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Thread: Need Electroforming Help ASAP..

  1. #1
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    Mad Need Electroforming Help ASAP..

    Please help, I'm going crazy

    I have been electroforming for the better part of a year now. I work with the same pieces of glass almost everyday and have never really had an issue with anything. I recently moved and now things are going bad, of course a day after I get a huge order. Since I moved in we ran one large batch and everything went perfect, however since that first batch everything is either not conducting, or it is only conducting in partial areas and is really brittle and chunky in the areas that do plate.

    I use Safer Solutions conductive paint. The first batch that went perfectly was coated with my old 4oz jar, but we used it up on that batch. So when we started prepping the second batch, we used our new 8oz jar to coat everything. When the batch came out with little to no platting from the first initial cycle, I immediately assumed it wast the new paint. So I used what was left of the old jar to run a small test batch and it seemed to coat well (there wasn't much paint left so I couldn't completely cover the small glass piece, but what I did cover coated good).

    I called Safer Solutions and discussed an exchange for a new container. The new container just showed up and we ran another large batch, still having issues (only partially coating in some areas, and some areas are brittle while others are perfect). However, it seems to be working better than the 8oz container I exchanged. I thoroughly stirred and shook up the paint before using it. So now I'm second guessing whether it's another bad batch of paint, or somehow something else went wrong. I literally work with the same pieces everyday and prep and wrap them the exact same way. So I don't understand what could have gone wrong since the first batch when we moved. And both of my tanks are having the same issue.

    My Setup:
    (1) 5 gallon tank
    (1) 4 gallon tank
    (2) Korad Programable 5amp rectifiers
    All new anodes and cathodes (cleaned before every batch).

    I attached a couple pics of the 2 larger pieces that are having issues. It also seems like the areas that are getting chunky are kind of bubbly, like it did not adhere to the glass properly. This is after the first cycle (2.0amps for 2.5hrs) which is what we always do and it typically evenly coats the entire piece with a thin smooth copper deposit.

    Are there any was to trouble shoot this issue? Like ways to test the solution, rectifiers, paint, connection, etc?


    Random Thought:
    We had a breaker pop in our new shop during the first batch. Is that anyway it could have messed up the refectifiers? Even though it didn't seem to effect that last couple cycles on that first good batch.

    Any suggestions/help would be GREATLY appreciated!!
    Click image for larger version. 

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    "Whether you think you can or think you can't, either way you are right."

  2. #2
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    Default Re: Need Electroforming Help ASAP..

    UPDATE:

    Last night I painted over the areas that remained paint after the first cycle in the first picture above and put it back in the tank today. All of those areas seem to be plating now. However, something is obviously wrong because I ran another batch of 4 small glass pieces like I always do in my 4gal tank and got the same result. Only about half of the total area is conducting (the areas that do are chunky/bubbly, and when I rinse them with distilled water after they come out of the tank, the water is able to get behind those areas of copper, so the chunky areas are almost like bubbles...if that makes sense?)
    "Whether you think you can or think you can't, either way you are right."

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    Default Re: Need Electroforming Help ASAP..

    LivePosi, I just got notified of this thread by Misha.
    First I would say it is definitely not your rectifier so count that out.
    I have gotten "bubbles" on the surface that looked as if it were blistering paint, that I later found were due to poor adhesion of the paint to the glass. I solved this problem by wiping all pieces with ISO before painting to remove any oil from the glass blowers hands, and this solved the problem. That, plus that you stated that you stirred the paint very well, and there is some current obviously all over the piece makes me think the paint is not the issue.

    The texture that you show in the photos make me think that you have a problem with current density in your solution. I wonder if you are using old solution or if you are perhaps not using a pump to circulate the solution in your tank during forming. Maintaining circulation in the tank is the best way I know to maintain even coating.

    I am not on here very much, but if you want to email me at shipwreckglass@gmail.com I can talk more about it or even better reach me at the Shipwreck Glass Facebook page.

    I am not the definitive answer by any means, but I have formed well over a thousand pieces over the last three years, and have had my share of trouble shooting. I would be happy to share my exp.

    Cheers,
    Chip @ Shipwreck

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    Default Re: Need Electroforming Help ASAP..

    Thank you Shipwreck, I will message you on Facebook. Big fan of your work!
    "Whether you think you can or think you can't, either way you are right."

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    Default Re: Need Electroforming Help ASAP..

    Thanks Chippy
    ~Misha

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    Default Re: Need Electroforming Help ASAP..

    After talking to Chip I mixed the solution using a fish aerator. I let it mix the solution for a couple hours before using it and it did seem to coat a little better, however there were still small areas that remained paint. I noticed on all of the pieces that the wire attached to the glass has gotten a little copper build up like it normally does. And if I paint over the areas that didn't coat with more paint and put it back in for a couple hours it seems to coat everything. Would this indicate that the solution is transferring the copper well, but the paint just isn't attracting it as well as it should? The guy at safer solutions had me run a test with a small piece of copper, he said to wrap it like I normally would and paint half of the copper with the paint, and leave the other half as plain copper. The side that remained copper seemed to get a small build up of platting on it (although it is hard to tell if the whole thing coated because it was copper to begin with) and the side with paint remained as just paint. I think I'm going to order a small batch of paint from someone else to see if I have the same problem. Does anyone have any recommendations on where to get other paint that has been successful for them in the past? I know Riogrande sells Midas brand, but it's a solvent based product that I have never worked with. Thanks!
    "Whether you think you can or think you can't, either way you are right."

