Welcome to the Tara Mantra blog. This blog will be dedicated to topics that I find interesting, and also that I find to be generally lacking elsewhere on the internet. To that end, here goes...
Electroforming. My wife (the one that actually makes all of the stuff you see in the store and on Etsy) has been wanting to get into electroforming for some time. So I, being the loving ans supportive husband that i am, went ahead out and bought all of the supplies one would need to get started with electroforming. And what i came to find, is that the information about electroforming that is currently floating around on the web is both contradictory and, in most cases, unclear. It took me a few weeks to finally assemble a proper electroforming kit, ans so i thought i might share my journey, in the hopes that the information here might help others on theirs,
So, what is electorforming? Simply put, it is the process of copper plating an object. Without getting too science-y, all you are doing is running a positive charge through a piece of copper (anode) and a negative charge through an object. The positively charged copper particles are attracted onto the negatively charged object, and poof, you've plated the object with copper.
In order to electroform an item, you need a few things. Now, you can get waaaaaay deep into this with all sorts of accessories and accouterments. But i am here to give you the bare bones, "what exactly do i need to get started electroforming" setup.
First, you will find some pre-assembled kits on RioGrande.com or SherriHaab.com. I considered these kits, but decided against them. I felt that i could assemble my own kit for less money and without all of the extra crap that I didn't really need.
The first thing you need is a rectifier. This is your power supply that will run current through the anode and the object. I spent 50$ on this, and there is no reason to spend more at this point. Unless you are plating large items, or doing large volumes of small items, a basic 3 amp rectifier is all you are going to need. Here is the one that I got off of Amazon: LINK.
Second, you will need an electroforming solution. It's this acid solution that the object is suspended in during the electroforming process. Now, there is a ton you can learn about the chemical reactions at work during electroforming, and you can even make a lot of these chemicals yourself if you are so inclined. But that is beyond the scope of this blog. The solution you will want to get is this Midas solution, from RioGrande: LINK. The good thing about the Midas solution is that it contains brightener, which gives the objects that nice, shiny new penny, copper appearance. Otherwise, you'd have to buy the brightener separately and add it yourself.
Third thing you need is the conductive paint. Copper isn't just going to stick to any old surface. The surface needs to be conductive. If it isn't already conductive on it's own, then you need to make it conductive, hence the paint. I use a copper-based conductive paint, also from RioGrande: LINK. SherriHaab sells a graphite-based paint that i have read works well, but i have never tried it myself.
Fourth, you need this apoxie from amazon: LINK. The apoxie is like a clay that you can mold into cool shapes, or you can use it to connect objects together. Once it hardens, it is rock hard. Then you paint over it with the conductive paint, and the apoixe areas get plated. We'll go over this in more detail in future posts. For now, get the apoixe.
Fifth, you need to seal most items with a sealant so that they do not get destroyed by the acid solution. Not all items technically need to be sealed, but i seal them all anyway, just to be safe. There area variety of sealants that you can use. I have heard that clear nail polish works well for this. For me, i use this frisket stuff i got off of Amazon, which works great and is easy to remove: LINK.
Sixth is your copper anode. This is the actual copper object from whence the copper that will be plating your item is drawn. I use an 8-gauge copper wire that i bought from Lowes. You can buy this by the foot, and it's insanely cheap; like less than .50 cents a foot.
And that's it. That is the entire list of items that you should need to get started electroforming. Now, don't take this list as gospel. Like i said, there are lots of different setups out there, and there are tons of additional items that you can add to your kit to enhance your creations. But if your goal is to get copper onto an object, then this list is all you need.
Finally, i am going to add a few links that I have found really helpful in my electroforming journey. These links will also elaborate on some of those aditional items that you might want to pick up, depending on what your electroforming goals are.
This post on makermonologues was really my road map. It's got lots of links, very specific, and lots of additional information about varnishes and patina and sealants and all that good stuff. Definitely check this one out.
This blog post also has some good info on supplies, but it's more of a step by step overview of the process. Check it out as well.
I will work this week on putting together a step-by-step on the actual electroforming process, as well as posts about some of the additional supplies that I have picked up along the way that I have found useful.