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"Making lace cotton fabric rigid enough for electroplating"

March 14, 2019

Q. Hi guys, I wandered away from doing the electroplating end of things for a while, but my mother has developed enough of an interest for me to start looking into doing some copper and nickel plating on her behalf.
Her idea, currently, is to plate small sections of lace into bracelets. I've got a solid grasp on plating onto metals, but here's my stumbling block, for this to work I think such a piece would need to be semi-rigid prior to plating, never mind the conductive coating. Currently I've looked at several glues and resins with an eye towards this goal, however I'm having trouble thinking through what would be a reasonable match for, at minimum, making the lace about as flexible as a glue stick; harder would be better, but I'll take what I can get. I have seen videos on youtube of folk using acrylic paint and graphite as conductive coatings, but I've also encountered folk recommending polyvinyl acetate (PVA) based graphite inks. Either way my worry is significant contamination of the plating bath.
So are there any thoughts for rigidizing the fabric for plating?

My small batch test with PVA glue have yielded failure.
I'm using an acid copper bath of the following formulation:
CuSO4·5H2O 200 g/l
H2SO4 70g/l

Brightener will be added to the actual plating bath.
The aim here is to electroplate lace and other fabrics for jewelry, so epoxy resins will not provide the resolution needed.

Marc Banks
Blacksmith - Boone, North Carolina

March 14, 2019

A. Hi Marc. I know you said you failed by using PVA glue but I decades ago used Elmers brand very successfully many times. I mixed it with water 50/50 and soaked the fabric overnight in the mixture. Let dry thoroughly over a shaped mandrel and it will be very hard with no lose of detail. I've done this with sand dollars, too, with success.

Neil Bell
Red Sky Plating
supporting advertiser
Albuquerque, New Mexico

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March 16, 2019

As stated previously PVA glue did not yield success in the last attempt, I'll follow your recommendation and see if I get better results.
In the interim I did see good results using clear polyurethane finish. Samples remained fairly rigid after 2 hours in the test plating bath.
Water based clear acrylic also yielded poor results, becoming flexible again in the first hour of immersion.

I'll be making some conductive coating for plating things next, either nano-particle copper (ascorbic acid + copper sulfate to precipitate very fine copper powder) or graphite.

Marc Banks [returning]
Blacksmith/Machinist/Busybody. - Boone, North Carolina

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