Are you interested in copper electroforming? then, you’ve come to the right place! I discovered electroforming just a few months ago, and, at first, I was really intrigued. But I also instantly knew I wanted to try it. So, what’s copper electroforming and how does it work?
In this post, I will answer frequently asked questions about copper electroforming and give you a very basic list of what you need to start your journey. So, read on to discover everything you need to know about copper electroforming.
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What is copper electroforming?
Copper electroforming involves a bit of science. However, I’m definitely not a scientist, so I’m going to give you a simple answer. Electroforming is the process of depositing a thick layer of copper onto a conductive surface. To do that, your copper and your object are both immersed in an acid bath and using electricity, a thick layer of copper is built up over a period of several hours.
What is the difference between electroforming and electroplating?
There is a slight difference between electroforming and electroplating. Technically, I do both when I make my jewelry, but it’s more often referred to as electroforming than electroplating.
Electroplating is just the process of plating metal onto another metal. Usually, with electroplating, you only build up a thin layer of metal.
Electroforming is used to build a thick layer of metal onto a non-conductive material. It can create a metal shell after the object is removed, leaving you with a piece of metal in the form of your object. Basically, with electroforming, a non-metal object is formed with metal.
Is electroforming dangerous?
Electroforming involves handling several corrosive and hazardous chemicals. The most dangerous one is obviously the electrolytic bath, which contains acid. And you certainly don’t want to have any of this on your skin, in your eyes or breathe the fumes. Whenever you do electroforming is is very important that you wear gloves, a respirator, and safety glasses. You should always read the safety instructions on the supplies you buy before using them, especially the electroforming bath, copper conductive paint, patinas, and sealants.
What do I need for electroforming?
Anyone can do electroforming, you just need to have the right tools to do it. If you want to copper electroformed jewelry, check out my complete supplies list which includes everything I use to make my jewelry.
Here is basically what you need and how it works. I have included links to Amazon and other websites, where you can find the supplies.
DC Power Supply
You will need a DC power supply for electroforming. You need a very low current for that so you can buy a unit that uses household power and converts it to direct current.
This is the blue liquid that will conduct electricity. You can either buy it or make it yourself. I’d recommend buying it first if you’re a beginner. However, you can find a recipe online and make your own if you feel comfortable handling sulfuric acid.
This is the piece of copper you will use to electroform. It will slowly dissolve into the electrolyte bath to be deposited onto your object. The anode can be a copper wire, sheet or any other copper item. The positive lead of your DC power supply is connected to the anode.
This is the non-metallic item you want to electroform. The metal of the anode (your copper wire) is slowly deposited onto the cathode (your object). The negative lead of our DC power supply is connected to the cathode.
This is the container you want to use for electroforming. Just make sure it is either a plastic or glass tank, as metal is conductive so it wouldn’t be good for electroforming. The size and shape of your tank really depends on what you want to electroform. For jewelry, I use a beaker but if you want to electroform something bigger you can use a bucket or a plastic storage box.
Copper conductive paint
If you want to electroform a non-conductive object, you need to create a conductive surface that will conduct the electricity. In order to do that, you want to paint your object with copper conductive paint. I use this one from Catmusic on Etsy but you can find other paints online. If you’re in the US, you can try this one from Safer Solutions or Sherri Haab. You can also make your own copper conductive paint.
What can I electroform?
You can electroform pretty much everything! Whether you want to electroform glass, plastic, resin, organics or crystals, all you have to do is make sure your surface is conductive (either metal or covered in conductive paint) before you put it in the bath. I have even seen people electroform paper. Electroforming is a wonderful form of art, you can transform anything you want into a beautiful piece of copper.
Is electroforming expensive?
Electroforming is more expensive than some other art forms. For this reason, many electroformers have high selling prices, often over $100 for a pendant or a ring. If you want to electroform jewelry, you’ll need to spend at least $200 in supplies when you start, assuming you do not have anything. This might not seem like much, but it is quite an investment especially if you plan on doing this as a hobby.
After that, you have to renew some of your material quite often. You’ll need to buy copper, electroforming solution, and jewelry making supplies on a regular basis. Personally, I don’t feel comfortable yet playing with acid to maintain my bath so I buy new bottles whenever my bath doesn’t work anymore. Other supplies such as crystals and copper paint aren’t cheap either. If you are tight with money, I definitely recommend establishing a budget before you start buying everything. Just to make sure it is worth it.
I hope this introductory post to electroforming answered some of your questions about this beautiful form of art. If you’re ready to learn more, check out this complete list of supplies you need to start your journey and this tutorial on how to copper electroform a crystal pendant.
Have you started your electroforming journey yet? If you have any questions, feel free to leave a comment or contact me.
RachelJanuary 31, 2021 at 5:16 pm
I’m very new in electroforming. I’ve been piecing my kit together since Christmas and I’ve finally gotten it all together!
A lot of pieces I’ve seen done are darker in color but there are some electroforming jewelry artists I’ve seen come out with some bright, ‘shiny penny’ colored pieces of jewelry. They’re gorgeous. I ask them about it and I get ignored. My pieces are all coming out a matte, salmony pink color. I don’t know what I’m doing wrong. How do I get a shiny copper color on my pieces?
Camille - Electroforming ArtistFebruary 23, 2021 at 9:43 am
Hi Rachel, it’s hard to tell what you are doing wrong if I don’t see your setup. Your pieces should come out shiny, especially the first batch with a brand new solution. If it is salmony, it could mean your amps are not high enough though. Maybe try to put a little bit more power. Also too much anode can be a problem.
Hope this helps!