendant using Electroforming
Make an original geode pendant of your very own!  

Or...

Have you ever seen natural objects that look like they have been "dipped" in metal?  Have a special non-metallic treasure that you want to make into a pendant without drilling a hole in it?  You can use the same principles of electroforming to make your own unique pieces!

 
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Step 1: Materials

Picture of Materials
What you will need:

1.  Rectifier -  I am using a 3 amp, which is more than sufficient for the copper electroforming that I am doing.  You can purchase a rectifier, or you can create one yourself, but the important thing is to be able to fine tune the voltage and amps while working with your piece.

2.  Positive and negative lead wires to attach to the rectifier and your work set up

3.  Glass beaker or container deep enough to hold your piece

4.  Copper electroforming solution -  I bought mine from riogrande.com.

5.  Copper conductive paint -  I bought mine from Safer Solutions, and it can be thinned using distilled water (very handy)

6.  Copper anode  -  I am using about 2 ft of 8 gauge solid copper wire from my local hardware store.

7.  Copper wire -   I am using 24 gauge copper wire from a local craft store

8.  Distilled water

9.  Rubber gloves

10.  Eye protection

11.  Small paint brush

12.  Super glue and/or Jewelers glue
 - I prefer superglue

13.  Metal jump rings to attach to your pendant

14.  Brass brush - If your anode becomes dull, shine it back up with a brass brush!

15.  Chopsticks to support your piece being held in the solution

16.  Something to electroform!  In this Instructable, I am using a geode slice



Optional or case sensitive:  
- Clear Laquer - this would be used prior to painting your pieces if your piece is organic and may deteriorate in the copper electroforming solution, like leaves or flowers
- chains to finish your pendant
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So I just got new solution I got three pieces done successfully. Ive filtered the solution shined up my anode also added brightner to the solution and they are still coming our dull. HELPP!!! PLEASEEE :)

Cristina, I've had the same issue. It seems the first few uses of solution creates shiney results then after that you get dull results no matter how much brightener you use. I believe this happens cause the acid in the solution gets depleted but that's what they say use the brightener for. I just take a brass brush & give it a nice scrub & it will shine it up nicely. Check out my blog where I'm talking all about my learnings from electroforming: pinealvisionjewelry.com/electroforming

CosmicCandace4 months ago
Also...does your wire scratch the paint off at all? Mine does a bit
CosmicCandace4 months ago
Hi there! Thanks for the tutorial, it's hard to find good ones when first starting electroforming!! Quick question, when you wrap your piece in that wire won't the copper grow around the entire geode then..? How did you remove the conductive wire wrapped around without seeing where it was?
Thanks!
AngelaB34 months ago

Gorgeous! Could you please answer a few questions for me? I tried doing this with a shard of stained glass and it worked beautifully! But then I tried doing this on a rhodonite cabochon, and the solution ate away the polished surface a bit. I have some lacquer that I got from Rio Grande to use on the surface for next time. How many coats do you suggest? And secondly, If I wanted to electroplate onto a geode, would it need to be lacquered as well? I wondered if the solution also eats away at the geode's surface.

forthegoodknight (author)  AngelaB34 months ago
Hi Angela! Let's see...

I generally have used maybe 2 coats of lacquer when needed, but one can be sufficient if it is a nice continuous coat.

And my geode I did not have to lacquer, but I have done it both ways. Not knowing whether the chemical solution will eat away at the surface makes me cautiously say you might want to lacquer it...just be sure to use a small cheapo plastic paint brush or something to pop any bubbles in the lacquer on the inner part of the geode.

Good Luck!

Thank you for posting your instructable, it was very thorough and informative. not to mention clever. After reading yours and your post responses I decided to try copper plating a leaf which only had the veins remaining. As fragile as it was it went extremely well, and it looks beautiful!

forthegoodknight (author)  ChristheCreator4 months ago
Excellent! Post a picture if you can!
desertmeadows11 months ago

I found a supplier for the rectifier you have - great price, too. Are the clips and wires something that will come with it or that you buy separately? If so, what would I search under?

Hi,

Do you mind sharing where you got the rectifier from?

Thank you..

I found it on Amazon.

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0094DCOAI/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1

Amazing! Thank you for this link! I have a $200 budget & this is way less expensive than the one on rio grande! I was starting to contemplate using a 6v battery.

It was out of stock but I managed to find it. Thank you.
I am trying to do this the economic way!
You would happen to know if this unit can be used for etching aswell?

I have no idea; sorry.

forthegoodknight (author)  WaZero9 months ago
This is the rectifier I have, and I purchased it from RioGrande.com as well:

http://www.riogrande.com/Product/Digital-3-Amp-Plating-Rectifier/335201?Pos=9

Hey thanks for the tutorial! I was just wondering how you filter your solution and roughly how long do you wait to change your anode?

