Electrolysis is a method of cleaning corroded and dirty metals. For the purpose of our tutorial we are going to stick to electrolysis as it relates to the cleaning of your metal detecting finds. Although many people may find this tutorial helpful as it applies to many industries and hobbies which involve the cleaning of highly corroded or encrusted metals.
Building An Electrolysis Machine
In this tutorial we will be building an electrolysis machine to clean smaller metal detecting finds, so the scale of our electrolysis machine will be on the small side. If you need something bigger I suggest you wait. Follow our tutorial first then if you need something bigger after you have the just of things have at it. Aside from being on the small side our electrolysis machine is also on the safe side. The bigger you go the more risks you begin to take on.
To begin building you will need an assortment of tools and supplies. The tools and supplies we will be using in this tutorial are really quite common in fact many are common household items. Take a note of the list below, you will need everything on it unless stated otherwise.
- An AC adapter, preferably 9 to 12 volts output. The input and output should be labeled clearly if not don’t use it. smaller <9V will also work though I prefer to use one with an output of at least 9V.
- Two small alligator clips, clips should be made of stainless steel.
- Wire strippers or a utility knife for stripping the jacket from small wire.
- Small glass or plastic bowl. You can also use a large glass or plastic cup. The key here is to use something that is non-conductive.
- A piece of stainless steel, most hobbyists use spoons, knives or forks, though any piece of stainless will work so long as it will fit into your container and still allow room for the metal detecting finds you are cleaning.
- Common household baking soda, not baking powder!
- Corroded and dirty metal detecting finds.
Now that you have everything in place we can begin putting your electrolysis machine together. You will soon be cleaning hundreds of years of tarnish, corrosion, dirt and soil from your hard earned metal detecting finds!
The first step you will want to take is to prepare your AC adapter. The easiest way to go about this is with the proper tool, wire strippers. If you don’t have wire strippers a utility knife will also work. Begin by cutting the male end from your AC adapter. Then split the two wires you have left, so that you have two separated wires. You will then need to strip the jacket from the ends of both wires. Strip one to two inches of insulation from the ends of both.
You will then need to prepare both wire leads by attaching alligator clips to both. There are a few ways of going about this. The easiest way is to simply slide the stripped end of each wire into the back of each alligator clip, then crimp the back ends of the alligator clips closed with pliers. This will pinch the wire and clip together giving you a pretty good contact point.
At this point we are almost ready to start cleaning those crusty metal detecting finds. So lets start preparing our solution. This is very simple and no precise. Take your non-conductive container and fill with enough water that both the finds you will be cleaning and the spoon or positive lead will be cover by water. For every cup or two of water add a Tsp. of baking soda. DO NOT ADD ANYTHING ELSE! I read an electrolysis tutorial the other day that suggested adding lemon juice and salt to the solution, DONT! Lemon juice and salt are both very destructive, add a little current and your sure to destroy just about any metal detecting find you try cleaning! USE WATER AND BAKING SODA ONLY.
Your next task is to figure out which lead coming off of the AC adapter is positive and which is the negative lead. The item that you want to clean will always be attached to the negative lead. You can now attach the positive lead to your piece of stainless steel and then attach the find that you will be cleaning to the negative lead. Place both into your solution, step back and then plug your AC adapter in.
If you have no clue as to which lead is positive and which is negative watch as you plug the AC adapter in. If the conducting metal starts to bubble you have things backwards. Switch the clips around and then plug your electrolysis device back in. If the metal detecting find you are cleaning begins to bubble rapidly you did everything right. Once you figure out which is which mark the negative lead for future use.
I will be adding pictures to this tutorial in the near future. My digital camera recently got a bath on my last metal detecting trip along the shores of the Susquehanna River. Needless to say it does not work now and I have to buy another.