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How to get Cheap Copper Anodes

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January 8, 2008

I work for a very small custom metal finishing shop (we refurbish mostly old car parts, some boat and bicycle, but practically anything that can be buffed and/or re-chromed) as the electroplater; currently we are doing only copper in-house. We can't spend the money on a thousand dollar bucket of anode nuggets for our acid copper right now, instead we have been using half-inch copper pipe generally used for plumbing; in this way we escape having to spend a great sum of money on our anodes all at one time, though the price per pound of the copper in this form is greater than the nuggets intended for use as anodes.

I would like to know if there is either a company that I can purchase a small quantity of nuggets (say, 10 to 20 lbs.) or what other way is there to buy phosphorized copper? I was particularly curious about wire. Could the wire that we use to hang our parts be re-used as anode material? Or is it not phosphorized?

I am rather new to the metal finishing industry, but am reading and learning as much as time allows. This may explain any ignorance you may well perceive.

Thanks to him from whence help comes,

Jared Juntunen
Electroplater - Muskegon, Michigan


January 16, 2008

Jared,
I have to be blunt with you, "cheap" copper should not be used for anodes in any form. If your plating shop owner cannot afford high phos copper anodes that contain a cert. of analysis from a reputable supplier, the shop should not plate copper at all. There are too many alloys of copper with varying phosphorous percentages. You will run the high risk of ruining your bath and missing delivery on orders. That gets real expensive! If you like plating, ask the boss if he will take you to some AESF meetings.

Mark Baker
Process Engineer - Syracuse, New York


January 18, 2008

Mr. Jared
they say in my country: cheap is more expensive. Say it to your boss. Wires, tubes and so on make roughness, mud and copper lost. Old bad idea. For acid copper plating only phosphorized copper designed to copper plating is recommended.

Good luck,

Janusz LABEDZ
- Warsaw, Poland


July 17, 2008

I agree with the other replies to your posting. The high purity anodes you get from a regular supplier will improve the quality of your plating. What you don't want are the trace amounts of other metals like nickel and iron which will contaminate your plating bath and give you trouble with your finished product.

Also depending upon the specific bath you use you should most likely be using phosphorized copper (0.025 - 0.06 % phos). The phosphorus creates a blackish coating on the anodes and prevents the copper from breaking down into solution too quickly. Without this coating the copper will break down into the bath at a quicker rate than desired. This will raise your copper level in the bath. It could also have the effect of polarizing your anodes that will have you wondering why you have trouble maintaining proper current.

American Electroplaters and Surface Finishers (www.nasf.org), your local chapter is likely to have classes from time to time. Another that that would be helpful is the Metal Finishing Guidebook and Directory put out by the AESF [Ed. note: it's actually published by Elsevier Science, not AESF]. I would recommend an older edition like from '93. These books have all sorts of plating info. Newer books are good too but get into other aspects of surface finishing.

I hope this helps

Carl Feindler
- Montgomeryville,PA,USA

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