Sep 21, 20182593 views

DIY Titanium Anodizing

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A place for members to share their methods, show off their work, or just ask and answer questions.

I'm still pretty new to this, but will do my best to share what I learn along the way
I had planned to break this up into separate posts, but since MD won't show oldest posts first, that kinda messes up that plan for keeping things in order. This is gonna get long, I'll continue adding to this first post over time.

Safety first :
We're dealing with high voltage Direct Current (DC) electricity here, along with some caustic chemicals.

Be sure to have ventilation when etching your titanium, the gasses this creates aren't pleasant. You should also be wearing gloves and goggles for this.
When anodizing, you should be wearing rubber electricity resistant gloves.

Required equipment :
-A source of DC power

-An electrolytic solution
-A cathode

-Some titanium
-Fresh water

-Whink rust remover
-Windex

Optional:
-Natural sponges, brushes, etc for spot anodizing

-Various abrasives for removing anodization from specific areas for special effects
-Vinyl, electrical tape, nail polish for creating stencils/masks
While this can be done with 9v batteries, I'll be focusing on using a bench top DC power supply. Use of batteries is inconsistent, and difficult to repeat unless you start with fresh batteries for every piece. And at the cost of batteries, you might as well buy the power supply if you plan to do more than a couple pieces.
As far as the electrolytic solution goes, I've seen people use all sorts of things for this. You can use cola, you can buy pre made solutions, I've been having good results with a mixture of 1tbsp TSP (a powdered detergent) and 2tbsp baking soda in a large bowl of water.
The cathode is a piece of conductive material with greater mass than the piece being anodized, this will clip to the negative lead. Many people say it should be of the same material as what you're anodizing/etching...steel for etching steel, copper for etching copper, titanium for anodizing titanium, etc. I've been getting decent enough results using stainless steel, so I haven't invested in a big chunk of titanium to see if it makes a difference.
The Whink rust remover is used to strip the surface of the titanium piece prior to re-anodizing.
Fresh water is used to rinse off the solution after you pull the piece out of the bath
Windex is used to clean the piece after you rinse in water. For some reason this really makes the colors pop as the final step
This is my current setup:
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A stainless steel bowl full of the water/tsp/baking soda mixture, with the negative lead attached directly to the bowl.
Then I place a plastic strainer inside the bowl, to be sure the piece being anodized can't touch the sides and cause a short.
And for added safety I drop that into a larger plastic bowl so that I don't accidentally touch the metal.

The positive lead is clipped to a length of titanium wire so that the clip itself never has to go into the water and get corroded. The piece to anodize hangs from the other end of the wire.
EDIT: updating the following steps after just noticing something in manufacturer instructions for the power supply
From there I make sure the dial is set to 0 volts, attach the handle to the titanium hook, lower it into the bath, then slowly raise it up to the desired voltage.
(this used to read set the voltage first, then lower it in.....that's why i was getting occasional voltage spikes, don't do that.)

I'll leave examples and specific methods for separate posts, along with a list of links I found useful once I have time to collect them.
Only other thing I'll add for now here is this tip:
Always remember when working in more than one color, a higher voltage will change the color of a lower voltage, but a lower voltage will have NO effect on a higher one.
So, if you want to create a sky blue knife with weathered edges showing a bronze color underneath, dip the whole thing at the higher voltage (around 25v for light blue), weather your edges next (via tumbler, sanding, scotch brite, rust eraser, etc), then dip it the second time at the lower voltage (around 9v for a light bronze)