Hey Christina-
I use a funnel with a coffee filter in it to filter my solution, easy as that. As for the anode, it entirely depends. If you keep it shiny by brushing it and cleaning it with the brass brush or steel wool, then you can pretty much use it until it is so eaten away that it nearly falls apart. Using the thick copper wire I have still not yet had to change it, only clean it up...and I highly recommend the thick wire as compared with a flat anode as it seems to get a more even layer all around the piece.
impied4 months ago

This is amazing! I have some jewelry coated like this, and I've always wondered how to make my own. Thank you for writing this awesome instructable! I feel inspired to learn how to do it, both in copper and other metals!

forthegoodknight (author)  impied4 months ago
So glad you like it!
ajewels875 months ago

Hi!! I would assume that it would make a thicker casing if I were to paint more than one coat, is that correct? Say I am going for a more dramatic piece, should I only paint it once and go through the whole process only to repeat? Thanks so much!

forthegoodknight (author)  ajewels875 months ago
You might do two coats of paint just to get solid coverage, but not for volume. If you want a more dramatic and thicker layer of copper then you will need to leave it in he electroforming solution for several hours. It is about building up the copper, not about the bulk of the paint.
ravenclaw5 months ago

When it's finished in the last step, the wire around the geode has a thick coating of copper around it. Is it hard to remove the wire from the object? It just looks like it shouldn't allow such a smooth finished copper surface. I'm just trying to wrap my brain around it haha.

forthegoodknight (author)  ravenclaw5 months ago
Yes, the copper builds up on the wire also. The key to making certain that it does not "attach" itself to the piece during the electroforming is to simply move it a bit whenever you check the piece. As long as you check it every, oh, 30 or 45 minutes then this should not be a problem. I have never had wire stick to the piece such that it causes a problem with the smoothness.
ravenclaw5 months ago

One other question: I noticed you can buy a 5 amp. Would the 3 be enough for rhodium plating? I can't find any information on riogrande's site.

ajewels875 months ago

Hi again! Have you tried electroplating more than one piece at a time in the solution? I feel that it would be a good time saver since it takes about 30-45 minutes do one piece. I wonder if it would change the end result finish at all. What are your thoughts if you have tried this?

forthegoodknight (author)  ajewels875 months ago
You absolutely can, and I have, but you may need to keep the pieces in there longer, depending on how well and how quickly the copper is building up on the piece. Overall you probably will save some time, but I would still recommend only doing 2 or possibly 3 pieces if you have a slightly bigger "tank" and check often to make sure the copper is going on shiny.
eilen.stewart5 months ago
Awesome tutorial and great info in the Q and As!!!

A couple of questions, not sure if you've answered these before:

I do a lot of lost wax casting, so I'm used to the original burning out...

Have you had any issues with the organic pieces deteriorating (rotting? Idk...) after long wear of work? Like if they weren't sealed perfectly to begin with or if the copper layer gets punctured later.

Is the electroplated coating somewhat 'sticky'? In other words, if I'm making something with a stone, does the copper part have to behave sort of like a mechanical setting, or will it just stick to the stone?

Can the finished pieces be tumbled, soldered or enameled on?

Can this be done with sterling or fine silver?

Thank you in advance!!!
forthegoodknight (author)  eilen.stewart5 months ago

Hi Eilen- Sorry for the delayed response! Let's see...

I personally have not had problems with the organic pieces deteriorating, though it is crucial that you make sure the entire organic piece is covered in copper paint and then allow a thick enough layer of copper to build up while electroforming. If the copper layer is too thin, the piece could still break. Also, fyi, I like to superglue leaves on small branches, for example, in place before painting them so that they do not move before I get the copper layer on them.

The copper layer is only "sticky" if it is a thick enough layer, otherwise it could peel off of the stone. When I have done stones in the past, I have painted the entire end so that they look "dipped" in copper and I have not had any problems with it coming off or apart.

I have no clue if you could tumble the pieces or not...I have never tried. As for soldering or enameling, after you get the piece electroformed with a good thick layer, then all of the normal rules should apply in terms of applying heat and soldering, etc. The real question is whether the piece you electroformed, a stone for example, could withstand the heat, etc. Enameling- I do not know much about it so I cannot answer fully.

And lets see... You can plate a piece that you have electroformed, but you would still, as far as I know, need to put a layer of copper on first. For silver specifically, I am not sure, but likely you would need to flash plate with nickel first to create a barrier between the copper and the silver. This may not be necessary, but I know that for gold it is because the copper ions will eventually mix with the gold and the piece will look more coppery than gold over time. Anyhow, plating with silver would require a different set of chemicals for the reaction. Your best bet is to take a look at some of the supplies needed. riogrand.com is a good place to look, even if you do not buy from them.

