First Experience: Electroforming

Electroforming is one of those things I have wanted to have a play with since I first saw it in action at Di East’s studio. The extra depth and texture that electroforming adds to the glass is captivating. However, every time I looked at the kits they were aimed at electroforming larger items or lots of items at once.

This year at Flame Off lampwork suppliers Gloworms had a reprieve for anyone wanting to have a go. When I heard that they would be selling starter electroforming kits I jumped on with a pre-order to collect at flame off.

basic electroforming kit from gloworms

What the kit contains;

  • Power supply
  • Copper conductive paint
  • Copper wires
  • Chemicals for electroforming solution
  • Paintbrush
  • Filter
  • Instructions

Kit photo © Gloworms permission granted.

Everything was supplied in a small plastic bucket that you could mix your solution in, all you needed to add was distilled water to mix the solution. (Thankfully this is something my husband has for his model painting so I liberated some!)

first attempt at electroformingSo in my eagerness the day after returning from flame off I got the kit out and made a start. I mixed up the solution which makes the electrolytic bath, took one of the jellyfish pendants from my seconds box and painted parts of it with the copper conductive paint. While the paint was drying I set up the coil and tested how everything was going to go together. After a few hours the paint was dry and I assembled the kit, connected everything and left it for a few hours to do its thing.

I was really pleased with the results when I took it out but it seemed that I hadn’t painted in the right places or left it long enough to dry because all the copper plating flaked off this one, it did originally have copper paint over the top of the bail. I also think I didn’t submerge the pendant far enough in the solution as it was only just under the waterline.

Not to be deterred though I filtered the solution and got ready to start again.

Since all the paint had flaked off the pendant I decided to use the same one again, this time painting all the way around the circumference of the pendant near the bail and down the back of the pendant to avoid the same issue again. I left it to dry for over 48 hours.
I was only going to leave it for 24 but then I realised since I was out all day after the 24 hours it would be a bad idea to leave the power on for this unattended for all that time.Before electroforming

While I wasn’t playing with it though it gave me time to talk about electroforming with Debbie from Gloworms. I learnt a little more like I could wrap a pendant in bare copper wire to give the copper plating something to stick too rather than using the copper conductive paint. Or that you can use graphite powder for electroforming organic matter. At this point I got out some copper wire that I had and wrapped it round another pendant from my seconds box.

Electroforming in progress

With the paint definitely dry and everything ready to start again I reset up the tank and turned on the power.

Checking throughout the day how things were progressing everything seemed to be working well. There was a bit of build up around the suspension wires after three hours which I knocked off with a pair of bamboo tweezers. (Putting metal in an electrically conductive liquid would be a bad idea.) As you can see the copper from the coil wire has started to disintegrate as it is being taken away to be deposited onto the pendants.

two copper electroformed pendantsAfter about 6 hours I took the pendants out of the solution and rinsed them in clean cold water. The pendant painted with the copper conductive paint took really well there are areas where it looks brushed and areas where it has a small bobbled effect it  looked very different to the wire wrapped one that had taken on a more bobbled effect. Unfortunately it seems the copper wire I already had lying around was coated so the plating didn’t stick properly and it all flaked off but it was interesting to see and is something that I will experiment with again.

It’s been a learning experience and I’m really happy I have finally had the chance to play with electroforming thanks to the Gloworms kit. I can see many more things getting the electroforming treatment soon.