Investigating electroforming

In the 1860’s Charles Walker’s book “Electrotype Manipulation” ran into thirty editions. In 1868 Alexander Watt reported that;

‘Everyone has his set of electrotyping apparatus and his bath of copper sulphate. Even among the fair sex will be found many skilful manipulators and in such hands, how could the art fail to give beautiful results.’

Some earlier posts describe the processes of electro forming and electrotyping and the differences between them.

Examples of apples and pears that I have electroformed.

img_1128 img_1122

Electro-etching steel plate

One of the things I like about etching aluminium with saline sulphate is the great depth of etch that it is possible to get. I’ve wasted an awful lot of research time trying to get the same depth of  etch on aluminium with electro-etch. I’ve now found I can get the depth of etch I want by electro-etching mild steel, it takes a while but it is worth it.

Print from electro-type plate

The plate is about three times the thickness of the copper foil used by crafters, make registration for the second colour really difficult. I’ve had it through the press ten times and it seems to be holding out really well.

Print18

Print from electro-type plate and two more prints

I made a silicon mold from one of my old plates, coated the inner surface with conductive paint and placed it as a cathode in an electrolytic cell using copper sulphate as an electrolyte. Copper formed on the inside of the mold making an exact copy of the original plate.

print fromelectrotype

 

 

 

 

 

Some more prints from the current series.

Print16 Print17

 

 

another day in the print studio making prints

I took four prints from each plate. The textures achieved with electro-etch respond best to being treated the same way as collagraph matrix. I’ve also been using a technique that Andrew Baldwin describes as ‘double drop’, a plate is first printed in one colour then over printed in a second colour from the same plate.

Print14 Print15 Print12 Print13

Adding a new print to a growing series

The plates that these prints are made from started life as electro-etch test pieces. They are all made from electro-etched aluminium. It is a soft metal that etches deeply and in the areas of open bite provides a tooth that holds ink really well. Peter Wray, in his article on saline sulphate etching in Print Making Today, describes it as a natural aquatint. Although aluminium is soft the depth and quality of the etch achieved with electro-etch appears to hold out really well against the pressure of the press. I have plates that have been through the press thirty times with little effect on the quality of print obtained.

Print11

Life if definitely too short for editioning

Managed to take thirty five prints from these electro-etched collaged (4 pieces)  aluminium  plates. I only needed twenty five for the 20 x 20 print exchange but the extras were needed to mitigate against producing twenty five mono-prints from the same plate. It didn’t work but it’s near enough! Not sure that I’m allowed ten artists proofs.

Print2

20 x 20 untitled