My First Foray Into Electroplating

I’ll write out more details about the methods and tools I have, but I wanted to organize all of my individual Facebook posts and pictures into a single blog. Hooray for acid, electricity, and metal!


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This is a piece of aluminum I etched tonight with vinegar, salt water, and a 9-volt battery. I am thrilled that:

  1. It only took ten minutes to get the shape that dark.
  2. The sharpness of that line is incredible for a first demo.
  3. I can go crazy with the designs, no matter how intricate.
  4. The procedure is basically the opposite of electroplating, so now that I have the tools, I can do that too (just need a stronger acid and a ventilated space).
    I might buy a plate of copper to see if the procedure works there, too. I would love to make etched copper with a green patina (go all steampunk).

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Copper! One had the copper etched away (on left) and the other had everything but the shape electroplated with tin. I only let the electroplating run for about a minute because of how hot my 9-volt battery got. Turns out there’s a reason electroplating is done with very low voltage over a few hours; the tin really started bubbling and I could clearly see the color darken, kind of like blowing breath on a cold window. Not bad for salt water and vinegar! Very cool so far! I might be brave enough to try muratic acid next, we’ll see. I might keep practicing first and use AA batteries.


May be an illustration

My latest (well, first, really) project as a member of the Dragon’s Keep D&D group: a front panel for my dice case. This is the Dragon’s Keep logo which I printed and hand-cut out of vinyl onto tin-plated steel. Wish me luck!


May be an illustration

This is total trial and error, but this is awesome. For my next: copper plating a stainless steel tribal tattoo.


My first successful electroplate! Copper on stainless steel! And I learned some things!

1. If the vinyl on sharp corners is damaged or applied wrong, it’s time to cut new vinyl and try again. No amount of patching will keep the acid out once the metal is submerged (see the huge dark splot on the left).

2. Patching other areas that have nothing to do with the design will still not work. So no patching, period. All the vinyl needs to be one whole secure piece or things will go wrong (you can see the dark spots on the right side).

3. My ventilation mask works fantastic. No more light-headedness and coughing like the projects I’ve done in the past. If I’m going to do it right, I’m going to do it right and protect myself. I’m not an invincible 18 year old anymore.

4. Copper dissolves in acid and plates WAY faster than stainless steel does. I had the wires flipped and practically nothing happened when the steel plated the copper. I fixed it and the steel became copper-plated in five minutes.

5. I’m going to be spending a fortune on batteries unless I buy a power supply. 😃

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This is too much fun. On to the next experiment!