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topic 27423

Wanting to build an electrolytic gold scrap refining machine

A discussion started in 2004 & continuing through 2017


Q. Hi to all that reads my post

I am new at refining gold from scrap what I would like to know is on how to build an Electrolytic GOLD SCRAP REFINING MACHINE I have seem them on ebay where it is made by using a 5 gal bucket and a 12 Volt Battery and I have searched everywhere on the plans on how to make it and cannot locate any plans also would like to find some instructions on what steps I need to do once it is built and help would be great

Again thanks for your time and the help,

John Finger
wanting to recover gold from scrap - Postville, Iowa


A. John,

I am afraid those units only extract dollars from amateur buyers. Pure scrap gold only requires melting, so perhaps you wish to recover gold from scrap computers, etc. The highly hazardous liquids that dissolve gold also dissolve other metal present. 12 V will plate out all the metals together (Ag, Cu, Fe, Ni, Pb, Sb, Sn, Zn, etc.) and dissociate water into an explosive mixture of hydrogen and hydrogen. I suggest reading The Recovery And Refining Of Precious Metals - 2nd Edition

Professional gold platers use ion exchange columns and sophisticated plating units to concentrate and plate gold from high purity gold plating rinses, not scrap. See letter #4215. The "Gold Bug" is a well-known electrolytic recovery unit sold by Precious Metals Processing Consultants, Inc. Concentrations too dilute for economical plating are captured by ion exchange resins, which are usually sent to a refiner/supplier such as Technic.

Ken Vlach
- Goleta, California
contributor of the year honored Ken for his countless carefully
researched responses. He passed away May 14, 2015.
Rest in peace, Ken. Thank you for your hard work
which the finishing world continues to benefit from.


A. Hello,

Saw the first answer you got, and that is not true at all if you follow the instructions. This process is not for nuggets, solid gold jewelry, but for plated scrap. I will build you a machine, and I carry the chemicals that you need for (scrap) refining. The machine sells for $75.00 and comes with enough chemical to make 2 gallons of solution, and with the purchase, you get unlimited e-mail tech support. This system does work. I have sold hundreds of these machines and get production reports every day. In fact, as long as you follow the instructions to the "T" I will guarantee success, that you will recover gold. I do, so with me helping you at every turn why can't you!

William L.
electrolytic machine building and selling - Nevada


i. It would not have been fair to print someone else's discouraging critique and refuse to print your rebuttal, Bill, so we printed it. But it also would not be fair for you to be advertising your product here, asking your competitors to pay your advertising costs. So we can't print your contact info here or refer any readers to you, just your rebuttal. Thanks for your understanding.

Ted Mooney, Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
Pine Beach, New Jersey


A. Mr. Vlach is mostly correct in stating the level of complexity to recover gold. However, he mentions techniques while well known in the marketplace are also substandard to higher yield processes. Chemical extraction of electroplated materials (i.e. scrap metals or assemblies containing gold) can be highly successful. I have witnessed yield differentials (over burning) as high as 30%+. That is rather significant when at today's gold price a 1% yield delta amounts to $.06 per lb of low grade material such as scrap.

Platers do not have to rely on ion exchange resins to capture (low concentrates not high purity as Mr. Vlach suggests) Plating rinses containing gold ions are typically in the mgs/l range. Resins must be burned to retrieve the gold. There are chemical processes that can do just that without the losses incurred in burning.

Arthur Simpson PE
- York, Pennsylvania


This thread is getting a bit confusing, combining as it does the question of how to recover gold from electronic scrap with recovering gold from plating rinse waters -- which are two very different things. But as for recovering gold from rinse water . . .

The two technologies that I'm familiar with are electrolytic recovery and ion exchange. Electrolytic recovery is a great technology for a stagnant dragout tank, but loses efficiency at low concentration and may become impractical in a final rinse where gold concentration is a couple of parts per million. Ion exchange can be ideal for a final rinse because it can recover gold even in the ppm range, from a continuously flowing final rinse, while giving the ware a final stain-free rinse in DI water.

