Increasingly craft jewellers are turning to base metals for their work, but this raises the question of the colour of their solder. Rio Grande already have a gold coloured solder for bronze and brass, but there is only grey or silver for copper.
In an earlier thread, ‘The Colour of Solder’, I explored the possibility of disguising this by electrolytic means: simply dropping the piece into pickle with iron binding wire. The results were only partly successful, due to the thinness of the deposit. So prompted by PS Bond I researched the possibility of electroplating using a battery.
Materials And Method:
1. A ‘C’ size 1.5Volt battery was used for the power source. Round batteries are available in various sizes, all delivering 1.5 Volts. The difference is only in how long they will last. As there is nowhere to attach wires, I made a trip to Maplin and bought a one-battery battery box, which has terminals with holes to pass wires through and twist them. The wires I used were from some old flex and I added a spot of soft solder for good measure, but this is optional. I also bought two plastic sleeved crocodile clips which are crimped on.
2. For the plating bath I used a glass tumbler. A piece of copper sheet was hung from one edge by a wire. The test ring from previous experiments, stripped by heating and re-pickling, was hung from a thin piece of copper tube resting on the rim. The piece to be plated was connected by the black coded clip, its wire attached to the minus, or negative terminal of the battery box. The copper sheet to be depleted, was connected by the red coded clip to the plus, or positive terminal.
3. The electrolyte chosen was about 200ml of distilled malt vinegar. Nothing much had happened even after an hour, but after further research this was remedied by the addition of a pinch of salt and sugar: literally only a few grains of each.
4. Great care must be taken throughout not to let the two parts make contact, or there will be a disconcerting flash and the battery will be ruined. A good reason though to wear eye protection.
The ring was cleaned of loose brown deposit with a soapy wire brush at half hourly intervals and the result was thought to be acceptable after two hours. Unlike the electrolytic process in pickle with iron binding wire, electroplating is not self-limiting and could be continued for an even heavier build up.
The copper sheet shows little sign of depletion, the electrolyte does not need replacing and my meter confirms that the battery has retained its full charge, even after eight hours of experiments