How To Copper Electroform

Materials:

 Tools:

Step 1: Cut Your Ring Shank

Take your side cutters and cut a notch out of your ring shank. It can be as open or as closed as you’d like it to be. Hold your stones in place to gauge whether or not you like the placement of them before gluing them down.

Step 2: Select Your Gemstones

Select the gemstones you’d like to use. If you choose more round stones you can create a full backing like a traditional bezel setting.

These two raw aquamarines are perfect.

Step 3: Attach Your Gemstones

Apply a dab of super glue onto each end. (Tip: file your ends flat for a stronger hold before you apply the glue.) Place your gemstone on top and hold in place a few seconds before moving onto the next stone.

Let dry for 5 minutes before applying the epoxy.

Step 4: Apply the Epoxy

You can use a solder pick to apply the epoxy. It allows you to be precise and get it in all the crevasses. You can use a toothpick as well. You want to apply the epoxy as a connector from your ring shank to your gemstone. It helps to give it more strength.

Allow drying anywhere from 6-24 hours, depending on the brand of epoxy you use.

Step 5: File the Epoxy

File down the epoxy. File the epoxy all the way down to the copper ring shank on the inside leaving the epoxy to just fill in the space between the stone and ring shank.

Step 6: Copper Conductive Paint

Paint on your copper conductive paint or spray your piece with graphite spray make sure to cover the epoxy and if you want to go around the stone. Let dry for 2-3 hours depending on humidity, then apply a second coat. Depending on the type of conductive paint you’re using you may need up to 3-4 coats.

Let dry completely before electroforming.

Step 7: Prep Your Cathode

Take your 22g copper wire and make a hook at one end. Wrap it around your bus bar 2-3 times. You can make a dip in your bus bar and make some sharp bends on either end so it stays on top of the mason jar and doesn’t roll off. Hang your ring on the end and place it in your bath.

Step 8: Create Your Anode

 

Create your anode, you can use a copper sheet or a coil. Place it inside your jar or container. Pour in your copper electroforming solution, enough to completely cover your piece.

A coil anode is better over a sheet anode because the coil will give you an even plate all the way around your piece.

You can create your coil by wrapping a large bottle (use whatever you have) with your wire which creates a perfect coil to fit your mason jar. You want to create a little “hook” that will come out of the top of your beaker to attach your positive (red) lead wire clip to.

Step 9: Electroform Your Piece

Lay your bus bar, with your piece hanging from the cathode, over your jar. While your power supply is off, attach the black negative lead to your cathode (your piece) and the red positive lead to your anode. Set your rectifier to your recommended setting. This tutorial is using a 10-amp power supply.

For those settings, put it on the very lowest setting for 1-3 rings at 00.1 amps (volts go to 00.4). Leave one ring in there for about 4 hours.

NOTE: Most power supplies are different from the one used in this tutorial. So the settings you choose might be slightly lower or slightly higher so always do a test piece so you can learn which settings are best for you and your own setup.

Step 10: Check Your Piece

A good indication for knowing whether you should turn it up or down is if it has a pink (salmon-like) color then your amperage is too low. So turn it up a tad and check again in 30 minutes. If you are getting tiny bumps, knots or a browning color then it’s too high. Turn it down a bit and check again in 30 minutes.

You can create your own measurement sheet to help you remember what amps you need based on the size and shape of the pieces you will be doing on a regular basis. Slow and steady wins the race. Don’t try to rush the process because you’ll either burn it or get a really uneven coat which may flake off. So patience is key. You can also put a lid over your bath just to slow the evaporation process.

Step 11: Polish Your Piece

If your piece has bumps on the inside of the ring from electroforming take your half round metal file and file it down. If it has any other bumps (that you don’t aesthetically like) then go ahead and file those down. Once you’re happy with the texture go ahead and throw it in your tumbler.

You can use a Flex shaft, Dremel or just simply a polishing cloth to polish it.

After the tumbler, if you want a super high shine, take your rotary tool, use a felt polishing tip and rouge polishing compound and polish your ring. It gives such an amazing high shine.

This last step is completely optional, you can use just the tumbler to polish your piece or just the Dremel/flex shaft, or you can get those polishing cloths and polish them by hand.

You can also oxidize your piece.

Step 12: Seal Your Copper

Final step! Seal with Renaissance Wax.

Don’t paint over your stones. Hang your piece to dry from a tiny S hook (you can make this with your 22g wire) and hang it on something (you can use a third hand tweezer too).

The first layer should be dry enough for the second layer to go on within 30mins to an hour. Apply your second layer. Let dry for the same time. Apply your third layer then let cure over night (or 6-8 hours).

Step 13: Your Piece Is Finished!

Your piece is now finished! Horray!

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