So, Bill, what I don't understand is where chemical recovery fits in. Do you continuously dose the final rinse with precipitant chemical and continuously filter it? If not, how does the gold not go down the drain? Thanks!

Ted Mooney,
Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
Pine Beach, New Jersey

Recovering Gold & Other Precious Metals from Electronic Scrap [Kindle Edition /ebook]




- Windsor, Ontario, Canada

Very interesting, Opinder. Thanks!


Ted Mooney,
Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
Pine Beach, New Jersey


i. I found this forum for scrap gold refining and recovery. registration required

Steve Johnson
- Denver, Colorado

Ed. note: That seems to be a good forum, but as the icon indicates, you won't find out whether it's good or not until you register :-)


Q. I have a somewhat related question on recovery. I have acquired many pounds of scrap jewelry that I'd like to recover. I have tried just melting it down with an oxy/acetyl torch as well as propane. An interesting thing started to happen: whatever other metals are in the jewelry beaded up and melted off leaving a fairly solid nugget of what appears to be fairly pure gold. Has anyone ever tried melting gold at it's melting point of roughly 1065 c and then letting it cool very slowly so that the other metals can solidify at their respective melting points? (for example if you took pure nitrogen gas and a cup of water, put them in a tank and slowly cooled it down, you'd eventually have an ice cube floating in liquid nitrogen... in theory)
Also, any other ways (short of smelting, I don't have a furnace large enough to process the many pounds of scrap I have.. again not plated, I suspect it's either "filled" / or of the 12-14k alloy range)
Thanks for letting me "think out loud", I'd greatly appreciate any feedback.

Derek Nicarry
- Merrimack, New Hampshire


A. Dear Ted,

While it is true that at lower concentrations electrolytic recovery can be less effective, I have great experience in this field, having invented the Gold Bug system and can tell you that this system can often recover metals to a fraction of a ppm. A company that used our system for copper recovery reported that they were able to bring the copper concentration from 2 ppm to 50 ppb!


Randy Epner


A. To Derek in NH,

What you have accomplished is a crude process called parting. It was used long ago to separate noble metals especially scrap containing copper, gold, and silver. When you have more active metals involved say zinc or lead, you tend to drive off those metal as vapor and the atmosphere is important to assist in separation and prevent oxidation. With the acetylene torch you probably had a reducing atmosphere ( high CO:O2 ratio) which resulting in you producing the "gold beads". This is an acceptable way to extract gross quantities of precious metals, but you will let some of it get lost in the residual materials.

As far as electrolytic processes aqua regia and cyanide should not be handled by the novice and not in your garage. You are better off paying the refining charge to the recycler as it is safer do something else with your spare time

Joe Sabatini
- Lexington, Massachusetts


A. Easy to extract from computer scrap fingers without nitric.
Use hydrochloric and carbon electrodes in a vertical column. Add low voltage, but watch your hydrogen production. will remove all but platinum in about 24-48 hrs.
I'm not going to step by step it ... do your research

Ed Charini
- Dallas, Texas


Q. Hi, I'm an 10th grade student interested in recovering gold from circuit board fingers. I have access to about fifty old computer units, but my father won't let me bring them home until I have a "good safe plan" about to what to do with them. My friend told me you can break the fingers off and dissolve a lot of the debris away from the gold with etching solution called ferric chloride. Then he said you can take what is left and heat it up in a thing called a crucible and that will make it a little bit more pure. Is any of this information accurate? I would appreciate any help because I am very interested in science and chemistry, but I need to convince my father it is safe and worth my time before I bring all these computers home. Thank you very much for your time.


Matt Lanese
student - Cleveland, Ohio

Listen to your father, Matt --

When your competition is a swarm of starving children, who have free access to acres of free e-waste and aren't spending a dime on protecting their health, yet they remain poverty stricken anyway ... it's a bit hard to believe that this is a path to riches.


