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Electroplating science project

Q. I want to set up a science project for my grandson who is coming to visit in July. I was thinking of electroplating as something that would fascinate him.

I read that copper is really easy to work with in this kind of application. Could I use a transformer from my HO railroad set for a power source? If so how much power should I use? I don't want any explosions or any other mishaps. I have heard that all I need is a glass container, some copper wire, vinegar [in bulk on eBay or Amazon affil links], salt, sugar and something to plate. And a power source of course. Thanks for the advice.

Stephen Dickinson
- Albany, Oregon, USA

A. Don't use a train transformer as there is no need for the complication or the electrocution hazard. A simple 1-1/2 volt "D" cell will do fine. Other than that, you've got it right. I'd suggest plating quarters.

Ted Mooney,
Ted Mooney, P.E.
Striving to live Aloha - Pine Beach, New Jersey

A. Gee, there is a section on frequently asked questions on plating projects for school at this site. Did you look before you asked? Copper does not plate out in a nice smooth copper finish without the proper additives. 1.5 volts is on the high side for tiny projects. Expect some "burning".Translate that to ugly coating.

James Watts
- Navarre, Florida

A. Maybe it's late, but I think you need some of the metal of interest to be present in the electrolyte before electrodeposition can occur.

Robert J. Audette
Anode Manufacturer - Westfield, New Jersey

Ed. note: with sadness we note that Bob Audette passed away on April 8, 2014

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