# Is there a way to “electroplate” wood with copper?

Maybe wood can be coated with copper (II) sulphate first, or roasted in order to form a conductive charcoal (carbon) layer.

• Galvanising usually means coating with zinc. But the short answer is: it would be very difficult to coat wood with copper metal. – Gert Nov 18 '17 at 22:13
• @Gert Didn't know that, i am not a native speaker of english. I corrected for "electroplate". – HannesH Nov 18 '17 at 22:24
• Electroplate implies the substrate has some electrical conductivity. Wood's is very poor, hence the difficulty. – Gert Nov 18 '17 at 22:40
• @Gert It's difficult indeed, hence the question. – HannesH Nov 18 '17 at 23:05

The most common way to apply metals by electrodeposition to nonconductive materials is to apply a "strike" of underlying metal, usually nickel or copper, via a method like electroless plating. In electroless, the electrons for the reduction of the metal ions to the zero-valent state are supplied by a reducing agent in solution:

\begin{align} \ce{Red &-> Ox + 2 e^-} \\ \\ \ce{Ni^{2+} + 2 e^- &-> Ni^0} \end{align}

This "strike" coating is then used to provide the electrical connection necessary to apply the metal of interest—here, copper—by typical galvanic electrodeposition methods.

• This solution came to my mind, but would this "strike" actually hold on to the wood? – Mithoron Nov 19 '17 at 1:28
• @Mithoron As long as the wood was dry and in good condition (not crumbling, rotting, etc.), I would expect the strike to hold quite well, actually. You'd want to use seasoned wood to minimize swelling/shrinking, and you'd have to have the wood submerged for the absolute minimum time possible, but I think it has a decent chance of working. The porosity and texture of the surface should be well suited to it. Of course, there could easily be complications I'm not anticipating. – hBy2Py Nov 19 '17 at 1:36

Dip the wood in a solution of ascorbic acid (Vitamin C; orange juice will do) and soap and allow it to soak. Soaking time will vary by wood variant. then dip the wood in a solution of copper sulfate or another copper salt and soap. The ascorbic acid will reduce the copper, creating a conductive coating. This may need to be repeated to achieve a continuous conductive coating. Finally, rinse and dry and you are all set.

• Homemade electroless, nice! What does the soap do? – hBy2Py Nov 19 '17 at 3:41
• Has this been done before? – HannesH Nov 19 '17 at 12:38
• have you tried this? I would be amazed if orange juice has sufficient ascorbic acid to pull this off, and it has loads of stuff you don't need or want. In the UK you can buy a big tub of ascorbic acid powder from Holland and Barret health foods extremely cheaply. There used to be one called Linus Brand and Boots drugstores also used to do it. I know vitamins are far more difficult to come by in Spain, for example, where I have only seen them in licensed pharmacies. – Level River St Nov 19 '17 at 14:47
• I've done it on glass with pure ascorbic acid. – A.K. Nov 20 '17 at 4:48
• @A.K. I tried this, and it dit not work. I used solutions from tap water which were about saturated (some grains still visible in the vessel) at room temperature. I then dipped pices of beech wood, oak and balsa wood, dried them over night, and then dipped them into the other vessel, over several rounds. I left them in the bath for hours, until the weight hinted that the were fully soaked (it was small pieces). No effect thought. Just a light green colour, which also is what get if you mix the solutions directly. – HannesH Nov 26 '17 at 13:38

Using Marble's Reagent to etch stainless steel, the wood stirrer got coated with copper. Marble's is $\ce{CuSO4}$, $\ce{HCl}$ and water, but I think I added extra $\ce{CuSO4}$.

This isn't technically electroplating, though.

• So that is a mix of hydrochloric acid and copper sulphate? I wonder if the process here is that the wood undergoes hydrolysis from the acid, forming charcoal, which then is a reductand to the copper sulphate. – HannesH Nov 19 '17 at 16:32

It might be possible to evaporate the copper in a vacuum so that it is deposited on the wood. No electric conductivity required.

Here is an example using gold. YouTube: Gold & Casio Watch - Periodic Table of Videos

And a search found this random document about it random document about vacuum evaporation

• The question asks specifically about electro plating. – pipe Nov 19 '17 at 18:55
• @pipe since wood is non-conductive, some way to coat wood with something conductive is a requirement for electroplating, and thus well within my question. – HannesH Nov 19 '17 at 19:43
• The word electroplate in the question is in quotes which I interpreted to mean "not necessarily literal electroplating". – dreamcatcher Nov 20 '17 at 16:32