Do you want to try electroforming insects? It’s not as complicated as it looks. The main thing is to seal your bug properly before putting it in the bath. In this tutorial, I teach you how to easily electroform a cicada wing so you can turn it into a beautiful pendant. If you have two, you can even make earrings! Read on to find out how to copper electroform insects to turn them into beautiful pieces of jewelry.
Note: I used an ethically sourced cicada wing for this tutorial. I live in a region where there are many cicadas in summer, and I picked this one upon the ground. It was already dead and part of its body was eaten by ants, as you will see in the pictures.
Note: Affiliate links may be used in this post. I may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you if you purchase through my affiliate link.
What you need for this tutorial
Here is a complete list of all the things I used for this tutorial. You can find most of the supplies on Amazon. Each product links to a website where you can buy it:
- Cicada wing
- Tweezers or a jewelry making tool
- Mod Podge
- 4mm jump ring
- One liter beaker
- Electroforming solution
- Copper conductive paint
- Copper wire 8G
- Soft cloth
- Copper wire 20-22G
- Polishing tool
- Renaissance Wax
If you want a more detailed list of all the supplies needed for electroforming, read my post: complete list of electroforming supplies.
Electroforming insects: Cicada wing pendant tutorial
Now that you’ve gathered everything that you need, you can start making this beautiful pendant. The whole process took me around two days. This is because electroforming the wing took already 24 hours. But you can leave the wing for less than 24 hours in the bath if you are ‘in a rush’. The longer you leave it, the stronger it will be.
1. Remove the wing
The first thing to do is to gently remove the wing from the cicada’s body. To do this I use a jewelry making tool, but you can also use tweezers. Make sure you grab the wing from the very bottom, where it is attached to the body. If you grab it from the other side, you might break it. It’s very fragile, so be gentle.
2. Protect with Mod Podge
Once you’ve removed the wing from the cicada, put the body away. Take your mod podge and start applying it on the wing. You can apply it with a brush. Don’t put too much otherwise you’ll love details once it’s electroformed. When you finish applying your mod podge on one side, wait for it to dry. Apply on the other side. I put two coats on each side of the wing. If you don’t have mod podge you can also use clear nail polish. Wait for your sealant to dry before going to the next step.
3. Attach the bail
Once your mod podge is dry, you can attach the jump ring to your wing to turn it into a pendant. I use a 4mm jump ring that I glue at the top of my wing. Simply apply glue on your bail and stick it to your wing. Wait for it to dry. If you’re worried about it being strong enough, don’t worry. After it is covered in copper, it becomes really strong and sturdy.
4. Paint with copper conductive paint
Now, we’re going to paint the wing to make it conductive. I use graphite paint but you can also use copper paint. You can apply it with a brush. Alternatively, you can dip it directly in the paint if you want, and hang it to let it dry. I like applying with a brush so I don’t put too much! Again, if you put too much paint, you’ll lose details. Put one coat of paint and wait for it to dry. Do the same thing on the other side. Apply two coats on each side of the wing.
5. Put the wing in the bath
Once your copper paint is dry, you can put your wing in the bath. If you need help setting up your bath, check out this post. After your bath is set up, you can put your wing on a hanging wire and attach it around your bus bar. If you see that your wing is floating, you can attach a piece of sea glass to your hanging wire. This way, the weight will drag the wing at the bottom of the tank. Make sure your wing hangs in the middle of your bath and doesn’t touch anything.
6. Attach the wires
Attach the red wire to your copper coil and the black wire to your hanging wire (or bus bar if it’s in copper).
7. Power up
Turn on your rectifier and set it up to a low voltage. The wing isn’t big so I set up mine at 0.08 amps. I got a super shiny result. Just check after 30 minutes to see how the plating is going and adjust it accordingly.
8. Take the wing out of the bath
After 24 hours, I take my wing out of the bath. The plating is nice, shiny, and strong. You can neutralize the acid with water and baking soda if you want. This step is optional.
Even though my item came out to the bath really shiny, I polish it to make it even shinier. And also to remove any residues from the bath. Take a steel wool pad and polish until you obtain the desired shine.
10. Protect with wax
This is the last step. I seal my pendant with Renaissance Wax to protect it from oxidizing. Take a soft cloth and a little bit of wax. Apply it on your pendant. You’re done.
See also: How to seal copper electroformed jewelry
Watch the process:
How to give your cicada wing pendant an antique look
I usually give all my creations an antique look with Liver of Sulphur. I didn’t do it on this one because I got such a beautiful shine, that I didn’t want to change it. However, if you want to give your wing a more antique look, with beautiful highlights you can use patina.
The process is quite simple, here is what you have to do after electroforming:
- Take your Liver of Sulphur gel and add one or two drops in a plastic container.
- Add hot water (not boiling) and mix well
- Put your pendant in the solution and wait for it to become darker.
- Once it’s dark brown, take it out of the solution and dry it
- Polish to make it shine and see the highlights
I wrote a blog post on how to that with a detailed tutorial video. Click here to read it.
Electroforming insects don’t have to be complicated. With this simple cicada wing pendant tutorial, you can electroform your first bug wings and once you get a hang of it, try electroforming entire insects. Just make sure you protect the wing well with mod podge before putting it in the bath. It’s an essential part of the process. Since the wing is quite small, make sure you don’t set up your amps too high. Remember, it’s better to set it up too low rather than too high. Did you make this cicada wing pendant? Let me know in the comments below!