Instructables
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!

 
Remove these adsRemove these ads by Signing Up

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
1-40 of 60Next »
ravenclaw6 minutes 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.

ajewels872 days 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)  ajewels872 days 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.
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!!!

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 :)

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!

ajewels873 days 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)  ajewels873 days 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?

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?

Amyynoelle1 month 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)  Amyynoelle1 month 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.
desertmeadows6 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..

forthegoodknight (author)  WaZero3 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

I found it on Amazon.

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

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.

tinymuscle4 months ago

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

WaZero tinymuscle3 months ago
I believe the copper film will work on certain objects. I was trying it out over the weekend. It wasn't the copper film which gave me problems but the soldering iron and not having the correct solder.
forthegoodknight (author)  tinymuscle4 months ago
You know, I have no idea if it would work, but I do not see why not. The important thing is to have the copper wire touch the painted area in a few places, but only just. Touching in several places helps there to be an even layer of copper all over the painted surface. You also need to wiggle the wire around a bit whenever you check it throughout the process to prevent it "sticking" to the painted surface as the ions create the new layer of copper. IF your copper tape can accomplish those things then by all means give it a shot and let me know how it works.
tinymuscle4 months ago

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

CharlesP25 months ago

Out of the colors offered on Safer Solutions website, which would you recommend for the best finish?

luchiix36 months ago

I electroformed one piece and it turned out great! but I was wondering if you ever need to buy a new anode or use a new one at any point? It's become that salmon dull color and am not sure what to do..

forthegoodknight (author)  luchiix36 months ago
Keep it shiny! I generally clean up the anode and get it shining again by using either a brass brush or a steel wool pad (personal favorite). If your anode gets salmon colored, it usually will deposit the same salmon colored copper onto your piece...not ideal. I periodically clean up the anode whenever I think it needs it, even if it is in the middle of doing a piece.

Eventually if your copper is just not being put onto your piece well, it is most likely because you need to add a copper brightening solution. I use this: http://www.riogrande.com/Product/Midas-Replenishing-Brightener-for-Electroforming-Copper/335065?Pos=2

You only need to add a few drops to your electroforming solution, so the bottle will last for a very long time.

But begin by cleaning up the anode and that should help tremendously!
nome.may6 months ago
thank you. Turns out the rio grande midas copper conductive paint cannot be thinned, and if you use their paint thinner with it, it is ruined! Rio was nice enough to replace the copper conductive paint, and I ordered the safer solutions conductive paint too. I will give feedback as I try them both out. Thank you for being so helpful.
forthegoodknight (author)  nome.may6 months ago
No problem, I know what it can be like to not have the answers you need when you need them. I hope that the Safer Solutions paint does what you need it to, I think it will. And that is great that at least you are getting your Midas paint replaced. I will be interested to hear feedback when you try each of them in turn. Good luck!
nome.may6 months ago

thank you for posting this, super helpful! however, my midas copper paint is really thick and I am loosing detail. i tried thinning it w/the midas paint thinner that i ordered with it, and I swear it got thicker! then i put some in a new bottle, added about 1/3 again thinner, shook, and it came out really lumpy and unusable. what the heck to i have to do to get the copper paint to be thin like watercolor paint?

forthegoodknight (author)  nome.may6 months ago

Glad you like the instructable! I have no experience with the copper paint from Midas, actually. The copper paint that I used is from Safer Solutions and is water based. I have taken small portions of this paint in a baby food jar and diluted it with just a bit of distilled water and had great luck with it as long as I am sure to shake it up before use. Directly from the jar it comes out a bit thicker than I want it for painting the objects to electroform, but it is really simple to thin it just a bit with the distilled water and afterwards goes on the piece like watercolor paint.

In general I give it two coats to make sure it has good coverage but it is always thin enough to keep the detail. However, directly from the bottle it can be thicker which is useful if you are trying to "fill in" spots on a piece, though it needs a bit longer to dry of course.

Here is the link to the website I ordered from- it looks a bit...simplistic...but the product is nice and the smallest bottle has lasted a very long time.

http://www.safer-solutions.com/safer-solutions.com...

thank you so much, I so appreciate your solution(pun intended). I will have to get some and try it!
wasabijewelry6 months ago

What an excellent tutorial and great photos! What happens to the lacquer? Does it stay on or does it dissipate after the dipping process? I have seen pearls with gold, and I want to try this. Thank you so much!

forthegoodknight (author)  wasabijewelry6 months ago

The lacquer stays put! It is the best way to protect areas of the piece that you do not want in contact with the solution (especially parts that may be dissolved by the solution!), and is really helpful to stabilize the organic pieces like leaves and such even if you are planning to paint them and add a layer of copper afterwards. It seems to me that if you had a pearl with gold on it, and you lacquered if before painting and electroforming it, the gold would stay without a problem... but honestly the best way to know is to experiment and find out!

Thanks for the feedback!

nona.lohr6 months ago

Hi. Thank you so much for showing people how to do this. I have a couple of questions. When you put the copper around your geode, did you wrap it all around the outside of the geode, and then put it on the back, too? And in step 8, the copper is only around the outside of the pendant. So what happened to the copper that was on the back of the geode? To send me an email please use nlohr15@comcast.net.

forthegoodknight (author)  nona.lohr6 months ago

When you are asking about the copper being around the geode, do you mean the copper paint or the copper wire? The paint itself is only around the edge of the geode and not on the back at all, though you of course can put the paint on the back too if you prefer. When I wrap the wire around the geode, it is to insure that the wire makes contact with the copper paint in a few different places to get the the most even layer of copper deposited across the paint. Also, wrapping the wire around the piece helps to hold it in the water without it falling or lifting (sometimes a piece, especially a leaf or shell, will want to float instead of hang straight down in the solution until there is a layer of metal on it). I hope that helps but feel free to ask more questions if you want!

vrizzle1 year ago
When you made this geode pendant did you have to coat it in the varnish? I want to use this technique with stones and crystals, but I wasnt sure if you could submerge the whole stone safely without it being coated.
1-40 of 60Next »