Electroplated Chinese Lanterns

Electroplated Chinese Lanterns

In this project Peter Brown discusses a process he has used in the past, called electroforming or electroplating, which involves adding a layer of copper to various materials such as wood, resin, or leaves. In this particular video, he showcases a new twist on this process from an object he received from a fan of his show who lives in the Netherlands.

The delicate remains of a Bladder Cherry plant after it dies, known as a husk, were sent to Peter by the fan. To prepare for the electroforming process, Peter first applies a layer of lacquer to the husk. Once the lacquer dries, he then applies a conductive paint solution made of 50% conductive paint and 50% isopropyl alcohol.

He uses an airbrush to apply this solution to the husk.

In order to electroform the husk, Peter needs to complete the copper circuit. He achieves this by ensuring good contact between the painted surface and a copper wire.

Once the circuit is complete, he dips the husk into a solution of copper sulfate, sulfuric acid, and distilled water in a plastic container with a coil of copper.

Peter uses a micro power supply to electrify the solution. This causes copper to flow from the coil as well as the solution onto the husk. The electroforming process can take anywhere from 2 to 8 hours, depending on the surface area of the object being plated.

After several hours, Peter checks the solution and sees that some areas of the husk have been completely covered in copper, while others still need more time to plate. He adjusts the configuration of the objects and lets them sit in the solution for another 8 hours.

Once the objects are removed from the solution, they are completely covered in copper, which can be polished or dulled and will last indefinitely.

Peter decides to take the electroforming process a step further and dips one of the plated husks in resin. He mixes up a batch of Total Boat resin, pours it over the husk, and moves it to a pressure pot. After a few days, he checks the husk and sees that it has cured properly without any bubbles.

Peter then works the resin puck on the lathe to just get a uniform shape then sands the encased husk with sandpaper, starting at 220 grit and working up to 800 grit.

He finishes by using a Micro Mesh, which is a series of abrasive sheets, to polish the husk. Finally, he makes a small stand out of maple to display the finished product complete with a light source hidden beneath.

Overall, Peter’s process involves careful preparation and attention to detail to create stunning and unique pieces of art. The electroforming process can be time-consuming, but the end result is a beautiful piece that can last indefinitely.

The addition of resin to the husk adds a new dimension to the process, resulting in a clear and polished final product.