Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Understanding Electroforming, pt. 3

Now that we understand how electroforming works (Understanding Electroforming, pt. 1) and the requirements for the rectifier (sometimes called a power supply) (Understanding Electroforming, pt. 2), it's time to get the rest of the necessary items:

1. acidic copper electroforming solution
This is easiest to buy, although a simple solution is very easy to mix from scratch. The commercial solutions do have additives to make the plating smooth and shiny. Avoid the alkaline solutions because they are toxic. Rio Grande makes a good, inexpensive, ready-to-use solution called Midas Bright Electroforming Copper Solution. You might also want the Brightener solution, which replenishes all those extra additives to extend the life of the solution.

2. protective equipment
The solution is caustic, so protect yourself. Gloves, apron, and goggles are all good lab procedure.

3. copper anodes
This is the source of the copper you will transfer onto your bead. It can be as simple as heavy copper wire from the hardware store or as refined as the pure copper electrodes sold with the electroforming solutions. Typically, two are used, one on each side of the work for even build up.

4. containers
Glass beakers are standard, but clean, empty glass jars are cheap and easy.

5. copper wire
For connecting work to the cathode, and suspending anodes in the solution. Large gauge wire (8 or 10) is good for the main supports, and finer gauge wire (24 or 26) holds the bead.

6. electrical leads with alligator clips
For easy connection/disconnection of the power source to the work.

7. conductive paint
Glass is not conductive, so we need to lay down a metal substrate to attract the copper. Rio Grande sells a silver conductive paint for this purpose, but it's solvent based (nasty smelling) and needs special thinner. Try instead the water-based copper paint from Safer Solutions. Warning -- it's expensive, but absolutely worth it. And it goes a long way!

Next installment -- planning and painting the glass bead!