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Electroplating Non-Metals Answered

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_Dan (author)2016-05-02

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.

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Toga_Dan (author)2016-04-29

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.

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ashleyjlong (author)Toga_Dan2016-05-01

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.

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Downunder35m (author)2016-03-20

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.

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Toga_Dan (author)Downunder35m2016-04-27

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.

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Downunder35m (author)Toga_Dan2016-04-28

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.

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Toga_Dan (author)Downunder35m2016-04-27

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

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Toga_Dan (author)Kiteman2016-04-27

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

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Toga_Dan (author)2016-04-27

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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Toga_Dan (author)2016-04-27

Vinegar seems much safer than copper sulphate ( CuSO4. The MSDS on the latter is a bit scary. H2SO4 is sulphuric acid, so, I surmise that copper sulphate is essentially Cu dissolved in sulphuric acid, then dried out.

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Toga_Dan (author)2016-04-27

my 2nd attempt has begun. Ping pong ball with a loop o Cu wire, then painted with a mix of acrylic paint and powdered graphite. Ball then dusted with more graphite. After it has thorougly dried, I will try plating it.

So far, I've had better success plating steel with vinegar, salt, pennies, and 1V than with CuSO4 and 12V. Of course, I was lazy about cleaning the Fe prior to the CuSO4 test.... the Cu plate looked good at first, but immediately rusted, and easily scrubbed off of the Fe.

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Toga_Dan (author)2016-04-27

check youtube. Painting the object with conductive ink seems to be step 1.

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Toga_Dan (author)2016-04-26

I tried plating graphite pencil marks on paper. It didn't work.

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RickieE (author)2016-04-26

Hello.. I am VERY interested in plating/electro-forming..etc.... and know about zero on how to do this. I make jewelry and I have been making some components recently. They are beautiful.. Think of bracelets...now think of bracelets made out of shapes (squares, rectangles...) ... see the example below ..( with web credits ..)

https://www.google.com/url?sa=i&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&so...

The items I want to use the process for are similar to these above 'tile bracelets'..I have a variety of materials that I will be using - from plastic to polymer clay to glass to foam-core board, etc..I know NOTHING about which processes I will need to learn about. Can youhelp me? I will bee happy to pay youfor your time and/or referrals to someone thta know a lot about the processes that will result in a metql 'bezel' around the individual pieces.. Basically I want to make a border around each piece but there may be times I will want to put some metal in the middle of a piece.

I do NOT know where to start. I hope that you cabn help me. Oh, I live in San Francisco ...in case you live nearby.

Thank You for your time..Rickie Beth rose.petals.and.dreams@gmail.com

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