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Author Topic: Copper + Zinc = Brass!  (Read 2946 times)
jringling
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« on: February 28, 2009, 02:36:05 am »

After reading the article on turning copper to brass in issue #4 of the Steampunk Magazine, I decided to give it a try.  I use the toner mask set up for etching and thought it might work for for this. The article in the magazine outlines the alkaline process for plating zinc to copper.

I bought everything, mixed it up and dropped in my copper plate with the toner mask.

Toner DOES NOT hold up to sodium hydroxide. 

Bent on getting this to work, I read up on electroplating zinc to copper.

You need hydrochloric acid, zinc metal, a dc power source, and whatever piece of copper you want to plate. I used hardware store muriatic acid, a boat zinc anode, and my trusty battery charger. I found a procedure online that called for a 20:1 dillution of muriatic acid. I mixed my solution alittle heavier than that and did not have any luck in plating the zinc. I kept diluting the acid and after several failed attempts, I finally got the acid concentration right.

I took the zinc plated copper to a propane torch to melt the zinc into the copper.

Here’s some pictures:
Spoiler (click to show/hide)

Sorry for the bad pictures, but this is the best I could do for now. Both pictures are the same but on different white balance settings
Spoiler (click to show/hide)

How freakin’ cool is this? I'm an alchemist! Everyone with an etching set-up should try this.
« Last Edit: February 28, 2009, 04:06:54 am by jringling » Logged

stockton_joans
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« Reply #1 on: February 28, 2009, 10:45:10 am »

thats pretty cool, i've been waiting to try the alkaline process myself but havent got round to bying a pyrex bowl to heat the solution in first, do we think oil paint would stand up to the lye?
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jringling
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« Reply #2 on: February 28, 2009, 04:39:16 pm »

thats pretty cool, i've been waiting to try the alkaline process myself but havent got round to bying a pyrex bowl to heat the solution in first, do we think oil paint would stand up to the lye?
I am not sure. I think it would hold up long enough to plate the zinc. I have a few paint pens that I will try in the next few weeks.
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kaffemustasj
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« Reply #3 on: March 01, 2009, 02:22:33 am »

Just to be sure.. Would it work to copperplate steel, and then plate the copper outside the steel with zinc to make brass?
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jringling
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« Reply #4 on: March 01, 2009, 04:15:00 am »

Just to be sure.. Would it work to copperplate steel, and then plate the copper outside the steel with zinc to make brass?
I don't know, but I may have to try...
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kaffemustasj
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« Reply #5 on: March 01, 2009, 11:21:43 am »

That would be great!
If it works, you could use that technique to plate something with brass Grin
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stockton_joans
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« Reply #6 on: March 02, 2009, 11:15:33 am »

i dont see why it wouldnt work assuming you got a good initial plate with the copper that wouldnt flake off under the aplication of heat
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kaffemustasj
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« Reply #7 on: March 02, 2009, 04:35:22 pm »

That's what I was thinking. If I could get my hands on the right sort of acid, I would try it out.
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Workshopshed
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« Reply #8 on: March 02, 2009, 05:03:37 pm »

I recently aquired a quantity of copper in the form of thick wire, it would be nice if it could be changed into brass but I'm sure it can't be as simple as throwing the two into a furnace in the right ratio (can it?). Not sure where I'd get the zinc from either, old car batteries I suppose...
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stockton_joans
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« Reply #9 on: March 02, 2009, 05:37:40 pm »

there a various companies that sell it on line, i got 500 grams of the stuff for less than a fiver, just cant rememebr the web site though, sotty
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SteamPunk Glass
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« Reply #10 on: March 02, 2009, 05:54:57 pm »

I read that article a while back and have been meaning to try it out, but my shed is just too cold and damp at the moment, good to see it works, must have a go soon!
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jringling
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« Reply #11 on: March 02, 2009, 07:55:32 pm »

I recently aquired a quantity of copper in the form of thick wire, it would be nice if it could be changed into brass but I'm sure it can't be as simple as throwing the two into a furnace in the right ratio (can it?). Not sure where I'd get the zinc from either, old car batteries I suppose...

If you plate the zinc real heavy, you could throw it in the furnace. If you burn it too long, the zinc goes too far in and your pieces will still be copper.
I bough a solid zinc anode from a boating store for $4.00 US (1/2" cylinder X 4" long).
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fciron
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« Reply #12 on: March 04, 2009, 04:38:15 am »

I recently aquired a quantity of copper in the form of thick wire, it would be nice if it could be changed into brass but I'm sure it can't be as simple as throwing the two into a furnace in the right ratio (can it?). Not sure where I'd get the zinc from either, old car batteries I suppose...

Just about that simple. I would melt the copper and then add the zinc. Zinc has a lower melting point and will oxidize if heated directly. Of course, this would be done in a crucible to hold the molten metals and it would be a good idea to preheat the zinc before putting it in the molten copper, just to make sure there is no moisture present.

Then what would you do with the brass?

jringling, that is a cool looking project. I expect to see more pics. Dumb question: I can see that putting a thin layer of zinc on the brass could lead to a small amount of the surface becoming brassy, but wouldn't a thicker plating just look grey like zinc as it accumulates on top of the copper?
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jringling
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« Reply #13 on: March 04, 2009, 12:35:13 pm »

I believe the thicker the zinc layer, the thicker the brass layer will be after heating. I have made afew different attemps at this and have sanded the new brass off of the copper. I have over heated some and lost the zinc to either the copper or the air. I am still trying to come up with a standard plating and heating time, but have not yet found them...

I have printed up another sheet of toner transfer, so this weekend shall be a brass making one!
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« Reply #14 on: March 05, 2009, 09:12:42 am »

I recently aquired a quantity of copper in the form of thick wire, it would be nice if it could be changed into brass but I'm sure it can't be as simple as throwing the two into a furnace in the right ratio (can it?). Not sure where I'd get the zinc from either, old car batteries I suppose...


Just about that simple. I would melt the copper and then add the zinc. Zinc has a lower melting point and will oxidize if heated directly. Of course, this would be done in a crucible to hold the molten metals and it would be a good idea to preheat the zinc before putting it in the molten copper, just to make sure there is no moisture present.

Then what would you do with the brass?

jringling, that is a cool looking project. I expect to see more pics. Dumb question: I can see that putting a thin layer of zinc on the brass could lead to a small amount of the surface becoming brassy, but wouldn't a thicker plating just look grey like zinc as it accumulates on top of the copper?


Actually the trick is that you plate the zinc in a design (ie. through a mask) onto the copper, then heat the copper just until the zinc absorbs into the surface to form a thin layer of brass in the same shape as the original plating mask. (Of course, if you heat it too long, the zinc will disperse into the copper and you lose the pattern.)

Note that no crucible is needed, as the copper is never heated much above the mp of zinc, which is well below that of copper.

As for zinc, I don't believe you'll find any in car batteries. Several people have suggested the sacrificial anodes sold to combat corrosion in boats; another source is alkaline dry cells. Be aware that potassium hydroxide (the "alkaline") is every bit as corrosive as sulfuric acid in similar concentration.
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fciron
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« Reply #15 on: March 07, 2009, 08:01:23 pm »

Oh, I just googled 'copper zinc diffusion'.

That's pretty cool. I had assumed you were dealing with a surface phenomenon. I stand corrected.

Cool.
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OldProfessorBear
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« Reply #16 on: March 09, 2009, 04:00:34 am »

The plates in car batteries are lead, not zinc.
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