Thanks for any help.
Thanks for any help.
This frustrated email arrived today:
I live in Belgium (Europe) and have been making titanium jewellery for 4 or 5 years now. Sometimes I colour the pieces. I have a machine from Wieland, a German company. All this time I did not have any problems because the pieces I made had always the same size. Now lately we are doing titanium leaves in various sizes; Grade 2 thickness 0.5 mm. The problem with coloring these pieces is that I do not seem to have any control over the colours due to the variable sizes of the pieces. Is there a way to make a formula that gives me control (more or less) by taking the weight of the piece? Because of the irregular shape it is impossible to know the amount of surface I am working with.
At the moment I am really taking what comes out of the machine. I did make several colour charts using various shapes but with pieces 6 to7 times as big as my trials I have no control .
I would be very grateful if you have some advise on this, or maybe even a solution.
Thanks in advance.
My reply: I can’t know exactly what the problem is, for I encounter the same difficulties.
The color you end up with is a function of the electrical current density, the total time, the surface finish, and the grade/alloy (which also affects finish and current flow).
The weight is not as good an indicator as the surface area. If all the pieces are always the same thickness, then the two are functionally interchangeable. But the risk is that if you calibrate on weight, and then start working with other thicknesses, the calibration will not stand.
I passed the question on to Bill Seeley.
Another reader question:
I am thinking of making an anodizer based on your anodizer digram. I live in the UK but was thinking that the volts for your electricity is different from the UK’s 240 volts?If so do you know any diagrams that can help me with this, what I need to change?
If you really want to use the inferior dimmer-switch design, you can probably find a simple step-down transformer to cut your voltage in half upstream of the rest of the circuit.
Then came a follow-up:
Thank you for your reply; it was a big help. I am going to be doing the variable transformer one. I have been looking for stuff, but wow its hard to find anything that is needed.
I didn’t like the idea of using light bulbs, so I wanted to get Power resistor 200w 100 ohm but no one sells them, any idea of other Power resistors that I could use?
I found several by a simple search for 200 watt resistors on eBay. You could vary the search for whatever power and resistance values you want, or use a search to find a good seller, and then ask them if they have what you need.
There are also a wide variety of variable transformers on eBay. But these heavy items cost more to ship, especially internationally.
Before the internet, I always shopped an electronics salvage store in my county. Many cities have at least one of those. Some junk yards and metal salvage yards also have a room full of gizmos that seem too nice to melt down. Call around.
Note: If you are not comfortable rewiring a lamp or replacing an electrical outlet, then you are probably not qualified to build your own anodizer. Buy a read-made regulated 0-150 vdc power supply.
Another question from a visitor to my regular site:
I’m starting to anodize on my own. How do they create that color “oil slick” in the picture or the “rainbow”?
The many simple colors are all based on voltage, as described in my anodizing page.
The stripes are made by masking off areas with something waterproof, like automotive striping tape. Then anodize to a high voltage color. Then remove the tape, and anodize to a lower color. The high voltage color blocks the lower voltage colors. Voila, stripes!
The rainbow can be made in several ways. The fastest is to turn the voltage up and the contacts off, immerse the piece, then turn the contacts on and draw the piece out of the electrolyte. The color is now dependent on the immersion time rather than the voltage setting.
The oil slick is trickier. This is probably done by sponge or brush anodizing (clip the positive lead to the piece, and the negative to something absorbent soaked in electrolyte. Then very carefully apply the high voltage wet thing to the charged piece. Rubber gloves and goggles are required. If metal touches metal, then you are practicing welding. Bright sparks, damaged pieces, and possibly damaged electronics.
The short answer is: “No.”
In detail, the colors are caused by a particular trick of physics: Optical Interference. As is described in detail on this page, the colors are limited by the behavior of photons. There is no dye or coloring agent to give us precise control.
Red, in particular, cannot be produced because it’s wavelength is twice as long as blue. So if the interference allows red, it also allows the shorter blue through. This creates the secondary color called Magenta, red-violet, or purple.
Here’s another question I frequently get:
I followed your instructions on building an anodizer and I would like to say that you have made a great job illustrating it. My anodizer is the dimmer and light bulb type it delivers a maximum of 160 Volts.I prepared a solution of TSP in distilled water placed the cathode (aluminum foil) and the Ti at the anode ran the circuit. The voltage keeps rising slowly and I get shades instead of definite colors (mostly violet, golden and pale blue). I can’t hold the voltage at a definite value. What should I do to get smooth colors? I tried adjusting the voltage first then immersing the piece but the voltage after immersing is lower than what I’ve just set it to. Please help me out here and thanks in advance.David S.
First of all, the dimmer based voltage control is going to be a bit temperamental and unstable. But I used one myself for years before replacing the dimmer with a Variac.
Aluminum should work for a cathode, but should be lightly sanded to remove the invisible insulating oxide layer that spontaneously forms. I usually use titanium, but have been told by many that stainless steel works well.
When you have a large capacitor smoothing a the choppy dimmer voltage, the top end will be a bit mushy. The lower voltages are the worst for this effect. The tan, violet and blues are at the low end of the voltage scale.
