Copper Plating





Introduction: Copper Plating

About: As a hobby I post DIY/tutorials on crafting and mechanical builds on YouTube:

In this instruction I am going through how to copper plating a washer with a few simple steps! There is room for experimentation in for example: Changing the time, voltage and acids! :) I will only go true the basic steps in how to copper plate, no explanation in "why" will be found in this tutorial!

Price: 1 – 3$ || Time: 1 – 3 h || Difficulty: Easy - Medium

Warning! Do this experiment in a well ventilated area, and if your a young scientist, do this together with an adult!

What you need:

  • Copper x2 small pieces (In the video I use coper wire, but other copper objects works as well!)
  • Metal object to copper plate ( I use a washer)
  • Glass jar with lid
  • Alligator-clip wires x2
  • Power-supply (preferred one with a changeable voltage output)
  • Vinegar (which will be our acid)
  • Polisher and polish (if you want to polish your object afterwords)

Step 1: Watch This Video First! :)

This is a instruction video I have made :) I will go true and show all steps written in this instruction!

If the video only appears as an picture, then you can follow this link instead! :) It will open a new window/tab so you easily can come back here afterwords!

Step 2: Dissolve Copper!

I do not know if "dissolve" is the right word for this, but it at least makes it clear what we are going to do in this step!

Start of by placing one small copper object in both alligator-clip. Then place both into the jar. Make sure that they do not touch each other!! (shown in picture). Then add vinegar until most of the copper is covered, but do not let the alligator-clips touch the vinegar (Shown in picture).

It is now time to connect the alligator-clips to the power supply. Do not plug it in the wall yet! When both alligator-clips are connected to the power supply, set the voltage to 12v. When everything is done you can connect the power supply to the wall.

(The power supply´s end part was removed and only 2 wires where left, making the connection for the alligator clips easy. It is rather easy to see in the video! )

You will now notice that one of the copper paces is bubbling! Remember witch, sins this is the negative pole/part!

I let this stand for roughly 30min. But once again, play around with different voltage and time! :) But I recommend to stay between 0 - 12V for safety reasons, and it works well enough! :)

Step 3: Copper Plating!

After 30min I unplug the power supply from the wall, I then remove the minus pole, or the copper peace that where bubbling before! I then place my metal object, or washer in this case in the alligator clip. Set your power supply as low as possible (to start with). The lowest my power supply could go where 3v. Connect you power supply back in the wall and watch your metal object be plated! I let my washer be in the liquid for 30min.

Some say that you need to let your copper plating dry for 1-2days before anything is done with your object. If this is true or not I do not know, still I have not seen any differences between removing the excess materiel directly or after 2days.

To get the plating shiny you can simply polish your object (then its required to have a polisher and polish for copper). Make sure to not polish to much sins it is only a thin layer of copper!

Do not forget to play around with the time and voltage to see the different results and try to get an even spread of copper over your object! :)

Thanks for reading and happy copper plating! :)

If you liked this please take a look at my YouTube page. Subscribe to make sure you do not miss any fun projects that I do not post here. It means a lot to me! :)

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22 Discussions

please, please, please. can you teach me how to re-tin my old copper cook pots?

Thank you.

Question..... what do you do with the toxic mix in the jar? if you can't throw it down the sink.... and it's harmful to the environment... i don't want to just dump it on the street either. how do I potentially neutralize the effect of whatever it is in the jar? I do not pretend to know what's in the jar.... is it some kind of acid mixture after? Is it safe to touch?

This is what happened 20 minutes after exposure to concentrated cobalt chloride solution. It turned the copper surface black.


Copper plating first then using 10 g cobalt chloride in 300 ml water for 1 hour to see if anything occurs.


Here is what happens when silver coin is placed in diluted hydrogen peroxide and sodium carbonate solution. Hopefully the stainless steel with give a silver orange color.


I know for silver plating sodium carbonate and hydrogen peroxide is required with copper and silver electrode. You could use sodium percarbonate instead too.

Is it possible to use stainless steel sheets and run electricity through sodium carbonate and silver coins? I am trying to silver plate iron. Is that possible?


2 years ago

Great video! Thanks for sharing it.

this is a splendid instructable my friend and good feedback too ,i've done this and ended up with black deposits on my plated object, reading your feedback has given me the answer ,lower the voltage

I feel a bit like the grammar police but you are using the word true incorrectly i.e. "I will go true...". True is the opposite of false. Another one you might get confused with is "threw" which is the past tense of throw. You should be using "through" in this case. It is easy enough to get these mixed up because the all sound [roughly] the same - especially if English is not your first language.

2 replies

Great! Will change it! :) A combination of "second language" and dyslexia does make these mistakes hard to find. There for it is greate with feedback such as this! :) Thanks!

Your English skills are great! I, too wanted to correct your use of "true" vs. "through" but only because you are doing such a great job as a "second language" English learner, and I want to help. (Also because even before I went to your profile to see your other tutorials and saw you're from Sweden, I could "hear" your Swedish accent in my head due to the "go true it" just like my cousin from Sweden says.) English is very hard to learn! Homonyms (words that sound the same but are spelled different/have different meanings) are extremely difficult. The hardest part of learning another language (for me, anyway) is letting go ego and practicing with native speakers, and you are great at that. I also wanted to tell you that grammar/spelling mistakes aside, I was EASILY able to understand what you meant and follow your tutorial, and that is what's important! Thanks for sharing, I definitely want to try this now.

it may, but it would be somewhat wasteful

more than likely you won't get pure gold

Believe it or not, It actually is ionization. Copper ions from the source copper, release in the acid, and travel through it to, and adhere to the destination object. One other chemical, plain water and Copper Sulphate. This will guarantee a source of copper, and the trace sulfur will act as a weak acid.

1 reply

I've used Lemon-juice/salt solution for my acid. Works the same as the Vinegar. It doesn't take much voltage. Even as low as 1.5V single dry-cell or alkaline battery. I managed to copper-plate a nickle, and someone thought it was a rare coin. (even when I showed them the date was only 2 years earlier.) One note, if you use high voltages (well below 20V, but above 3-6V) You'll notice the object getting plated will be blackened, instead of shiny copper. This blackened layer will cut-down on the conduction of the copper ions through the solution, (like an insulator) resulting in a poor plate layer. Best to keep the voltage low.

Seen in an old Science book I used to have in High School, take an object, put a thin wax layer on it, coat that wax layer with graphite powder, then place object in the acid solution, the copper will adhere to the graphite, and for a solid foil that can be peeled off.

1 reply

It´s very true! it almost looks like it is "burned". And the "scientific bubbling" disappears much quicker. Unfortunately my power supply only supported 3v at its lowest. :) It would be easy enough to build a "split" with 2 resistors and some soldering, but that would make the whole "experiment with your child" idea more complex. :)