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copper plating experiment

Discussion in 'Effects [BG]' started by eddododo, Jul 12, 2014.

  1. eddododo

    eddododo Supporting Member

    Apr 7, 2010
    Wanted to kind-of age an enclosure (standard aluminum). Played with a copper plating technique a little but and this is the result.
    I wanted it to look nasty, but didn't have an intuitive grasp of the techniques involved, this being my first swing. I think I could get a few different things with some tweaks- a smooth shiny copper finish, an older dirtier finish, and maybe some metallic bluegreen action even.

  2. eddododo

    eddododo Supporting Member

    Apr 7, 2010
    I honestly like the silver knobs just a little bit, but I am exploring my options..
    suggestions welcomed

    Ill type up my process and theories if theres some interest
  3. aRandomAggie


    Apr 5, 2011
    I dig it. I like those big ol' fat knobs too.
  4. alfonso_bundis


    Nov 13, 2011
    I like the result you got. Getting a shinny copper layer may be almost impossible with an Aluminum enclosure. What was your procedure?
  5. eddododo

    eddododo Supporting Member

    Apr 7, 2010
    I was aggressively non-formulaic.
    In fact, disclaimer, I would not call my ratios or process 'safe' , at least in terms of my own liability :p wear gloves, go outside.

    I look some root killer (copper sulfate for septic tanks etc), baking soda, and cream of tartar

    I boiled 'a lot' of water, and poured it into a pot over the enclosure. I will not be cooking with this pot ever again.
    After it heated up, I put 2 tablespoons of root killer into the pot, and allowed it to dissolve and spread briefly. I stirred it a little.
    I added about a tablespoon of baking soda and a couple teaspoons of cream of tartar.
    It bubbled pretty actively.
    I let that sit for about 30 minutes and stired it occasionally adding more soda/tartar.

    after this process there wasn't a crazy amount of copper, and you could rub it off by finger.

    I did it a second time, this time with a LOT of root killer in the pot, dry, with a pile of baking soda/tartar all over the enclosure. I THEN added the hot water.
    This batch bubbled actively for a long long time. I re-added the ingredients indiscriminately several times over the next few hours, stirring and shaking and dumping and heating in the sun. It bubbled more or less the whole time. After a LOT of chemical and time, I took it out.
    Oh I also used salt the second time- seemed to cause a lot more oxidizing effects and crackles, but don't quote me.

    It was oxidizing VERY rapidly upon exiting the solution.
    As I prepared to spray a finish on it (satin poly finish, about 5 coats) I repetitively had to scrub off oxidation with a toothbrush and then dry it with a paper towel before I sprayed it. Again, you can rub off the copper with your thumb if it is a light layer. The top was VERY chunky with copper and stayed on there 'ok' but the sides got only a light layer and it was very hard not to wash off.

    If I wanted it smoother and shinier I would do the following things:
    -sand the hell out of it, working finer and finer as you go
    -acetone wash it
    -treat the aluminum with "Zincate". It bonds some zinc to the aluminum, yielding a more accommodating plating canvas.
    THIS STEP^ WOULD BE TRICKY, I DONT KNOW MUCH ABOUT IT AND YOU WONT FIND IT AT ANY REGULAR STORE. youd have to find a chemical supplier online...
    -this recipe - .5 Tbls root killer, tsp baking soda, 1/4 tsp cream of tartar.
    -Repeat this batch SEVERAL times, sanding the product each time. Its tricky because your lose a lot of copper as you go, but youd do ok if you repeat it enough times, with enough finesse. You would have to finish it, im certain.
  6. Copper paint ftw.

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