Electroforming is a great process, and it’s pretty easy once you get the hang of it. But if you’re new to the electroforming world, you might be wondering how to set up your electroforming bath. In this post, I will explain in detail how to set up a small electroforming bath for beginners. This is the perfect set up for hobbyists and those who want to make their own copper electroformed jewelry at home.
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What you need to get started
- Copper wire for anode – 8gauge
- Small beaker
- Copper wire for hanging wire – any gauge over 14
- Electroforming solution
- Safety goggles
- The object you want to electroform
How to set up a small electroforming bath
Setting up your electroforming bath for the first time can be quite confusing. Especially if you have no idea what you’re supposed to do. Below, I explain in detail how to set up a small electroforming bath for beginners. It’s pretty easy and straight forward. You should be able to electroform your very first creations with this guide! I have also attached an informative video to this post to make it even easier for you to set up your bath.
Pro tip: Remember to set up your bath away from children and pets, and in a well-ventilated room.
See also: How to copper electroform safely at home
1. Shape your copper wire
Take your 8 gauge copper and cut 3 to 4 coils of wire. This should fit into a one-liter beaker. To make your wire more round, you can shape it with your hands or around a bottle. This way, it’ll fit better in your small beaker.
2. Put your wire in your beaker
Place your wire into the beaker and push it down to the bottom. Bend the top end away from your coil and let it stick out over the edge. This will be used to attach your alligator clip.
3. Pour electroforming solution
Wearing your safety goggles and gloves, carefully pour your electroforming solution into your beaker. If you have a small one-liter tank like mine, you can fill it up a bit more than halfway. You don’t have to fill it up entirely, but you should have enough for your ring or pendant to hang without touching the bottom of your tank.
4. Make a bus bar
Next, we’re going to prepare the bus bar. You can either take copper wire or a piece of wood such as a paintbrush or a chopstick for example. The only difference is that if you use wood, you’ll have to attach your alligator clip directly to your hanging wire. If you use copper wire as a bus bar, you can attach your alligator clip on it. It doesn’t change anything really, just if you have small alligator leads you might want to use a copper bus bar. Bend the tips of your copper bar to make it fit your beaker.
5. Attach your hanging wire around the bus bar
It’s time to attach your hanging wire around the bus bar. For this step, you want to put your object around the hanging wire. Then attach the wire to your bus bar. I usually loop it around 2 or 3 times.
6. Set up your bus bar above the bath
Once you’ve attached your hanging Wie around the bus bar, you can put your bus bar above your bath. Make sure the bus bar and hanging wire don’t touch your anode otherwise it won’t work. Once you’ve placed it, check that your object doesn’t touch anything inside your bath. It should be hanging in the middle, not too close to the bottom. Also, ensure that it is fully immersed, otherwise, some parts won’t plate.
7. Plug your wires
Your rectifier should come with two alligator clips. One black and one red. Connect the red wire to the red prong of your power supply. Do the same with the black one.
8. Attach your alligator clips to your copper
Connect your red wire to your copper coil (anode), and the black wire to your bus bar (or hanging wire if your bus bar is in wood).
9. Turn on your rectifier
It’s time to turn on your rectifier. All power supplies are different, and to set up yours I recommend you read the instruction manual that comes with it. I know some power supplies have only 2 knobs. Mine has 4, and to set it up, I turn all the knobs to the right. Except for the one on the top left which is turned all the way to the left. Once I turn my rectifier on, it is in CC mode. I turn the top left button until I reach 0.2 or 0.3. It’s better to start slow at the beginning and see how the copper forms on your item.
10. Monitor progress
Once your object is plating, don’t forget to check progress from time to time. I always check after 20 minutes to see if my amps are too low or too high. Don’t forget to turn off the rectifier whenever you check your piece. Usually, I leave my pieces for about 12 hours in the bath. You can leave them even longer if you want. After your first check, if you notice that your object is of a salmony color, you should turn the voltage up. On the contrary, if it’s dark brown and looks burnt, you should turn it down. It should be a nice shiny copper color. It could be a bit dull if you’ve used your bath several times already.
As you can see, this piece was a little bit salmony at the bottom after 20 minutes. If your creation looks like that, you can turn the power up a bit. Also, I had already used my solution and copper coil several times when I made this experiment, which is why my piece is not shiny (I forgot to replenish my bath with copper brightener). If it is your first time running your bath, your item should be really shiny looking! However, since I always add patina on mine after electroforming, I prefer when they come out dull. The more you electroform, the more you’ll figure out what you prefer. Then, it’ll be easier to set up your rectifier to obtain exactly what you want!
What to do with your bath after electroforming
You can reuse the same bath several times. However, the more you’ll use it the more it evaporates. So, after electroforming your object, you can top up your bath with distilled water and add some drops of copper brightener. I always remove the anode from my bath after electroforming and put a lead on my beaker until I use it again. Keep it in a room that’s not too hot so that it doesn’t evaporate even more.
Now that you know how to set up a small electroforming bath, you can start electroforming jewelry at home. You do not need a huge set up to make beautiful things! I’m still using one of these simple setups, but I plan on upgrading my bath in the next few months. Have you made your first electroformed creations yet? Let me know in the comments below!