Ted Mooney,
Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
Pine Beach, New Jersey

March 5, 2008

A. I too am looking in to equipment to separate Gold for scrapping computers. I found a company on the web that has a machine guaranteed to process computer gold to 99 percent pure.
The machine seems easy to use and is guaranteed for life at a price of $595.00 with a thirty day money back guarantee.
The company is Shor International Corporation located in Vernon, NY. Why not look them up and see if that is the best way to go. I am.

George Cordell
- Morganton, North Carolina

Ed. note: Just to be clear, because people read fast when jumping around the internet, is unfamiliar with this product and is not making this suggestion or guarantee :-)

October 14, 2008

A. The quick alternate method for reclaiming PC board edge connectors (only!) is as described ... ferric chloride, or any of the other relatively benign printed circuit board etchants, is used to dissolve the copper circuit board material while leaving the gold plating intact, which simply falls off. You do have to dispose of the ferric chloride, same as you would if you were etching circuit boards. There is no such easy method for connector pins, integrated circuit leads, etc.

You may also find that most scrap recovery places will pay a premium if you bring them just the edge connectors from the boards (use a table saw to cut the edge connector off the board). The gold plating is typically 15 to 50 micro-inches thick, thicker on older equipment.

David Lane
- Santa Cruz, California

October 26, 2008

A. I would just like you to know that the Shor machine works very well I have used one for 3 years easy and safe if used outdoors.

Edward Dyke
- Pompano Beach, Florida

October 27, 2008

A. Hi, Edward. Thanks for taking the time to reply, but please keep it technical: no brand names. Considering the anonymity of the internet, testimonials don't mean much; the next guy may say: "Shor is no good, brand blah-blah is much better" -- and the race to the bottom is on, with the readers not knowing if you or him are even real people rather than marketing managers posting with fictitious names :-)


Ted Mooney,
Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
Pine Beach, New Jersey

February 21, 2009

A. Easy answer: Please, kids, don't try this at home, including the student of 10th grade! For God's sake, mister, listen to your old man.. The extraction of scrap gold from e-waste needs the handling of extreme hazardous chemicals that may affect your health or put in risk your own life.

If you have too much e-waste, please, save money, time and danger and send it to a professional refining (or extracting) company. In my city, there are some street peddlers that buy scrap gold, and it's a very good business...Realize, the people used changes 18 or 14 kt gold broken jewelry for pans, pots, irons, big teddy bears also...Now, what is the cost of refining or extracting the gold of e-waste? I mean, the cost for you recommend any company? Thanks.

One Pablo
- Santa Marta, Magdalena, Colombia

December 1, 2009

A. I am not touting anybody's product, but let me say they are pretty much all good for something. Some are excellent at recovering pico quantities, some at recovering from more concentrated solutions.Some methods mentioned here may expose you to toxic heavy metal fumes or fumes of strong acids, so think a bit about that.

I just wanted to say that readers who know a lot of chemistry and physics and who also know a lot about the history of precious metals refining may want to look into the cuppelation process. This process uses bismuth as a medium to carry the metal, and crucibles of bone ash as sinks for impurities be removed. It is very efficient for grades of ore, plating, or solid metal mass richer than approx. 6K. And, it is a bad idea to try it with alloys of precious metal that contain lead, mercury, cadmium, and other potentially toxic metals. Wet electro recovery in a professional machine such as that mentioned earlier is preferred for adulterated materials such as dental waste, old gold and silver solders, etc..

The process is fairly simple, the equipment minimal, the yields encouraging, even with electronic scrap. The web is replete with links that provide general and fairly in depth info.

PS I just sold ten ounces of gold I recovered from e-scrap today, and the payout was 58.73 /dwt just to let you in on how pure the end product is....and a tip--- let the gold form small globs or "prills." These are small enough to easily be assayed or tested on a touchstone with acid, and to do a fast specific gravity on rather than doing a full assay, which takes a few days and at least $50 per sample, often much more.

John Hayes
- West Palm beach, Florida

December 16, 2009

Q. John,
I would like to get into e-scrap, where would you suggest I start? I've lots of finger cards. Who buys this type of gold?

