Electroforming an Iris Seed Pod




How to electroform an organic object (iris seed pod). Commonly referred to as "dipping" in metal, think bronze baby shoes!

Step 1: Equipment and Materials

18-amp Digital Rectifier
1000mL Pyrex Beaker
Conductive Paint
2-Part Epoxy
1 quart Bright Copper Electroforming Solution
Copper Anode
22ga Copper Wire
Paint Brush
Copper Rod/Tubing
Latex Gloves
Baking Soda
Scotch-Brite Pad
Liver of Sulfur
Brass Brush

Step 2: Day One

First, you need to find an object you wish to electroform. The possibilities are almost endless, from shells, fabric, wax, clay, plastic, paper, seeds and pods, etc. Be creative! For this project, I have selected an iris seed pod from my garden. I have removed the stem and leaves.

Step 3: Add a Bail or Jump Ring

Attach a copper jump-ring to your piece. This will serve 2 purposes - to attach to copper wire to suspend in the electroform solution, and to attach to your finished jewelry piece. Use hot glue or a 2-part epoxy.

Step 4: Lacquer the Object

For porous objects, such as seed pods, they need to be lacquered to seal them. Paint or dip the object in the lacquer, making sure it is completely covered. Hang to dry in a cool, dry place, avoiding dirt and dust.

Step 5: Drying

Let them dry overnight in a cool, dry, and dust-free environment.

Step 6: Day Two

Make sure to avoid touching the lacquered surface of your object. Use gloved hands or tweezers to hold the seed pod, and paint on a thin layer of conductive paint.

Step 7: Paint and Let Dry

Check to make sure areas are covered with an even layer of paint, especially the area where the copper jump-ring meets the seed pod. Paint over the glue and onto the jump-ring. Hang the item to dry overnight

Step 8: Day Three

I use a 22ga sheet of copper with the top bent over so it will hang over the side of the beaker. With gloved hands, scrub it vigorously with a scotch-brite pad to remove any dirt or oils from the surface.

Step 9: Prepare the Electroforming Solution.

Fill the beaker with the electroforming solution, and put the anode in place. With the rectifier turned off, attach the red (positive) lead to the anode with the alligator clip.

Step 10: Preparing the Seed Pod.

Make sure to wear your gloves, as you want to avoid getting any oil or dirt on the painted object. Attach a length of copper wire to the jump ring, secure it by twisting the wire back on itself.

Step 11: Preparing to Electroform.

Attach the wire to a long length of copper tubing. The tube will rest on the edges of the beaker, allowing the seed pod to be suspended into the electroforming solution. Attach the black (negative) lead to the copper tubing with the alligator clip.

Step 12: Begin Electroforming!

Turn the rectifier on, keeping the amp and volt set both below 1. Slowly submerge the seed pod into the solution, making sure it is completely covered. After a few seconds, you should be able to see a light layer of copper forming on the surface!

Step 13: Electroforming

Let the copper tubing rest on the beaker. Make sure there is plenty of space between the anode and the seed pod, they should never touch. You also want to avoid allowing the seed pod to rest against the glass. Check the amp and voltage setting, they should both be at or below 1. You want a very slow and steady build-up of copper to form, otherwise it can flake off.

Step 14: Waiting...

And now, you wait.
The electroforming process can take several hours (4-8) - a slow and even layer is the most durable. It is a good idea to check on your piece every 30-45 minutes, checking the amp and voltage setting, as well as your piece to make sure an even layer is forming.

And wait a little more...

Step 15: Check the Seed Pod

After 4 - 6 hours, remove the seed pod from the electroforming solution. Rinse in a neutralizing bath of baking soda and water, making sure all acid has been rinsed away.

Step 16: Things to Look for on the 45 Minute Check-ups

Pay attention to any points or protrusions on your piece, as they can be prone to a fast build-up, seen here on the tips of the iris pod. If little granules of copper begin forming on your object, turn down the amp/voltage, and make sure the seed pod is at least 2 inches away from the anode.

I often get granules forming on my leadwire before my actual object, but since this is discarded, doesn't pose any problems.

Step 17: Almost Finished...

A solid, even layer of copper has been formed on the surface of the seed pod. It has a bright new-penny copper finish, and is easily tarnished. Once you have your desired finish (I prefer a darker patina using liver of sulfur) lacquer the piece to seal the finish. It is now ready to be turned in to jewelry!

Step 18: Finishing

After removing from the leadwire, I dip my objects into liver of sulfur patina, which gives a dark black finish. I then scrub with steel wool which highlights the raised areas, leaving the recesses dark black. I then use a spray-lacquer to seal the finish, and string onto cotton cording for a fun and organic necklace.

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    202 Discussions


    Question 9 months ago on Introduction

    Hello, i whant formula for coper electroforming pls


    7 years ago on Introduction

    Can anyone please tell me where I can get the battery charger that is controllable with dials to control voltage manually? I live in the UK and want to have a go at electroforming but am struggling with the power supply. Many thanks

    1 reply

    Reply 1 year ago

    I know this is waaaay late. But for anyone else interested, what they can look for is "regulated dc power supply for cellphone repair". It comes out a lot cheaper than actually looking for an "electroforming rectifier". I got mine off my local ebay, and it cost me about USD 25. There are some even cheaper.


    3 years ago

    Thank you so much for sharing your knowledge about electroforming, I have been researching all day and your insight has been the most informing :) I believe I have gathered most of the information I need to get started but I am unsure of what copper conductor paint to use. What have you found works best and where can I find it? Looking forward to hearing from you, have a beautiful evening!!