I hope that helps a little!

Thank you!!!

I think I'll have to try this and play with all the possibilities!

I'll let you know if anything interesting happens :)
forthegoodknight (author)  eilen.stewart5 months ago

Hi Eilen- Sorry for the delayed response! Let's see...

I personally have not had problems with the organic pieces deteriorating, though it is crucial that you make sure the entire organic piece is covered in copper paint and then allow a thick enough layer of copper to build up while electroforming. If the copper layer is too thin, the piece could still break. Also, fyi, I like to superglue leaves on small branches, for example, in place before painting them so that they do not move before I get the copper layer on them.

The copper layer is only "sticky" if it is a thick enough layer, otherwise it could peel off of the stone. When I have done stones in the past, I have painted the entire end so that they look "dipped" in copper and I have not had any problems with it coming off or apart.

I have no clue if you could tumble the pieces or not...I have never tried. As for soldering or enameling, after you get the piece electroformed with a good thick layer, then all of the normal rules should apply in terms of applying heat and soldering, etc. The real question is whether the piece you electroformed, a stone for example, could withstand the heat, etc. Enameling- I do not know much about it so I cannot answer fully.

And lets see... You can plate a piece that you have electroformed, but you would still, as far as I know, need to put a layer of copper on first. For silver specifically, I am not sure, but likely you would need to flash plate with nickel first to create a barrier between the copper and the silver. This may not be necessary, but I know that for gold it is because the copper ions will eventually mix with the gold and the piece will look more coppery than gold over time. Anyhow, plating with silver would require a different set of chemicals for the reaction. Your best bet is to take a look at some of the supplies needed. riogrand.com is a good place to look, even if you do not buy from them.

I hope that helps a little!

ajewels875 months ago

Hi! Thanks for the helpful information on how to do this kind of project. I have been wondering for quite some time. Can you use other metal paints other than copper, e.g. gold, silver, vermeil?

Thanks!

Ashley

forthegoodknight (author)  ajewels875 months ago

Hey Ashley-

For electroforming, as far as I know, you will need to use copper. After you have a layer of copper built up on your piece, you can plate using another metal. The set up is similar but requires different chemicals and sometimes requires heated plates. As I mentioned in the next comment down, to do gold you will want to additionally flash plate with another metal like nickel to keep the copper and gold from mixing.

So YES you can eventually get other colors, but you have to start with copper and plate from there. Hope that helps!

Great Tutorial! I have one questions. Is it important to wait for the copper paint to completely dry before attaching the copper wire and putting the piece in the solution? And is so, how long does this usually take?

Definitely wait until the paint dries or else you will have marks in it from where the wire touches it and as you let the copper form on it while electroforming, those marks will be amplified, OR you could wind up with your copper wire melded onto the piece itself. It does not take so long to dry though, usually 30 to 45 minutes if the layer of paint is somewhat thin. I usually do 2-3 coats though, depending on how watery I have the paint. Good luck!

Great Tutorial! I have one questions. Is it important to wait for the copper paint to completely dry before attaching the copper wire and putting the piece in the solution? And is so, how long does this usually take?

colormekenna6 months ago

I was wondering what you use to polish your copper? Did it come striaght out of the bath nicely? Everytime I use my electroformer it doesnt cover the full piece and most of the time it is super scratchy. Also, what do you use for your laquer?

Amyynoelle7 months ago
Hi, how much would you estimate this all to cost, starting from scratch? This is a great tutorial, thank you for sharing.
forthegoodknight (author)  Amyynoelle7 months ago
Well, you can always buy a kit like this one... http://www.riogrande.com/Product/Midas-5-Amp-Electroforming-Kit/335600?Pos=1

But It is much cheaper overall if you get the materials individually. I bought a 3 amp rectifier for $165 from riogrande.com which was my most expensive purchase. $18-ish for the electroforming solution, and $15-ish for the lacquer which is not always necessary.

The "beaker" I am using was originally a sort of wide flower bowl that probably came from a yardsale, my copper wire to hold the pieces and the copper rings came from Michaels for about $3, the anodes are actually thick copper wire that I purchased from about $1/foot at Lowe's hardware store, and the paint brushes and gloves and such were things I had around already. All in all you could probably get away with spending $250 and maybe less depending on what you might already have that you can use...and of course this does not count the cost of whatever you are trying to electroform. I am roughly estimating that I spent about $210-ish to get what I needed while cobbling together the things I already had. Does that help?

You gave me all the information I was hoping for! Thank you so much. I really appreciate it.
tinymuscle9 months ago

Hi, thanks for your instructable :) I was wondering if you could use copper tape around your object instead of using the paint?

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