Randy Fletcher
construction - Jupiter, Florida

Ed. note: Sorry, Randy, but we can't answer your last question on this page because allowing such postings almost instantly leads to a race to the bottom with shills posting long ads, and the technical content of the page drowned. But due to the recession, on my short drive to work I pass 4 store fronts with large signs: "We buy gold!" -- it can't be too hard to find them. Some days there's a google ad for them on this page.

October 8, 2010

A. Thanks for the posts. Especially the GreenPeace video. I need solid arguments against "make money at home extracting gold from computer parts".

My new housemates have literally tons of PC scrap. They think a jeweller (me) can extract gold easily. If it was easy and safe, you think gold would be $1350+ an ounce? Better we should open a meth lab.

Thanks again.

Vernon Averill
- Olympia, Washington, USA

March 26, 2011

Q. Please reply on the issue.

I recovered Gold from Circuit Board,Mother Board using Aqua Regia Process. But the Gold Particles are not so Clear and do not appear to be 24 Karat Gold.

Is there any other process to refine the Gold to 24 Karat. Your suggestion will be appreciated.Thanks

- Mumbai, Maharashtra, India

March 28, 2011

A. Sadly enough, the chemicals that are used for harvesting gold are the same one's used for meth labs. This is one of the issues with gold harvesting as one gets on a list of people to watch for high volumes of purchases. Research and more research will show the possibilities of harvesting gold without making illegal drugs.

Vince O [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]
- Nature Coast, Florida, USA

December 13, 2011

A. Snap the fingers off using adjustable pliers "Channel-Locs".
Wear gloves - at least on your "board hand". Crack the ridge of fingers starting in from one end - don't break it off entirely - just crack em. Move progressively down the length of the fingers .. cracking as you go .. it will snap off nice and neatly - no need for hazardous dust nor hazardous high-speed cutting wheels.

Trust this as reasonable - and reasonably well-received!

Terri Philips
- Toronto, Ontario, Canada

December 22, 2011

Q. Hi all,

I have tried using nitric acid to get the plated gold from pins & stuff, but the hard part is all the plating goes into flakes & dust-like material :(  This eventually makes a pain for me to use a tweezer to pick it out when mixed with other materials.

So I want to try electroplating to just remove the gold plate.
My plan goes something like this

1- reverse plating all those pin
2- furnace it to form a solid piece
3- put the whole piece into nitric acid to remove contamination & impurities

Result of gold purity unknown, but should be sellable. Can this plan work?

So, for the electroplating part I have

a pyrex, 12V dc adaptor but the solution/bath, what should I get?

Does the bath/solution use Hydrochloric acid (HCl) ? what is the % of HCl?
If it is not HCl then what chemical should I get?

Lee TH
hobbyist - Malaysia

March 28, 2012

Q. Hi This is my 1st post. I have been scrapping for most of my life. Iron and tin to the scrapyard. The last 2 years I have been saving motherboards, and anything electronic. I have at least 2K lbs of old TV boards full of chips, and the old glass type resistors. My question is this. Is there any gold or other PM's in these chips, or the resistors? Thank you in advance for any help you offer. I have already gained a bit of knowledge from you guys. Thank you for that.

Wade Brenckle
scraper - marrero, Louisiana, usa

April 23, 2012

Q. I have about 3,000,000 tons of telurides that I have to separate the precious metals and the cadmium, I know I have to burn off the sulfides and convert that into sulfuric acid. I have a buyer for all the sulfuric acid I can make- that's no problem. what process can I use to separate the cadmium from the other noble metals?

Charles G. Pace
gemstone cuttery and mining - Jackson, Mississippi

May 18, 2012

Q. Hello- I'd like to know if anybody has attempted to recover the Silver from high Silver Content Silver Paste, the stuff they used to use as coatings in the 50s? I've tried burning off the solution and am left with a Silver sediment that is very hard. What's next? Thanks-Jerry

Jerry Rieger
- Waldorf, Maryland, USA

September 22, 2012

A. This is a site that I came across for extraction of gold from computers:

It is fairly easy and uses easy to get household chemicals ... check it out.