Another issue in getting smooth colors is getting the voltage everywhere simultaneously. You should have the piece to be anodized immersed in the solution before completing the circuit to the leads. That is, you need a switch to turn the leads on and off, while the anodizer is running at the voltage you want.
Cleaning and chemically etching the metal before anodizing also helps assure a uniform color, and is generally considered necessary for getting the higher voltage colors.
The voltage measured on the leads or capacitor will drop when you start anodizing, and should rise back to your preset voltage in a minute or so. The time depends on how big a piece you are anodizing, how big your cathode is, and on the efficiency of your electrolyte.
Another possible problem might be the material of your attachment to the anode piece. Only titanium or niobium should touch the electrolyte at the positive side. Never use copper wire or regular (galvanized or tinned) alligator clips to immerse your piece. The current will just go though that, and little will be applied to your piece.
Here is a typical question that I get asked:
I would like your advice: Besides the plastic container, what else do I need to anodize titanium grade 23 or grade 5. I called Reactive Metals to buy the machine for $206 , they told me to buy a mesh but I do not know what or where to buy it. I am a little scared of getting hurt if I do not know how it really works.
Any help will be really appreciated.
The question seems to be, what is needed to get started. Peter has already bought an anodizer, a 0-150vdc voltage supply.
The “mesh” might be one of three things.
One can easily weave your own basket from titanium or niobium wire.
One important final note: If you are afraid of getting hurt, please do some more reading about electricity and safety precautions. Wear rubber gloves, and always double check where all the live contacts are when you are working. Read my old anodizing page over until you understand everything in it. It may not be complete, so do ask questions to help me fill it out.
Let’s assume that you found or are given a metal piece, strip, sheet, rod or wire that you hope is titanium. Titanium can be many colors, and it might have any number of coatings. I’ve received titanium covered with rust, that transferred from a piece of steel in a wet shed. I have some titanium now that has a tenacious ceramic-like coating that conducts electricity, and is a bear to grind off. I had to get it all off of a piece to do and anodizer test.
How do you tell if it really is titanium?
First: Titanium is non-magnetic. If a magnet sticks, then no. I always carry a neodymium magnet for scrap yards and estate sales.
Are there any grade markings on it? If so, there are many that might mean titanium in its many grades and alloys. Most alloys can be anodized. I usually Google the numbers to see what variation of what grade I find in scrap yards. Many different specifications exist for chemically/commercially pure titanium, depending on sub percentage trace elements (mostly oxygen) and what certifications it has received (mil-spec, medical, etc).
File or sand off an edge to be sure you are looking at the bare metal. It should be a shiny dark silver. Compare it to a piece of (freshly scratched) aluminum; it should be much darker. If the fresh metal is a different color, then, no.
Does it anodize to color? If you can get to a bare piece of metal, just apply a moist cathode (paper towel) to the positive-attached metal. 9v should do to get a slight tan tinge. 18v (2 9v batteries) will take you to dark violet.
Note:Niobium and tantalum will color the same way. But they are heavier and softer and more expensive.
If you touch it to a typical rotary hard grinder, the sparks should be bright blue-white.
If you have a way to measure its specific gravity (ratio of weight to volume, water is 1.0 g/cc) then you have another good test.
Titanium and its alloys range closely around 4.5 g/cc.
Aluminum is noticeably lighter (2.7 g/cc),
Iron and steel are distinctly heavier (7.8 g/cc).
Tantalum is much heavier (16 g/cc).
Niobium is about the same as brass (8.5 g.cc)
Copper, bronze, and brass are up to 9 g/cc, but you’ve already eliminated them by color.
If you have samples of steel and aluminum in the same size range, the relative weight is easy to check.
Shavings of titanium (from drilling or milling) burn much as magnesium strip does. Shield your eyes if you resort to this test. btw: Magnesium is much lighter in weight (1.7 g/cc).
Titanium is colored by applying oxygen to the metal surface, usually through a process called anodizing. There is a pretty good description of how to anodize titanium on MrTitanium’s website. There is also a page that tries to explain how oxygen makes it colorful. If there are questions or suggestions after reading those, I’d like to see them. Feedback given here may modify those pages.
Don’t confuse anodizing titanium with anodizing aluminum. The electro-chemistry is similar, but the procedure, electrolyte, voltage needed, current consumed, the time it takes, and safety hazards are different. You can anodize aluminum with a titanium anodizer, but not the other way around.
Safety issues with titanium are mostly high voltage related. The electrolytes recommended are generally safe enough to use on your garden for fertilizer or pest control: Ammonium phosphate is lawn fertilizer, and TSP is a cheap detergent that can be used to control plant parasites, and washes down to enhance root growth.
MrTitanium started working with titanium in 1981, joined the web in the late 1990’s, created a name for himself (URL) in 2002. Finally in 2008 he has decided to conquer the blog fear and join the blogosphere.
The purpose of this blog is to discuss anything titanium, to let anyone knowledgeable contribute, and to let seekers find their way. I also am happy to entertain Niobium and tantalum talk.
For detailed rules, visit the Purpose and Rules page.
If you’d like to contribute, just post a response or two in appropriate places. If I like what you write, I may invite you to join as a contributor and let you create posts. If you find no appropriate post to addend, then send me an email and we’ll work something out.