  7. #7
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    Default Re: Need Electroforming Help ASAP..

    Just a quick thought since I don't see it listed, are you wearing gloves while painting and handling the piece? The fingerprints can cause the issue you're talking about...

    Otherwise, what does your dried paint look like? Is it matte or is it at all shiny? I mix my own paint using ultra fine powdered copper from dalmar and if it's at all shiny it needs more copper in the mix...

    Step 3 you should probably do regardless; constantly filter your solution through activated charcoal. It will remove the impurities and keep your solution fresh for longer. Even pouring it a couple times through a strainer filled with the activated charcoal into a freshly scrubbed container will help clean it up. I've had the same issue after a move... I ended up mixing myself a new batch of solution and didn't look back as it was old anyways.

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    Default Re: Need Electroforming Help ASAP..

    Thanks for the info NateDizzle! I wipe all the pieces clean with ISO before painting them. I don't wear gloves during this process, but I make sure to not touch any of the areas that are being painted. The dried paint is kind of shiny, could you attach an image of your dried paint that I could compare it to? And I think I'm going to go ahead and mix a new batch of solution. Chip still thinks my issue is involving the solution so rather than keep messing with everything I'm going to start fresh.
    "Whether you think you can or think you can't, either way you are right."

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    Default Re: Need Electroforming Help ASAP..

    We'll I had enough supplies here to make a new bath for my 4gal tank. I also got my 4oz paint from Caswell in the mail. I ran a test on 4 domes and this was the result. The left dome was painted with Caswell's conductive paint, and the right dome was painted with Safer Solutions conductive paint. I tried both the original 8oz container and the newer 4oz container from Safer Solutions and they both looked like this. The dome that was painted with Caswell paint has a perfect even coat (other than a few mini air bubbles) and has a nice build up on it for the first initial cycle. I'm going to contact Safer Solutions on Monday and send back both containers so they can test it and see what's going on.

    Does anyone use any other water based conductive paint? I found a few online but they were all out of stock besides Caswell. Although the paint obviously works, the consistency is really watery and takes a lot more time to prep a solid even coat on the glass. Thanks for the help everyone! Click image for larger version. 

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    "Whether you think you can or think you can't, either way you are right."

  10. #10
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    Default Re: Need Electroforming Help ASAP..

    How do you apply the paint?

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    Default Re: Need Electroforming Help ASAP..

    It looks like a problem with your setup more than a problem with the paint. Either the paint conducts or it doesnt. If you can see light through it on your clear glass when it dries, it is too thin. But your pieces are clearly plating so i would rule out the paint as the cause. Theres a lot more that can go wrong with your solution, than can go wrong with the paint.

    The way to test, which Steve recommended to you but apparently you didn't understand, is to plate a piece of copper, at 20 ASF, with no paint at all. Before plating clean your test piece of copper until it passes the "water break" test. This way you are testing your setup and eliminating the paint as the potential problem.

    If you are having partial plating issues, I would for one thing check all your electrical connections, don't rely on easily corroded alligator clips. Any connection that isn't soldered should be sanded clean regularly. Sulfuric acid aerosol from your solution will quickly corrode exposed metal and leave less-conductive gunk, more so if you run a fish bubbler, which you should be doing to keep the solution agitated.

    How much current are you running, and for how long? You are taking into account the surface areas of your pieces when setting the current, right? 20 ASF (amps per square foot) is a good place to start, more with vigorous agitation and everything else dialed in. Temperature of solution?

    It is hard to make a suggestion about your solution without knowing anything about it. How many oz/gal copper sulfate? Sulfuric acid?

    If your bath has red sludgy particles floating around in it, I would say anodes are part of the problem. You can get by with crappy anodes for a while, but eventually the sludge will need to be dealt with as it will certainly cause globby, chunky plating.

    Before you spend money on yet another jar of paint, do some research on "troubleshooting acid copper plating solutions." There are dozens of articles out there. Over time you will be able to look at your pieces and tell, low brightener, low current, etc, but if you don't do some reading on the basics, it'll be hard to get a foothold.

    As far as how to test your solution, there are a few routes you can go. www.emsanalytical.com specializes in testing plating solutions. For $70.00 they will test sulfuric acid, chloride, copper sulfate, and 2 organic additives (the two components of your brightener system.)
    I would have them test your solution before you go remixing it, and I hope you are disposing of your used solution responsibly (at a local hazmat facility that will accept it for free.)

    If you want to test your own solution and play Walter White, www.kocour.net sells everything you need, but you are looking at many hundred dollars in supplies and 60 bucks hazmat shipping per package, not to mention very nasty chemicals to have around. Wouldn't recommend doing this unless you are very committed to your own safety and environmental concerns and have some background. Plus it won't save you any money in the short run.

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    Default Re: Need Electroforming Help ASAP..

    What's the temp like in your shop? I was having a similar problem; my shop is in my garage in northern WI. I got a cheap hotplate and a water bath to put my beaker in, and set the hotplate to about 200 F. Plating activity require temps of around 70 - 80 F to work well, and plating activity increases with temperature. Just make sure you don't boil/gas the solution. Do you have agitation? Do you filter?

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    Default Re: Need Electroforming Help ASAP..

    Agitation is a huge help. I use a magnetic lab stirrer plate to agitate. You can pick up a nice size one off ebay for ~100.

  14. #14
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    Default Re: Need Electroforming Help ASAP..

    I read the thread, am I correct in that you stated a recent move??

    Do you use distilled water or just "tap water"??

    Did that light bulb just come on??
    Are we having fun yet??

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