David Rad
- Indianapolis, Indiana, USA

November 23, 2012

Q. Hey I have taken apart a bunch of old cell phones and now have skittle over 100 g of scrap with gold plating and I'm try to find the easiest and also cheapest way to get this gold off! Thanks for any info!

Modesto Carballo
- Montclair, California, USA

August 28, 2014

1. It is very dangerous if you do not know your chemistry.
2. In order to make a profit you must be able to buy large amounts for very cheap or get it for free.
3. It is very possible to begin refining gold and other precious metals if you are intelligent enough to understand the procedure, safety issues, environmental issues, laws, and use your brain!
4. Having 100 computers means nothing unless they are all around 20 years old, the new electronics have literally 10 cents worth of gold or less, excluding military and telecommunications equipment and more advanced and extremely expensive equipment.
5. Read and study the information available to you online yourself, asking someone for the answers without putting in the effort will get you nowhere! If you have to ask, you haven't read enough!
6. The chances you will get rich from electronics refining is almost impossible unless you have access to thousands of lbs of electronics on a continuous basis for cheap or free and can figure out a good business plan/model.
7. Focus on ceramic cpu's (good luck finding more than a handful without paying more than what they're worth), gold fingers, gold plated pins and other high yield materials.
8. There are easy methods that anyone can succeed in doing.
9. Unless you can get the correct chemicals at a certain price range,you will not make any money.
10. Never buy any gold refining machine off of eBay! You can make all the stuff yourself, make it better and for a 10th of the price.

I don't want to sound like a contradictory or negative person, I am just a realist and tell it like it is. Refining is fun, extremely rewarding and a good skill to learn, but... only if you understand everything I have mentioned in this post. I started out like all the other people asking elementary refining questions like many here but I took initiative and did it the proper way. There are compounds that can be made that will explode in your face or fumes that will kill you! There is a reason this is done in a laboratory! Doing this inside of your home without a fume hood,fume scrubber as well as all the other necessary safety equipment is a recipe for disaster! Equipment fails, if something stops working properly for just a minute you can be killed or kill someone! Would you make explosives or poisons in your bedroom? If you answered yes to that last question, just do yourself a favor and forget about this entire subject before you kill innocent people or make home refining illegal for the people who are responsible and intelligent enough to do it correctly! I am willing to help anyone, anytime if you have done the research but need help understanding something you can't wrap your head around. I'm willing to teach the proper techniques and give information for free. Don't give your money away for information you can find for free on the internet. Good luck everyone! Be safe.

Shane Morn
precious metal refining - milwaukee, Wisconsin

Electrolysis separation of copper/silver/gold

November 16, 2016

Q. Okay, so I'm just getting into precious metal working. I've been doing my homework on the subject of separating metals through electrolysis. I have 1 LB of mixed gold jewelry, from 10k and up. My question is if I melt them down, pour them into plates, put them in an electrolyte bath first to remove the copper, then another bath to remove the silver. All I should be left with is Gold. in theory at least. But there could be other metals in there. How do I purify those out through my bath process? And how do I make sure that with each bath I'm only pulling off the desired metals. I assume it has to deal with the electrolyte and the anode but I cant figure that out.
Any thoughts?

Tim Orner
hobby - Blacksburg Virginia USA

November 16, 2016

A. Hello, there is 14.58 troy oz of gold in a lb. The alloys in the pieces you have will vary too much to separate them by electrolysis. You are better off separating the pcs in kt categories, then melting them down. A refiner of precious metals can then assay the plates and return to you the cash (if that's what you want.) To give you an idea here are some of the alloys that you can encounter; Zinc, Copper, Nickel, Silver, Magnesium and others. Be very careful.

Mark Baker
Process Engineering - Phoenix, Arizona USA

November 16, 2016

Q. Thanks so much for your timely response. I'm more interested in making this hobby all my own and cutting out as many middle men as possible. I only have yellow gold, which by definition should be only copper, silver and gold. If I melt the jewelry in plates categorized by karat, i.e., 10k plate 18k plate and so on, then shouldn't I be able to electrolysis the copper out in a electrolyte bath, then the same with the silver, and be left with the gold and just repeat the process?