    4 years ago on Introduction

    What is the easiest way to seal a leaf? I was painting laquer on and then letting it dry on wax paper but that doesn't really work well. Would you glue a copper jump ring on a leaf as well?

    1 reply

    Reply 3 years ago

    Someone elsewhere suggested applying white glue first. Anything that would coat the leaf and make it stiffer would hold up better than uncoated. Then spray paint as usual.


    7 years ago on Introduction

    I have been electroforming for 5 years. You must filter the copper solution from time to time to remove oxides. Aquarium charcoal thru a coffee filter into a clean beaker. I take the natural shape of opals and grow settings around them and then gold plate them.

    2 replies

    Reply 4 years ago

    That sounds fascinating. I'm just curious, since opals are porous, are they treated somehow first? I bet they're gorgeous.


    Reply 5 years ago on Introduction

    Hey sandyq4, I hope you get this :) and I think you might be able to answer my question. On the part where you paint lacquer on, do you need to do it for everything. Do you do it for all your stones. I'm playing around with some druzy but not sure how natural stone they are or synthetic and also pearls and seashells, do you know if I should lacquer first?


    4 years ago on Introduction

    sorry my badenglish,i just want to say, your site is very good,i tried elektroform cones and insects. i used copper anode, varnish from sherri haab,silver conductive paintfrom goldn.uk and bright acidic copper solution from tifoo.de.

    my amperage was low,only 0.35, because by higher amperage i got big bubbles on the surface. by 0,35 endured process more than 10 hours,the bubbles was much smaller so the item appeared just velvety. not shiny. another items had cracks too on copper surface.

    what i did wrong? can copper solution be wrong?

    then i tried silverplating over copper . now i used silver plating solution from tifoo.de (dont know how much silver was in solution)

    http://www.tifoo.de/silberelektrolyt ,

    one silver anode.

    i hang up the copper-object onto silver stick with thin 0,5mm silver wire.

    my rectifier shows weird numbers. amperage was almost 0. if i tried raise amperage,then voltage raised heavily , but amperage very slowly. by 0,4 amperage was voltage already 4 and my object was getting quickly black. silver anode was now muddy too.i did anode clean and lower amperage/voltage. my muddy object get back little bit lighter,but stays still muddy.

    my clear silver solution become more and more blue. my first pretty muddy object was pretty nice in proportion to anothers. my silver solution is now same color as copper solution,alltough i used inbetween coffee filters and so on.. is this solution now useless?

    i tried now enamel the objects. because they was so ugly. i prefer always silver.but the silver coat stays so thin, that after burning out the original object was silver surface more dirty as before-it was black-seems that its copper oxide. i put object after annealing into acid.no betterment.

    then i put the ultrasound machine. vibration makes silver surface partially broken. bad idea.

    my purpose was enamelling. copper is not the best choice, because heating will make copper allways black .i thought,that if i overcoat the cheap copper with silver, is not problem.

    then i tried electroform just in case silver conducted surface directly in silver solution with silveranode,silver wire and so on... but my electroformed insect comes out peeled and crusted.

    i have same rectifier


    there is only one volume button. is that problem? Must i buy different rectifier with separately adjustable voltage/amperage?

    in summary: i saw, that electroforming is possible, but :

    i never catch bright and smooth copper surface,alltough i used so low amperage as possible.

    silversolution was getting blue

    fast all objects was more or less dirty and rough

    and i have no idea, what i was doing wrong. the insructables seems after all so easy.


    11 years ago on Step 11

    Very nice technique! However, what is the chemical composition of the electroforming solution? In my country, I will have to prepare it myself :)

    7 replies

    Reply 11 years ago on Introduction

    Honestly, I do not know the exact chemical composition of the solution. It is always something I have purchased/used pre-made. I do know it contains Cupric sulfate, sulfuric acid, sodium potassium tartate, and benzidine compound. what country are you in? I may be able to help you find local suppliers.


    Reply 11 years ago on Introduction

    I am in Bulgaria. I can freely find Cupric sulfate here. Do you think it will work as good alone? And: what do the indications on the electric device mean? The first is voltage (should be less than 1 volt, as far as I got you), but what is the second one?


    Reply 11 years ago on Introduction

    Hmm... this I'm unsure of... Let me check some of my sources and get back to you... maybe Solidification has some knowledge here?


    Reply 11 years ago on Introduction

    Are you familiar with the book "the complete metalsmith" by Tim McCreight? I found this information on how to mix your own solution. "Prepare enough electrolyte to completely submerge the object. Using protective clothing and ventilation, mix one pound of copper sulfate with 100cc of sulfuric acid and a half gallon of distilled water. Stir gently until the copper sulfate dissolves. This solution is used at room temperature." Hope this helps!


    Reply 6 years ago on Step 11

    Thank you so much for the information. But is that the general solution (for copper, bronze, silver, etc) or just when electroplating with copper?


    Reply 4 years ago on Introduction

    This solution will only work for copper (the copper sulfate is a salt of copper, and gives up its copper to the object, while pulling more copper ions from the feed-stock to maintain the balance in the solution).

    Most electroplating/forming is done with a solution that is specific for the metal being plated. However, there are a few general-purpose solutions. From what I can tell, they normally aren't liquids you'd want to have in your kitchen.

    The one notable exception I've seen recently is in this patent by Richard Lacey (http://www.google.com/patents/US20050230264). I don't know of a commercial supplier of it (I've looked - if you find one, let me know!), even though the ingredients are widely available.