Electroforming is a craft that lets you turn everyday non-metal objects into metallic works of art. Whether it's simply for decorating, or preserving a cherished item like baby shoes, electroforming, similar to electroplating, uses electricity and conductive paint to coat objects in a thin layer of copper or nickel. It's easy to electroform a simple object like a leaf for decorative or educational purposes. Once you get your electroform set-up and practice a few times, you'll soon be electroforming more than just leaves.
Connect alligator clips with 18-gauge lead wires to your DC power supply. A good power supply should produce less than 15 volts and 3 amps of electricity.
Create your electrolyte solution for dissolving the copper and conducting the electroform process. Add 907 g (2 lb) of copper sulphate crystals to two-thirds gallons of water. Shake or stir the mixture then add two-thirds cups of sulphuric acid. Sulphuric acid concentrate should be at least 90 per cent acid.
Place the solution into a sturdy plastic tub or acid-proof metal container.
Clip a large piece of copper plate or copper tubing along the sides of the container in the solution to function as your anode which will transfer to your leaf. Connect the positive lead wire to the copper anode with an alligator clip.
Paint the leaf thoroughly with conductive tinning paint. Make sure the surface is fully covered as the copper will adhere to the paint. Choose a sturdy leaf that will not break when painted.
Connect an alligator clip from the negative lead wires to the leaf and dip it into the solution. Do not turn on the power supply yet. Make sure leaf is fully submerged.
Turn on the DC power supply. You should see high voltage and amperage on your power supply meter as the circuit is completed. The copper will start to adhere to the conductive paint.
Remove the leaf after several minutes to see tiny bits of copper sticking to it. Depending on the mixture you use and your power supply, it may take an hour or more to fully electroform the leaf.
Regularly change your electroform liquid as it can fill with particles over time and cause poor copper formation on your leaf or other objects.
Wear gloves and safety goggles at all times while electroforming. Contact poison control services or a hospital if you consume or come into skin contact with acid.
Things you need
- Direct Current (DC) power supply
- Alligator clips with lead wires
- Rubber gloves
- Safety goggles
- Plastic or acid-proof tubs
- Sulphuric acid
- Distilled water
- Copper sulphate crystals
- Sheet of copper
- Small paint brush
- Conductive tinning paint
- Wire brush