Tim Orner [returning]
- Blacksburg Virginia

November 2016

A. Hi Tim. But how would you propose doing that, i.e., preferentially anodically dissolving and then preferentially plating out the copper? There's no magic, there's only electrochemistry, and it's hard to see how it will do quite what you want. When copper is electropurified, the silver and gold don't stay on the anode, they fall off as slag. Good luck with it, but don't expect it to be easy :-)


pic of Ted Mooney
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
Pine Beach, New Jersey
Striving to live "Aloha"

simultaneous November 16, 2016

Q. I'm trying to stick with the electrolysis method but that appears to be difficult. Certainly there is a way to do what I'm trying to do. Making a plate or even shot containing only copper,silver and gold and then separating the 3. Is an acid solution and then dropping the metals out individually my only option. I apologize for my lack of chemistry knowledge. They taught me to blow things up, not think to hard. Trying to fix that.

Tim Orner [returning]
Blacksburg - Blacksburg Virginia

November 17, 2016

A. Tim,

What you are proposing will not work at all -- never. There is no known electrolyte that will do what you want to do. Another problem is that the interplay of these 3 metals will prevent the selective dissolving and deposition of any of these metals.

The only way of refining karat gold is to do it chemically. This can be done directly with aqua regia, but only if the silver content is less than about 9% - even then, it can be tricky.

The most straight-forward method method is to first add, by melting together, enough silver or copper to reduce the gold content to 25% = 6 karat - this method is called inquartation. Then, most of the copper and silver can be dissolved with nitric acid, leaving the gold undissolved. The gold, which is not quite pure, is then purified by dissolving it in aqua regia and then selectively precipitating it. If the gold is greater than 25%, this will not work - the gold will form a crust on the surface and prevent the penetration of the nitric. Similar blockage would occur in the electrolytic method you are proposing.

This is only an outline of the method. For greater details, I would suggest you go to There you will find about 1/4 million posts on all sorts of precious metals refining.

Chris Owen
- Nevada, Missouri, USA

November 18, 2016

A. A little more about the inquartation method I discussed above.

As I said, the karat gold can be inquarted with either copper or silver. There are pros and cons of each.

The Copper is cheaper than than the silver and you will have less money tied up in metal. However, it takes 3.4 times more nitric acid to dissolve a gram of copper than it does a gram of silver.

Most people prefer using the silver. You don't lose it. All of the silver can be dropped (cemented) out of the nitric solution as a sludge by putting copper metal in the solution. The best form of copper to cement with is unplated scrap copper buss bar, in pieces long enough to stick up out of the solution. When all the silver has been cemented out, it is filtered, rinsed well, and dried. It is then re-used by melting it with another batch of karat gold.

Chris Owen
- Nevada, Missouri, USA

September 7, 2017

A. The best way to extract the gold from scrap electronics for newbies is with a solution of hydrochloric acid (toilet bowl cleaner) and hydrogen peroxide and a fish tank air pump. After all pcbs are clean of any metals, melt all materials with copper to make a bar. Then after you can use electrolytic. To separate all metals with different rods...
For more experienced use of nitric acid. And then electrolytic to separate. Different metals this is way that is done on an industrial scale. There's video on youtube of that shows a factory in England scraping gold from electronics.

- Cambridge, Ontario, canada

September 7, 2017

A. The best way to extract the gold from scrap electronics for newbies is with a solution of hydrochloride acid (toilet bowl cleaner) and hydrogen peroxide and a fish tank air pump. After all pcbs are clean of any metals, melt all materials with copper to make a bar. Then after you can use electrolytic. To separate all metals with different rods...
For more experienced use of nitric acid. And then electrolytic to separate different metals. This is the way that is done on an industrial scale there. Video on youtube of how is made that shows a factory in England scraping gold from electronics.

- Cambridge, Ontario, canada

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