When I first started electroforming, I had a lot of questions about the whole process and especially the blue bath. I had no idea what it was made of, how it worked, or how to maintain it. Even though you’re not a scientist, there are certain things that you need to know about your bath in order to keep it working. So, here are 7 questions answered about the electroforming bath.
1. What’s the electroforming bath made of?
The electroforming bath – or electroforming solution – is basically made of 3 ingredients: copper sulfate, sulfuric acid, and brightener.
You can either buy the solution in ready-to-use bottles online or make your own. I have included a link to a recipe in this post.
The solution contains hazardous chemicals, and you should always be careful when using it. Ideally, you should wear safety gear such as gloves, goggles, and a mask when handling your electroforming solution.
2. How often do you change the bath?
I change my bath every 4-6 months. Sometimes less often. It really depends on how often I use it, if I contaminate it or not, and how I maintain it. I run a small bath, of less than one liter.
There is no set time to change your bath. You should just change it whenever it doesn’t work anymore or if it acts weird. For example, if you see a lot of texture building up on your pieces it could be a sign of contamination. Or if it just doesn’t plate at all anymore, your bath probably needs maintenance or changing.
If you maintain your bath properly, you should be able to keep it forever. More advanced electroformers learn to check the PH in their bath and even refill it with acid.
3. What are the blue crystals at the bottom of my bath?
After a couple of runs of electroforming, you will notice blue crystals at the bottom of your bath. These crystals are copper sulfate. This happens when your bath gets dehydrated. You can add distilled water to your beaker and reuse those crystals for your next runs.
4. How do you filter your bath?
I filter my bath with a coffee filter and a funnel. After each run, I remove the copper wire from my beaker and filter my solution twice. This is a great way to remove the excess copper at the bottom of your bath.
After that, I clean my beaker, add some distilled water to my solution, and a drop or two of copper brightener. Don’t forget to add the brightener or your pieces will look dull when they come out of the bath.
Maintaining a small bath is not hard, and the better you maintain it the longer you will keep it.
5. What should I do if my electroforming bath doesn’t work?
There could be many reasons why your electroforming doesn’t work. Most of the time, the problem isn’t the bath but the anode, cathode, or even the rectifier. If you can’t run a successful baht of electroforming, here is what you should check:
- Your rectifier should be in CC mode
- Make sure your cathode and your anode don’t touch
- There could be too much anode in your bath
- Check if your bath isn’t too cold or contaminated
- Make sure your leads are attached to the correct wire
Even though there could be other reasons for your bath not too work, the ones I listed above are the most common problems electroforming artists come across. I’ve had all these problems! But once you know what’s wrong, you can fix it.
6. My bath is contaminated, what does it mean?
If your bath is contaminated, it’ll simply stop working. Your pieces will come out with big bumps on them or will just not plate at all. Contamination happens when things that are not part of the bath chemistry enter it. For example, if one of your crystals is not properly sealed and dissolves during electroforming, your bath will be contaminated. This works for basically anything. If you put your hand in the bath (with a glove of course – but you shouldn’t do that!), or drop something in it, it will contaminate your entire bath.
Do you think your bath is contaminated? The best thing to do is to make a new one! When this happens to me, I just buy a brand new bottle of solution and make a fresh bath. As you get more experienced, you’ll learn not to contaminate your bath!
See also: How To Electroform A Leaf
7. At what temperature should I keep my electroforming bath?
This is something I didn’t know when I first started electroforming, but your bath should be kept at the right temperature in order to work. If it’s too cold, it won’t plate at all!
I had such a hard time figuring that one out, to be honest. So, I found that the ideal temperature for the bath to work perfectly is between 75 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit. Below that, it won’t work as well and if it’s freezing cold, it won’t plate at all.
If you placed your electroforming station in your garage or outside, you can use an electric heating pad to heat your tank. Set it up on the lowest possible setting, you don’t want your solution to be too hot.
If you learn a little bit about the chemistry behind electroforming, and how to maintain your bath, you could easily keep it for years. Just remember to keep your bath at the right temperature, don’t contaminate it, and add brightener and distilled water after each run. You should be good!
Did you try everything but it still doesn’t work? Change your bath and make a fresh one. It should solve your problem.
I hope this post answered some of the questions you had about the electroforming bath and how it works. If you have more questions, feel free to leave a comment and I will add it to the post!