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!

 
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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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desertmeadows3 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)  WaZero1 month 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.

tinymuscle1 month ago

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

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)  tinymuscle1 month 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.
tinymuscle1 month ago

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

CharlesP22 months ago

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

luchiix33 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)  luchiix33 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.may4 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.may4 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.may4 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.may4 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!
wasabijewelry4 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)  wasabijewelry4 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.lohr4 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.lohr4 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.
forthegoodknight (author)  vrizzle1 year ago
I did not actually use the lacquer for the geode, or other hard stones that I have electroformed. If you look at the 4th photo I added on Step 8 with several electroformed pieces, you will see that most of them are things like leaves or little branches- the lacquer is essential for pieces like this because of how fragile they are. Not only will it coat the piece, but it also stiffens it a bit which helps to not crack the copper conductive paint while trying to get it into the bath.

But if you are electroforming stones, as a general rule you will be fine doing without the lacquer as long as it is a hard stone or crystal. I have done several pieces of flaky mica (there are 2 also in that 4th photo) and I used lacquer with them, but mostly to insure that they did not flaky in the future. If you do choose to use the lacquer for your pieces, no matter what they are, make sure you dip them slowly to avoid bubbles, and use a small cheap paintbrush (I use a child's plastic one) to gently pop any bubbles that form before they dry. Hope that helps! If you have any other questions, feel free to ask!
Hi there thanks for tutorial, just awesome. For the lacquer part. what kind do you use? Would it be necessary to lacquer natural stones, synthetic stones, plastic,bone,seashells,pearls? Would the solution go bad if any piece is not lacquered? I'm trying to electroform seashells and freshwater pearls but I think the pearl would lose it's luster because of solution. What do you think? thank you
forthegoodknight (author)  kotare-weza1 year ago
The lacquer I used is Midas Clear Lacquer/Sealant, and I bought it from RioGrande.com (http://www.riogrande.com/Product/Midas-Clear-Lacquer-Sealant-and-Tarnish-Inhibitor/335149?Pos=3) . It is relatively viscous if you are using it in a very cold garage, but I have found that it usually works well and does not bubble if you dip things carefully. I have always dipped items and then burst any bubbles that form with a crappy plastic "paint brush" rather than trying to paint the lacquer on because it seems virtually impossible for me to get a smooth coat this way. Either way, you will need to use it in a well ventilated area because the smell is strong. I am sure there are others out there that work well, but I read good reviews for this lacquer and I generally always trust RioGrande.

As for if it is necessary- that depends. The solution itself I do not think will "go bad", the risk is more about the piece itself dissolving because the solution is mildly acidic (thus the gloves), and you are going to need to leave your piece in the solution for a lengthy amount of time while the copper builds up on the piece. Definitely use a lacquer when using seashells, especially if there are exposed or un-copper-painted areas (I speak from experience on this one). I would advise the same for bones, especially softer bones like bird bones. In general you might just have to use your judgement, or test some things...but I would say when in doubt, go with the lacquer. In the case of Pearls, I honestly am not sure...but I would not risk it unless I had plenty of pearls to experiment with. I doubt it would hurt plastic, but then I am not sure. Also, for the record, use lacquer if you want to do pieces of pottery.

I have really never used lacquer on any of the stone pieces that I have made (again, with the exception of the mica), and I have never had a problem. Mostly the stones have been the geodes and various hard crystals and glass.

Good luck, ask any other questions you have, and I would love to see what you come up with!

Thank very much that was very helpfull, sorry so late on the reply

Beautiful work and instructions! Thank you! Is it the lighting or does the metal coated geode look Gold instead of copper?

Just the lighting! It is copper, but new shiny copper! And that reminds me...

If you electroform with copper and it tarnishes as copper tends to do over time, the fastest and easiest way to bring it back to a brilliant shine is to submerge it in a bit of lemon juice and salt mixture- works like a charm. BUT, the tarnished look is actually preferable on a lot of the pieces I have made, to it just depends on personal taste!

Chance821 year ago
This is amazing!!!! Thank you so much !!! If you're ever inspired to do so please post a electroplating with gold instructable !!! ? this was just so helpful!
Do you know how to do this with Gold?
What I am demonstrating here is electroforming- basically covering a totally non-metallic surface with a layer of metal. If you want to do gold, you probably are going to want to electroplate- put a thin layer of one metal on top of another. Gold is way way way more expensive than copper, so putting a sufficient layer of gold on something is far too pricey for electroforming, but not so bad for plating. When you plate in gold, you leave your object in the solution for seconds or minutes, not hours.

Usually if you want to get a gold finish, you would electroform with copper first, and then flash plate (very thin layer) with another metal like nickel. The reason you want to do this is because if you plate directly over copper with gold, the two will slowly mix ions over time and the resulting color will be more coppery than gold (not cool.) AFTER the flash plating, then you are ready to do a layer of gold.

As for how it is done, there are two main methods for plating like this- the tank method (in a beaker like I showed in the instructable), or with an electroplating pen. The chemicals and anodes will be different for each metal, but several of the other tools can be used with multiple metals. I encourage you to check out the various Electroforming and Electroplating kits on riogrande.com- even if you do not want to buy from them, it will give you a better idea of the basic stuff that you need for tank or pen plating.

The answer is a bit complicated, and I have definitely simplified in some areas, but if you are seriously interested I would do some further research if you can, or of course you can ask me more questions! Good luck!
I have heard of similar electroplating techniques, (I think the Prince of Wales Crown was made in a similar way), but this is the first time I've seen an ACTUAL method described in detail.
Well done and thank you for sharing it.
forthegoodknight (author)  Dream Dragon1 year ago
I am a little late responding, but thanks for your comment! It is fun to do, even if you need quite a few little things to get started.
Do you know how to do this with Gold?
Carleyy1 year ago
Where did you get your geode slice?
forthegoodknight (author)  Carleyy1 year ago
I bought a pack of 10 thin geode slices from www.thegemshop.com and was really happy with my order. You will probably have to order a pack of at least 10, but just think you can give away a lot of original gifts or even sell them somewhere!
This is on my list of things I've got to try someday - beautiful pendant! I love the leaves, too.
That is fantastic! This would be a great science fair experiment.
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