There are many different types of copper on the market. And if you don’t know what you’re really looking for, it can be really confusing. Most beginner electroformers start with copper wire. It’s easy to find, and affordable, but you must choose the right one. Should you get braided or solid wire? Enameled or bright? If you don’t know the answers to these questions, read on to find out how to choose the right wire, and discover 5 mistakes to avoid when buying copper for electroforming.
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Different types of copper you can get for electroforming
First, I want to tell you about the different types of copper you can get for electroforming. Most electroforming artists either get copper wire or copper sheets when they begin. When you upgrade your tank, you can use copper pipes.
Copper wire: Copper wire is easy to find online. In fact, you can buy it on Amazon. It comes in different sizes and shapes.
Copper sheet: If you don’t want to use wire, you can opt for a copper sheet. They are not as easy to find as copper wire though. And getting the right size for your tank can be tricky.
Copper pipe: As I said above, when you upgrade to a bigger tank (more than 1 liter), you can use copper pipes. They are bigger and last longer than copper wire.
Where can I buy copper for electroforming?
I buy all my copper on Amazon. But I know that in some countries it’s not easy to find copper online because there are different regulations. In this case, I’d recommend looking at your local hardware store. Some people even say that buying at a hardware store is cheaper than online. Explore both options and compare prices.
Copper is the preferred metal for electrical wires because it is highly conductive, it’s inexpensive, and it’s thermal resistant. So, if you can’t find copper on Amazon, you can look at retailers who sell electric components and you should find what you’re looking for.
5 mistakes to avoid when buying copper for electroforming
I remember the first time I bought copper, I had no idea what I was supposed to buy. And I ended up buying tarnish resistant copper that didn’t work for electroforming. So, below you’ll find some tips and 5 mistakes to avoid when buying copper for electroforming.
Mistake #1: Buying enameled copper
If the copper description mentions the words ‘enameled’ or ‘tarnish-resistant’, then this copper won’t work for electroforming. Enameled or tarnish resistant copper wire does not conduct electricity! And it doesn’t take patina as well. Enameled copper looks a little bit brownish, it is not bright like bare copper wire. This is one way you can use to spot it. Look at the main picture of this post, the small copper spool at the front is enameled. The big one at the back is bright copper wire.
Mistake #2: Choosing the wrong gauge
Copper wire comes in different sizes and shapes. For your copper anode, I recommend getting 8G wire, and for your hanging wire you can get anything between 14 and 22G (but something like 20 or 22G is best). If you buy copper wire that is too small for your anode, it’ll be eaten really fast in the bath. And if you choose a gauge that is too thick for your cathode, it will compete with your object when plating – which is why you want to choose a 20-22 gauge wire.
Mistake #3: Not getting real copper
There is a lot of copper-plated aluminum online. It is usually mentioned, but sometimes descriptions are confusing. Real copper is called bare copper wire. Copper plated aluminum is usually referred to as aluminum crafting wire. And that’s a big no-no for electroforming. Also, you will notice that copper wire can either be braided or solid. You should choose the solid wire, not the braided one.
See also: How to maintain your electroforming bath
Mistake #4: Not checking copper hardness
Copper wire has different hardness properties. It can be hard, half hard or dead soft. I always choose dead soft copper wire for my anode. This way, it’s easier to shape it and make it fit into my beaker. If you take hard copper wire, you might have a difficult time shaping it the way you want.
Mistake #5: Not comparing prices
You will find all sorts of prices online for copper. Make sure you compare several products before buying. The most important is to compare the price per foot. Some copper spools are a lot more expensive than they should be. As I said before, don’t hesitate to compare prices online and at your local hardware store.
How do I know I’m getting the right copper for electroforming?
To make sure you’re getting the copper, make sure that:
- You choose copper that is bare copper wire.
- The words ‘enameled’ or tarnish resistant’ are not in the description.
- You are choosing the right gauge (eg: 8G, 20G or 20G).
- The price is affordable.
- The copper is 99% pure solid wire, and not coated aluminum or braided wire.
To make it even easier for you, I selected some good copper products that you can use for electroforming:
You can use this copper for your anode and bus bar.
Use this wire for your hanging wire.
If you want to add copper bails in your designs, you can get this spool of 14G copper.
Check the size of your copper sheet to make sure it fits your electroforming tank.
If you have a big tank (over 1 liter), you can use copper pipes.
Buying copper for electroforming can be tricky, especially if you’re not sure what you’re looking for. I know I made all the mistakes I mentioned above, unfortunately! Make sure you are getting bare copper wire, choose the right gauge, and compare prices before you purchase.
You can easily find copper on Amazon or at your local hardware stores. I hope this post helped you figure out which copper wire you should get. Have you ever made mistakes when buying copper for electroforming? Let me know in the comments below!