Saturday, May 15, 2010

Copper Plating Tutorial

Here’s a tutorial for copper plating with no special tools, just what you already have on the bench and around the house. This method uses adding steel to your pickle pot to create a small electric charge that will plate everything in the pot with a fresh coat of copper.

1.Start with BLUE pickle. You can save your used pickle in a jar and use it just for plating. The bluer the better! I am using Rio pickle; I have done this with PHdown as well. I have no idea if it will work with a salt and vinegar pickle.

2.Here’s a wide brass ring that I made. I used brass to show off the color change, but this works on all metals and is easiest with copper. You can see the joint before soldier, and the very messy joint (inside and out) after the torch got it. I polished and tumbled to the desired finish so the plating doesn’t need to be very thick.

3.Some options for your steel…a galvanized nail, some galvanized wire, steel wool, or an old tool like a file, or any chunk of carbon steel. Later you will see the broken drill bit that I use most often.

4.Here’s a photo of the ring and the nail in the pot. There’s not a whole lot going on….

5.The Steel wool floating around, making bubbles….and the wool after it has “collected” some copper. The bubbles let you know that the chemical reaction is taking place.

6.This is a photo of the ring after about a few minutes in the pot with the steel wool…..not much going on, right?

7.Now we wrap the ring with galvanized wire….I popped this in the pot along with my trusty broken drill bit….

8.This is the wire bound ring after only 30 seconds in the pot this time!! WOW!

9.I leave the ring in for a bit longer….taking it out to scrub off the build up on both the ring and the drill bit every 15 minutes or so….see the build up? I only have to wipe off the build up with a green scrubby, didn’t even have to press hard.

10.Here’s the ring after about an hour in the pot (I scrubbed it about 4 times) None of the brass or the soldier is showing through when I scrub it now. I could keep this process up to get the plating thicker if it’s needed. You can’t see any brass or silver on the inside or the outside of the joint now.

11.I brushed on some LOS, you can see how dark everything turned? This is a shot of the soldier joint itself….

12.I polished the high spots to bring out the shine and TA-DA…it’s done. Now I can pop it back in the tumbler to help seal in the patina and wax it if I want…..ready to wear!!

My biggest tips….
Finish the piece to be plated all the way through polishing and tumbling.
Use an acid pickle that is very blue.
Make sure the steel is touching the piece to be plated, and that there are tiny bubbles being formed.
Make sure to wipe off the junky build up every so often from both the work and the steel.