6 Products For Better Electroforming Results
After years of experimentation and practice, these are some of my favorite products for achieving consist and better electroforming results.
1. Magnetic stirrer
I put this one off for a long time. This magnetic stirrer by INTLLAB helps to build up a smooth surface on your piece. The trick to a smooth and shiny plate is having a balanced bath, keeping it clean and filtered (using the right type of anode is key= type L phosphorized copper tubing), and using agitation. Some people will use an aquarium bubbler for this, but I find that a magnetic stirrer produces more agitation and therefore a better plate. However, you must keep up on filtering your bath as the stirrer will kick up sediment from the bottom of your bath which can have some undesirable effects on the finish.
2. Liquid latex
There are several products that you can use to seal a gemstone or crystal, however some work for certain stones and not others. For example, I used to love using clear nail polish because it was easy, dried fast, and I could see what it was going to look like at all stages. However, it never seemed to be enough for some porous stones and I would end up with pitting or discoloration from the bath. It also has a tendency to leave a yucky white cast around the edges that was quite difficult to get off without a long acetone soak and scrub (which can also be quite damaging).
I also tried liquid frisket and the three full bottles I still have are a testament to how much I hate the stuff. It’s tackier than latex, rarely peels off in one piece, and if you put more than one piece in the bath they are destined to get stuck together.
Liquid latex is holy grail product for my electroforming flow. It has a high surface tension so it is really easy to paint it on sloped surfaces (such as the edges of stones) without having it run. I created my own latex application tool using 16 gauge copper wire and hammering the end flat.
Note: Not all colors of latex aIe created equally, even within the same brand. I recommend Liquid Latex Fashions in black. Also, latex can mold if not properly taken care of. I recommend pouring some into a smaller container when in use so it can stay sealed as much as possible.
3. Anode bags
No, anode bags aren’t necessary, but neither is having to filter your bath every few runs. I learned this the hard way. Did you know it’s possible to have your bath running for years? Forever? If you told me that when I first started I would not have believed you. I think my first bath lasted me for a month before it was so horribly beyond repair (at least with my knowledge at the time) that I trashed it and started over with new solution. Anode bags prevent all of that sludge on the anodes from settling into the bath and eventually causing an oversaturation of copper (hello sparkle finish my old enemy).
You can make your own anode bags with 1-5 micron polyester filter fabric such as this ol’ reliable. This is enough fabric for years of anode bags. All you need is a hot glue gun and some copper wire.
4. Steel/Brass Wire Brushes
It can be so disappointing when you take your pieces out of the bath and they have a dull finish. Luckily, there are several helpful attachments for your dremel or flex shaft that can quickly shine up a salmon-colored or dull appearance. Brass wire brushes will wear out a little bit faster and have a tendency to shoot out wires at you if you go to fast or skimp on cost, but they are more gentle and safer to use around gemstones. I recommend Stoddard brass brushes for their quality and durability. Steel brushes will last much longer, but are more likely to scratch your stones if you’re not careful.
Unfortunately, it is impossible to prevent copper from oxidizing forever, but Protectaclear can help to extend the length of your beautiful shiny copper finish. It also creates a barrier that prevents skin from turning green which will be a selling point to your customers, trust me!
6. Silver Nail Polish
This is a neat trick for those beautiful translucent stones that you don’t want to darken by having epoxy clay or copper paint on the back of them. Silver nail polish acts as a reflective surface to make your gems sparkle while preserving their color.
Note: Moonstones tend to look dull when silver or white nail polish is used. I have had more luck with black, however it will greatly change the appearance of a high quality, clear moonstone.