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Tips, Techniques, and Questions -- Technical questions or tips

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  #1  
Old 2013-02-10, 10:42pm
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Question Salmony electroforming?

I've searched around for info about this, but haven't been able to find anything definitive. I've heard the salmon color can happen one of three ways. 1. The amps are too low. 2. The solution has been contaminated. 3. The anode needs shining up.

I recently got my electroforming setup and before I started, I read up, bought two written tutorials and one video tute, watched other Youtube videos...thought I was prepared. My first attempt came out with the shiny penny look. My second attempt came out salmon colored and ever since, all attempts are salmony as well. Since the second piece was an acorn, I know it's possible that my varnishing job wasn't thorough enough. I filtered the crap out of it and added distilled water and brightener, as recommended. I scrubbed my anode coil until bright. I upped the amps to .30, then .50 (resulting in chippy copper). Tried it all. I cannot get the penny finish. My solution is also filled with what I consider to be a lot of copper dust after each run (approx. 3 hours at a time so far).

The salmony look is not so much of a concern on glass or if the copper covers the entire surface, but on things like polymer clay that has just a certain pattern with the clay exposed in areas, scrubbing the piece with steel wool or a brass brush isn't really an option. Does anyone have any clue what I'm doing wrong? Thanks
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Old 2013-02-10, 10:58pm
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[If the copper deposit on your work is a dull, pink, putty color, your current is too low. It the deposit is really dark, powdery and grainy, your current is too high. What you’re shooting for is the look of a nice, new copper coin.]

http://www.lampworketc.com/forums/sh...ad.php?t=13716

Also the size of your anode (edit) and the distance to the work will make a difference

http://www.lampworketc.com/forums/sh...copper+etching

ETA etching the same process reversed
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Last edited by houptdavid; 2013-02-12 at 6:16pm.
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Old 2013-02-10, 11:21pm
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Thanks David, but as I said in my post, I tried upping the current and no luck. I can't imagine upping it any further. My first piece was done at .18 amps and came out shiny right off the bat. All subsequent pieces are salmony (dull, pink, putty color) no matter what I do. The size of all the pieces are pretty much the same.
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Old 2013-02-11, 12:41pm
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There are really just a lot of variables, (especially the more you read)
It could be the size of your cathode, distance, connections.

Pink colored is better than fuzzy and dark

http://dalmar.net/troubleshooting.htm
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Old 2013-02-11, 2:34pm
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Thanks David. I'm suddenly hit with the thought that maybe I've been failing to turn the voltage up all the way when turning on the machine. I will test to see if that's the problem.
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Old 2013-02-11, 9:46pm
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Yeah that helps
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Old 2013-02-11, 10:46pm
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Sadly, I cannot point to this as the culprit. I checked the machine and the voltage knob was actually still turned to the max position, so I know it was set to max on my last attempt. I started a new piece tonight and right away, putty color. Grr. Started it at .60 amps this time (even higher than before) but after 5 min, it was already the usual dull pink. I decided to turn it down to .18 after about 10 min. 'cause I was concerned it'd get chippy. The only difference between the first successful shiny attempt and all subsequent dull attempts is the fact that I had an acorn in the solution and that I switched from using 24g wire to hold the piece to 20g, but that wouldn't cause this, would it? At least the new piece I'm working on is glass, so I can use the steel wool.
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Old 2013-02-12, 5:48am
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Okay, I'm probably being stupid here but you do mean a glass acorn, right? Not an actual acorn? An actual acorn is quite acidic and would throw off the solution.
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Old 2013-02-12, 11:40am
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I mean a dried acorn, coated in lacquer. However, I'm not sure I lacquered it enough. So... if the acorn IS the culprit, and the solution is thrown off, what do I do about that? I need to make it less acidic? I assume if that's the case, adding the brightener was just making it even more acidic?

