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Plating copper onto pattern welded damascus knife


I've been doing some pondering while reading a few things on this site about electroplating, which is not my forte.

I do pattern welded damascus knives, swords, etc. which basically means different grades of steel layered onto one another about 100-200 layers depending on the piece. After final grinding I soak the blade in PCB circuit board etchant mixed with about 5 gal (approx. 19 liters) of water to make the pattern show up. Now for an added kick would it be possible to electroplate copper (or gold perhaps, better finish?) onto the knife and polish it down? I'm hoping that the copper would bond evenly to the steel, that way I can polish it down and have a smooth surface and contrasting metals. I would prefer brass or bronze but I'm fairly certain that the copper would separate from the alloying metals in the acid bath. If this is possible I think it would make for some excellent show knives. In addition I would also like to see about plating Nickel over bronze to get an effect similar to the above (for the hilt and pommel of the knife). Thanks in advance folks.

Marc Banks
Blacksmith and Knifemaker - Elizabeth City, North Carolina

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After a bit more reading and finding a few more things, I've discovered that the only viable option I have is copper onto the steel, the others seem to be VERY hazardous. I also spoke with a buddy of mine about the idea, he has done it before with some very good results, I don't recall the process offhand but I will list it later on with pictures. In addition the chemical reaction that he uses produces a weak electrical charge that is enough for the plating to occor without any additional electrical source.

Marc Banks
- Elizabeth City, North Carolina

Hi, Marc.

Yes, one option is "immersion plating" (no electricity). You simply dip the knife into copper sulphate [on eBay or Amazon (adv.)](CuSO4.5H2O) and the copper will deposit onto the steel. This doesn't offer great adhesion, but it may be enough for the recesses, since you'll be relieving the copper from the high points.

The alternative is copper electroplating, but as you allude to, you can't acid copper plate (copper sulphate) directly onto steel because it won't stick, whereas cyanide copper electroplating is too dangerous. The alternatives then are proprietary copper pyrophosphate plating solutions (available from EPI / Electrochemical Products Inc. [a supporting advertiser] or Zinex, or possibly hobby plating supply companies), or to nickel plate the knife first and then acid copper plate it. Good luck.


Ted Mooney,
Ted Mooney, P.E.
Striving to live Aloha - Pine Beach, New Jersey
February 2, 2011

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