1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Electrotyping

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ELECTROTYPING, an application of the art of electroplating (q.v.) to typography (q.v.). In copying engraved plates for printing purposes, copper may be deposited upon the original plate, the surface of which is first rendered slightly dirty, by means of a weak solution of wax in turpentine or otherwise, to prevent adhesion. The reversed plate thus produced is then stripped from the first and used as cathode in its turn, with the result that even the finest lines of the original are faithfully reproduced. The electrolyte commonly contains about 11/2 ℔ of copper sulphate and 1/2 ℔ of strong sulphuric acid per gallon, and is worked with a current density of about 10 amperes per sq. ft., which should give a thickness of 0.000563 in. of copper per hour. As time is an object, the conditions alluded to in the article on Copper as being favourable to the use of high current densities should be studied, bearing in mind that a tough copper deposit of high quality is essential. Moulds for reproducing plates or art-work are often taken in plaster, beeswax mixed with Venice turpentine, fusible metal, or gutta-percha, and the surface being rendered conductive by powdered black-lead, copper is deposited upon it evenly throughout. For statuary, and “undercut” work generally, an elastic mould—of glue and treacle (80 : 20 parts)—may be used; the mould, when set, is waterproofed by immersion in a solution of potassium bichromate followed by exposure to sunlight, or in some other way. The best results, however, are obtained by taking a wax cast from the elastic mould, and then from this a plaster mould, which may be waterproofed with wax, black-leaded, and used as cathode. In art-work of this nature the principal points to be looked to in depositing are the electrical connexions to the cathode, the shape of the anode (to secure uniformity of deposition), the circulation of the electrolyte, and, in some cases, the means for escape of anode oxygen. Silver electrotyping is occasionally resorted to for special purposes.