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Copper plating without electricity?

Talitha Davis

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Hey guys, I've been looking online and I've seen a few videos on various methods of how to copper plate brass and other things without the need of electricity.

I am making a large wire sculpture and wanted to try copper platting, but since the sculpture is huge (6 ft long and 2.5 ft wide) electroplating and chemical baths submersion seem difficult. 

I've seen a lot about copper sulfate , but is there a formula where you can make a spray/ paint on solution to copper plate steel wire? I'm using 9 guage cold rolled steel. I have already heavily wire brushed it and applied non reactive degreaser. 


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It'll be kind of tough without a bath, the electricity is the easy part. However here's an idea you might give a try. You'll need an old manual battery charger, the ones that shut off automatically when the battery's charged don't work well for things like electro-plating, polishing, electrolysis, etc. you need a steady current. Connect the piece you want to plate to the positive pole clip. I THINK it's the + pole I might be wrong. Somebody here will correct me if I'm wrong. Then connect the other pole to the metal band holding the bristles on paint brush. Turn the charger on set at a low voltage, dip the brush in a copper sulfate solution and slowly brush the piece. 

The copper sulfate solution is an electrolyte and it should deposit copper while it's conducting electricity to your subject piece.

I don't know if this'll work but maybe. Call it a guess from an old xxxx who's been around long enough to sometimes have a good idea. :blink: Don't bank on it though, maybe give it a test. Have access to a chem teacher? 

Frosty The Lucky.

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 . Update: after trying some things and reading up this is what worked for me. Frosty the Lucky, turns out you don't need a battery!

mixing copper sulfate with distilled water and spraying in on. That without any electricity actually did decently. You can also mix in a very small amount of sulfuric acid ( Be careful this stuff is pretty nasty) and it helps the copper bond a little  better in places you couldn't clean as thoughly.

The metal does have to be pretty well with brushed so if anyone else tries this I recommend sand blasting. Also avoid getting the piece wet otherwise white powder forms over the top and you have to brush it off. The copper later is pretty thin so don't wore brush otherwise it will come right off. On my test piece I found that wiping the piece down with salt and viniger, letting it dry and then doing a gloss clear coat gives the copper a nice clean pollished look.  I actually liked some of the white powder formation.



For the copper sulfate you want to boil some distilled water to a rolling boil or simmer and then take it outside away from grass. ( I did all my mixing on a large congrete pad with heavy duty gloves and a high grade fume mask just to be safe). 

Basically just slowly add copper sulfate crystals into the water and stir with a plastic utensil . You can crush the sulfate before had to speed up this process but the small crystals dissolve fairly well. Keep adding crystals until no more will dissolve. 

If youre pieces is really clean , you can paint in on right away with a foam brushes or with a sprayer. and then clear coat to seal it.


If you decide to try adding sulfuric acid you want to use a glass bowl or large plastic bucket. And mix 1:6 or less parts sulfuric acid to you're copper sulfate solution. The reaction that happens gets veryyyy hot and will dissolve/ eat foam brushes. You have to wear a mask because this stuff gives off some nasty fumes. Put this in a chemical grade sprayer ( you can get a high grade sprayer bottle at Ace and other hardware stores for like $5). And spray away! The copper will form pretty well except in really greased up areas.  Let this sit in the sun for a while before cleaning or sealing.


When your done make sure to bottle up any remaining solution. You don't want to dump it out anywhere because this is bad for the grass and environment in general. As for your mixing bowls and sprayer, empty out as much as possible, do a gloved wipedown and a water rinse. 

I made sure to rinse on our gravel road where any remenants wouldn't cause harm. 

Happy plating! 

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The couple times I've made copper sulfate I dissolved copper in sulfuric acid. That had to be the early 60s though when chemistry sets had formula for making gun powder, smoke bombs and how tos for making plating solutions like copper sulfate. The sulfuric acid came in the set though you can buy it at any big box or even some grocery stores.

If you're going to spray the solution do it somewhere growing moss is a problem, it'll solve it for quite some time. 

Glad you got a working solution. Where are our pictures? Hmmmmm?

Frosty The Lucky.

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COOL! Now we can believe you aren't making card holders or something less cool. ;) 

I HIGHLY recommend you wear closed goggle type eye protection when spraying anything like copper sulfate! It's not an instant blinder like getting H2SO4 in your eyes but it's a BAD thing. 

We love octopus, folk are posting their examples pretty frequently. Your's looks good, I can't wait to see pics of the finished piece. Thanks for the look. :)

Frosty The Lucky.

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