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Hi, Does anyone on the list have experience of Electrotyping - the
making of reproductions of leaves, plaster mouldings etc by copper
or silver plating onto them? What materials do you use to make the
substrate conductive, what plating solutions, set-ups etc.? I have
seen this technique used in jewellery a number of times and would
like to have a go at it. I think some of the most interesting pieces
have been those that incorporated insects reproduced by this method.
I assume you could also use similar techniques to make moulds for
producing waxes for casting from ‘natural’ materials…

Best wishes,
Ian W. Wright
Sheffield, UK


Electrotyping is a printmaking term where an electroplated negative
mold is formed to pour a lead printing plate. What you are
discussing is more commonly called electroforming. Two companies
in the US specialize in small scale electoplating-electroforming
suppies in the US: In the UK - I don’t know any but the
process is universal. there is in the orchid archives
under electroforming. a Google search on the above terms ill turn up
some things but they will mostly be industrial related.

There are two types of materials used to make a conductive surface.
the first classic one is very finely divided copper or silver in a
lacquer base. The other has the powder in a water based acrylic
lacquer. You will have to buy these.

The DC plating source is very simple and does not need to cost what
the commercial rectifier are sold for. You can use a battery
charger or car battery. The voltage required is very low and so is
the current. The voltage requirement can be related to water
pressure and provides the"push" for the current - amps which
actually do the work. In small size work the voltage is around 3
volts and the current maybe less than 1 amp. The current actually
required is proportional to the plated surface-- bigger needs more.
You can buy plating solutions but a copper solution is just copper
sukfate in water at the simplest. there are plating additives that
can improve the deposition quality. For electroforming slower
deposition rates are generally best since higher rate will
produce “treeing” and a more irregular surface. for an art object
this may be what you want. You may be able to find help in the
library. Some of the Jewelry related books will give instruction as
well. Jesse

    Hi, Does anyone on the list have experience of Electrotyping -
the making of reproductions of  leaves, plaster mouldings etc by
copper or silver plating onto them? 

Ian – Are you sure you don’t mean electroforming? If so, there is
a good article on it in the current issue of AJM. I took a class in
this process several years ago, and found it quite intriguing, altho
at the time it was just not terribly reliable. However, according to
this particular article, changes in technology have made huge
differences in this process and it has – or is-- becoming much more
feasible for production work.

Laura Wiesler
StoneHouse Studio


Ian, I’ve never heard of electrotyping by that name, but it sounds a
lot like high quality electroforming. For that, as Charles Lewton
Brain told me (just giving credit where due) you can use anything
that will make the object electroconductive and not destroy it.
Silver print from the specialty electronics industry–that’s silver
paint–powdered graphite, etc. Perhaps you can get your objects cast
in ABS plastic, which conducts electricity, then plate over those.