Last night's attempt was an utter failure. I got the putty coating, which peeled/chipped right off when I tried to shine it with a brass brush. It was very brittle and very thinly coated, even after 5 hours in the soup. It seems to get worse with every piece I do.
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Old 2013-02-12, 1:21pm
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I would clean my solution and add a bit of brighter ... I use activated charcoal and run it thru a couple coffee filters.. That will usually help if the other methods don't work..I usually go low and slow...18 amps
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Old 2013-02-12, 3:33pm
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Hmm. I filtered it back and forth about 6 times between doubled up coffee filters and I did add brightener. I will try the charcoal. I have some loose fish charcoal on hand. Thanks for the input.
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Old 2013-02-12, 6:16pm
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Try with a larger anode
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Old 2013-02-12, 7:16pm
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what solution are you using?
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Old 2013-02-13, 5:15am
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Well, the average size piece has been about 1.25" tall. The anode is 8g copper wire. 10ft coiled inside the container. So the anode is pretty substantial. Elizabeth, I'm using Midas from Rio Grande.
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Old 2014-05-23, 10:30pm
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My interest in e-forming has been ignited! I'm wondering, Annie, if you ever got an answer or better yet, solved your problem? I'm going to give e-forming a first try this weekend - I'm reading everything I can and have lots of questions!

(Oh, and just curious...is there an "E-Forming Q&A" thread somewhere here on LE? If anyone knows of one, can you please shoot me a link? I've seen lots of thread here and there addressing various specific questions but no general thread. I've searched and searched, but maybe I'm just blowing it and overlooking it... )

Hope you got this resolved Annie - I'd love to see how your work is coming along.
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Old 2014-05-24, 6:24pm
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Is your copper pure copper or electrical wire? The purer sacrificial material (anode) will give cleaner results. Buy some copper plates from Rio and add a fair amount of brightener. Junk copper from the hardware store is an alloy of copper and it sometimes has coatings that prevent ion flow. If you don't give your solution a good clean ion source, it will strip the solution of what ions it can, stealing from the CuSO4 in the solution, which causes the dull color as the metal is not pure copper. I would also recommend the carbon filtering that was already mentioned and thoroughly cleaning your anode with a hydrochloric acid bath before use.

Last edited by Binks; 2014-05-24 at 6:42pm. Reason: My English teacher would have killed me...
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  #17  
Old 2014-05-24, 6:59pm
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Default Success..sort of ;)

Well, I've read everything I could. Read the entire Tink thread, but yeah, still no definitive answers where I needed them.

After adding brightener, and more brightener, I started worrying that I might be throwing off PH in the other direction. Never did resolve it. I read that the "blue juice" must be periodically cleaned with Hydrogen Peroxide, but I'm paranoid enough about the juice, so I don't want to start dicking around with adding peroxide to it. I just ponied up for a new bottle of solution. I also got the water-based copper paint, rather than the graphite paint.

And yes, I'm using hardware store copper wire, but I'm steel-wooling it and de-greasing beforehand. Perhaps I should move to something else.

The new solution worked marvelously, and even though it started coming out dull after only a few runs, the coating it strong and only needs polishing. I suspect the E600 glue I used might have reacted to it. There were some black, rubbery areas left behind, which I initially thought was just a matter of not painting enough copper paint on, or not drying enough, but it kept happening in the same spot. Finally, I coated with clear nail polish before using the copper paint, and it was okay. Still, after that, the successive runs produced the dull color. At least it's not flaking, so it's fine by me. And I was smart enough to order 2 bottles this time, just in case.

Either way, I was able to create some bracelets that I'm absolutely overjoyed by! I'm itching to do some more, but I'm not finished setting up my torch ventilation, and the cabs I made for these were made the bad way, (pent-up glass-lust that sent me torching without proper ventilation) which I'm not going to do again.

I WILL SAY that I'm finding that I need to use thicker gauge wire on my pieces, and that can be tricky. For the bracelets, I used 16g wire, bent into a U shape, and then the U bent again into a wide hook to suspend the bracelet horizontally, which allowed for better contact, as the bracelet rested onto it.





