I have been electroforming non-metallic objects for a while now, so when the idea of electroplating a cat poo occurred to me it seemed like a hilarious idea. Now, not so much. The project was a success but there were some unpleasant moments during the process, as you can imagine. There are a number of previously posted instructables dealing with small scale electroplating projects that cover the technical details quite nicely. Rather than reiterate all that available information, I will focus on the information specifically relevant to electoplating poo. For electroplating supplies www.riogrande.com is a good place to go.
Materials and Tools Required:
- Plating rectifier
- Plastic tub
- Copper electroplating solution
- Copper anode
- Automotive lacquer (clear)
- Fine powdered copper (#2 copper from Neuberg and Neuberg Importers Group)
- Super glue
- Zip tie (glue applicator)
- Copper wire (18 gauge)
- Helping hands
- Copper jump ring
- Cuticle scissors
- Wire Cutters
- Silver electroplating solution
- Silver anode
- Alligator clip leads
- Metal polish
- Soft cloth rag
- Flat, fine jeweler's file
I present to you, the Precious Poo.
Step 1: Obtaining a Poo
The first unpleasant moment involved obtaining the raw material. I got up late one night to get a glass of water and interrupted one of the cats engaged in doing its business. It ran off without covering up its business, giving me access to a fresh poo relatively free of kitty litter. “I clean these boxes everyday how bad can it be?” I thought to myself. Pretty bad it turns out. There's a reason they bury the stuff. Anyway I got what I needed for the project. I placed it on a paper towel and let it dry in the sun for a few days.
Step 2: Gluing a Wire to the Poo
Once the poo is sufficiently dried it's time to glue a wire to it. The wire is used to suspend the poo in the plating solution during the electroplating process. I used helping hands to keep the wire oriented correctly to the pooh while I applied a small dab of superglue.
If you look closely at the detail photo of the poo you can see the small dab of glue securing the wire. You don't want too much glue because, later when you snip the wire off, you want that connection point to disappear.
Step 3: The Clear Coat Dip
It is important that the poo be completely sealed before going into the electroplating tank. For this purpose, I used a clear automotive lacquer obtainable at any auto parts store. Just give it a quick dip and allow it to completely dry. When you dip the poo, stop at the point where the copper wire attaches, while covering the poo completely.
Step 4: Snipping the Little Hairs
Did you know there's little hairs in cat poo? Well, there are. If they are allowed to remain during the electroplating process they will create sharp little barbs on the finished product. That's kind of punk rock but not what I'm going for. So I used a small pair of cuticle scissors to snip off the little hairs.
Step 5: Fill the Cracks In
Another thing I learned during this process is that poos frequently are segmented and are not very structurally sound. I used super glue to fill in the cracks.
Step 6: Making the Poo Electro-conductive
The poo needs to be coated in electrically conductive paint before it can be electroplated with copper. Electro-conductive paint can be obtained online from plating supply companies but I prefer to make my own. The recipe for electro-conductive paint is one part superfine copper powder and one part clear automotive lacquer. Thin down this mixture with lacquer thinner to the desired consistency. If you thin it too much it will not be electro-conductive, but if it is too thick it will hide details of the poo. Thick enough to spread with a paintbrush is good enough. In the photos you can see that the paint looks thicker immediately after being dipped than it does after it is allowed to dry. We want to keep as much detail as we can cuz we don't want to hide the fact that it is a poo.
Step 7: Fixing My Mistake
It was at this point in the process that I realized I had attached the wire to the wrong end of the poo. It is meant to be worn as a piece of jewelry and I wanted it to hang like a teardrop, pointy end up. So the wire needs to be secured to the fat, blunt end because there is going to be a jump ring at the tapered end.
This ended up being the grossest part of the process, but I decided to include it here because, well, it is instructional. Drilling even a small hole in a dried cat poo is nasty. It was at this point in the process that I decided I will never ever do this again. Anyway, I chucked up my dremel tool with a small drill bit and did what I had to do.
I drilled about a quarter inch into the blunt end of the poo to create a receptacle in which to remount the wire. Once the hole is drilled I snipped off the wire from the pointy end of the poo. I then put a drop of superglue on the end of the wire and inserted it into the hole at the fat end. Did I mention I'll never ever do this again?
Step 8: Attaching the Loop
Keeping in mind that this is going to be a piece of jewelry, I attached a small copper jump ring so that, when it hangs, it's most attractive surface will face towards the viewer. I used a small zip tie to apply tiny dab of superglue to secure the ring to the pointy end of the poo. I then had to redip it in the conductive paint to make sure the entire surface was electro-conductive. The paint got a little thick but I gently blew it off of the problem areas.
Step 9: Electroplating
My electroplating gear is way overkill for plating a little poo. I bought this rectifier used from someone who had it for chrome plating auto parts. Rectifiers are sold online that are more appropriate for electroplating jewelry sized objects.
The poo needs to be attached to the rectifier so that it is negatively charged and will draw the copper atoms onto itself once the plating process begins. Once the poo is completely covered with copper the gross part is over. I left it in the plating tank for 12 hours to make sure that poo never sees the light of day ever again. Typically, I plate things for 6 to 8 hours, but this was a special case.
Step 10: Remove the Wire
Snip the wire off flush to the copper plate and carefully file down the sharp little nub. Be gentle, you don't want to file though the metal down to the poo.
Step 11: Silver Plating
Silver is just so pretty. Right? Be sure not to handle the copper plated poo too much because you want it clean so that it takes a nice silver plate. Soap and water will be sufficient to clean it up once it is ready to silver plate.
The silver plating set up in the photo is pretty rinky-dink compared to the copper plating system but it is perfectly adequate for this small-scale project. An old silver pendant is used as the anode, supplying all the atoms needed to give the final silver plate. The poo only needs to be in the silver plating solution for 20 or 30 minutes to get a good covering of silver.
Step 12: Polishing
Once it comes out of the solution rinse it with water and give it a quick rub with some metal polish. And that’s it, you have a silver plated Precious Poo!
Step 13: Hang It on a Chain
So now the Precious Poo is ready to be proudly displayed as a pendant, strung upon a chain, for all to see and admire. Or, if you prefer, it may be made into a key ring fob so that so no one will ever know that you carry cat kaka around in your pocket. To each their own. Enjoy!