Copper Electroforming Kit
Electroforming with this kit is just cool! It feels like equal parts science and magic, combining chemistry and electricity and the decorative arts to transform pretty much any small design into copper metal. In my case, it’s also a fun learn-at-home activity that can satisfy both my robot-building son and my jewelry-designing daughter.
You may know about electroplating — a thin coat of metal is deposited on an object electrically, by charging the object so that it attracts metal ions. Electroforming is the same but thicker — essentially you’re creating a sturdy new metal object using the original object as a form or scaffold. At the last Maker Faire Bay Area, I spied this DIY electroforming kit from the jewelry makers at Enchanted Leaves, and it doesn’t disappoint. The kit is extremely well thought-out and well documented, with all you need to succeed: conductive paint to make your object attractive to copper ions; copper sulfate solution and bare copper wire to donate those ions; little details like sealants, adhesives, and jewelry findings; and an optional smart power supply to provide optimal amperage to your electrolyte beaker.
May the manual for this kit be an example to all kit creators! The makers, Nedda Angelina Szylewicz and her husband Aaron Szylewicz, clearly walk you through every step to prepare your object for electroforming, the simple math to calculate the correct amperage for your object and the right length of copper wire anode to dunk in the solution, and tips for troubleshooting, cleanup, preserving your electroformed creations, and reusing the solution.
My family had great fun electroforming an oak leaf, acorn, and rock crystals (the kids are now wearing their homemade Rogue One “kyber crystal” pendants everywhere they go). We also successfully plated my son’s metal Maker Faire dog-tag, taking care to seal it first with plenty of poly lacquer and conductive paint, as foreign metals can contaminate the copper solution. They’re all penny bright when new; we’ll need to clear-coat them soon before they oxidize too much. Next my daughter wants to make a copper Lego, and then a 3D-printed Statue of Liberty which will be allowed to weather naturally for the authentic green patina.
I found the kit to be very forgiving of my beginner mistakes. If I missed a spot with the conductive paint, it was easy to pause the electroforming process, rinse the partially plated object and touch up the paint, and continue. The rig worked fine in lower temperatures than specified when the cold weather chilled my garage workspace, though things did seem to slow down a bit. And if I forgot and left the anode in the solution overnight, I was able to agitate the excess copper in the solution and my next job seemed to hoover it right up.
The custom smart power supply costs extra but it’s wonderful — tiny, simple, intuitive. You dial in your desired amperage on the little OLED screen and it automatically checks continuity and compensates for lower conductivity at the beginning of the job, before the initial copper layer has formed; if you use a bench supply you’ll need to compensate the current by hand to keep the amperage dialed at the right number. It’s definitely worth the cost if you’re interested in pursuing this unique craft; it probably saved a couple of my jobs already.
To inspire you, here are a few of the more ambitious and lovely designs created by Nedda at Enchanted Leaves. Just imagine what you could do with this rig.