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Old 2014-05-26, 4:20pm
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I switched from hardware store copper to rio and it did make all the difference, I have a thread in here on that.... somewhere.... =)
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Old 2014-05-26, 5:01pm
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I have been using a solid copper bar that my husband found on Amazon and have gotten steady, good results by using this rather than copper sheeting or thick wire for anodes. Not only do I use the Rio brightener, I also refresh by adding distilled water. Also, make sure you are completing the connection on your piece with the paint and where you place the pure copper wire you hang with. This is why you got the putting coating that chipped off - you really didn't electroform at all. Another thing I do is I allow the paint to dry a full 24 hours. I have painted and thought it was dry to only have it wash off in the solution. When a piece is done, I rinse it off in distilled water because I don't know what might be in my water that could change my copper finish. Do you polish your pieces with a brass brush? I've had pieces come out that look a little salmony pink only to be bright as a penny after polished. I got tired of using a manual brush so I got a brass wire wheel for my dremel. Hope some of this helps.


Last edited by fourpawsglass; 2014-05-26 at 5:05pm.
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Old 2014-05-26, 5:22pm
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Are you just using one copper bar, or? What's the arrangement? I'm gonna have to look into this. I've been using the thick copper coil.

My first bottle of solution worked well for a few tries, but then crapped out. I assumed it might be due to not lacquering my organic material properly, but who knows. My wire was always connected well, and I almost always leave paint to dry for a full 24hrs. It didn't matter what I did. Refreshed with Rio brightener and distilled water, filtered through charcoal. I tried it all. The minute I opened the new bottle, it was all good again. It did start getting less bright, but I didn't wanna mess with is an risk screwing up the PH. The dull pink I get now is perfectly fine– just needs polishing. I use either steel wool, a copper scrubbie, or brass brush. If I don't care about leaving some LOS in the crevices, I'll take to the Dremel steel brush.
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Old 2014-05-26, 6:59pm
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I use two plates, one on each side of the object. I always try to have double my surface area in anode to cathode and rotate my item every hour or so.

I had a few salmon false starts when I first got my set-up going. This is the acorn that changed my method, it looked bad, but I tried to use it any way. The plating came off after very little handling.


I switched from wire to two plates and my results were spot on. I dip my plates in HCl to clean, use a lacquer to seal organic material, dry thoroughly, graphite paint, and dry thoroughly. I strike my items with a low power flow for about 5 minutes, then it set for normal plating and check hourly-ish.
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Old 2014-05-27, 6:01am
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The copper bar (110 Copper Rectangular Bar, Unpolished (Mill) Finish, H04 Temper, Standard Tolerance, Inch, ASTM B187) can be found on Amazon. I got the 1/8 inch x 1 inch x 36" which right now goes for $26.99. My DH cut it into 4 equal pieces and then drilled a hole in one end to hang. When I finish a run, I take out the copper bar and clean it up to renew the surface. I only use one in my setup (see picture below).



I found the tutorial by Janelle Zorko (http://pigeonpointglass.com/electro-tut.html) was a real help. This website - http://www.hobbies-and-pastimes.com/Electroforming.html - has a recipe to create your own solution. I plan on trying this in the hopes that I don't have to keep purchasing it from Rio.

Good luck!
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Old 2014-05-28, 12:18am
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Wow, thanks everyone for the updates, tips and photos! I'm completely fascinated with this!

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Old 2014-06-03, 10:26pm
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Four Paws...am I blowing it? I don't see the "bars" in the photos you posted...what am I missing?
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Old 2014-06-04, 9:51am
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Sorry - shot of copper bar AFTER husband cut down and drilled a hole for hanging:

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Old 2014-06-06, 10:47pm
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Oh, I get it! Thanks! What gorgeous work everyone!
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