Lastly, here's a generic color chart to get started with. Note that the actual colors will vary depending on your solution and the type of finish on the metal
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(not my pic, but it's been passed around so many times I don't know who to give credit to)
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Dale Butterfield, fhood, and 42 others
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Does solution temperature have an impact? and have you tried using straight borax powder solution?
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I certainly don't feel like this knife stuff is work yet, but mainly because I don't have other people asking me to do it for them lol Other creative hobbies have been woodworking/turning, leatherworking, digital artwork / photography / photo editing...but it doesn't take much for me to switch from hobby to work brain. With the wood stuff, for example, I've spent many many hours making things as gifts, and enjoyed every bit of it. But the minute i go out and buy a bunch of wood and turning project kits, with no one in particular in mind to make them for, it immediately feels like a chore and i haven't made a single one of them...even though most of the projects are super quick and easy, and would be great practice. I get your points, and I don't disagree with anything in particular...I'm just weird about this stuff. Most times I'd rather make something and give it away to someone I know than turn around and profit off it from a stranger. Hell, the one time i did try selling something to a casual friend, i ended up telling him to give the money to a fundraiser he was helping with instead lol For whatever reason it just didn't seem as appealing once he was ready to hand over the cash. It was a turned acrylic shaving brush and, cheesy as this sounds, seeing how excited and impressed he was with it was satisfying enough
Kavik
Lol, well, I’m glad the folks at Two Sun are a little more willing to be validated by cash. But I can dig it. Gotta dance to the beat you hear.
The anodizing on my FF knives has been rather atrocious. It wears poorly and shows scratches very easily. I hope that you get up some data. I will likely try to redo mine.
14themoney
I don't really know how one company's anodizing could hold up to scratches any better than another, to be honest. I mean, with aluminum anodizing you're dying the top layer of metal, and from what I understand there are ways of getting the dye to go deeper, meaning it would take a heavier scratch to get back through to bare metal. But with titanium anodizing you're adding a layer of oxidization on the surface. The different voltages cause thicker or thinner layers, which is what causes the light to appear different colors by refraction when the visible light passes back through after reflecting off the surface. Per Wiki: "An anodized oxide layer has a thickness in the range of 30 nanometers (1.2×10−6 in) to several micrometers." That's a super super thin layer of, essentially, surface rust. None of these should be very wear resistant. I think that's the whole reason why the multi-colored stonewashed / tumbled looks started to become popular in the first place. They know we can't avoid scratching these things, so they come up with a way to camouflage the scratches instead of trying to avoid them
Kavik
Thank you. That was very informative. Maybe I'll try and find that can of Rustoleum Applicance Epoxy. Psi. I will take a bit more care of them in the future.
Just came across this discussion and I have to say I wish I had found this thread a few weeks back. I have been searching all over the place for the details that are laid out in this discussion. I know this isn't a knife but here's the latest anodizing of my TiScribe Bolt .
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viper24bw
Certainly not limited to knives in this discussion :) Yeah, none of this info is necessarily new, but helps having it all in one place sometimes. I come back here myself all the time when I forget how I did something the last time lol
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@mike.j @DougFLA123 Figured out my new setup over the weekend 😁 Since the titanium plate I got was too thick to bend into a cylinder, I decided to go for a hexagon with an open gap to adjust for the final size of the interior barrier (still most likely drilled pvc, but I haven't gone out to buy that yet) Cut out a section first using a nibbler, so that 5 panels sit below the surface of the glass jar, and one panel has a tab coming out of the water for the negative clamp. Set up a fence on my drill press and set the depth to roughly half the thickness of the sheet, then got to work drilling a couple hundred dimples to make fold lines. Then clamped a straight edge to the edge of a table and bent by hand to the appropriate angle. The part with the hand held, drill mounted nibbler got a little sloppy, but the rest came out pretty darn good i think 😁
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That tab has been bent down over the edge of the glass so it's out of the way. Just need to finish filing some edges smooth, so there's no risk of snagging the expensive electrical gloves on anything, and make the inner sleeve, and I'll be all set! Did do a couple test pieces, and it does work well. It seems quicker and more consistent than the stainless steel bowl setup...but I can't say if it really is, or if it's in my head. What I CAN say for certain is it takes up a helluva lot less counter space and feels like a more professional setup
(Edited)
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This is the model I'm using. Searching the model, I see prices from $60-$130. I paid the higher end, but came with express shipping. Got it from China in 6 days. https://rover.ebay.com/rover/0/0/0?mpre=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.ebay.com%2Fulk%2Fitm%2F263168440086

Bflying
Thanks, I'll add it to the list to look at 👍
This is getting so frustrating. I love the deep, textured colors you can get on these bead blasted titanium handles, but it's SO unpredictable from one piece to the next! These two pieces for my Dao were done identically (yes, both had stencils on them to start)
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The one on the right was done first. Was meant to have that deep, rich, coppery-bronze like in the left in the scales. The shadowy greyish-purple between the scales came out as intended. Couldn't get the dark bronze to come through, so i left it at the light bronze and resigned myself to making the other one match The one in the left was done at the same voltage for the bronze, but when I removed the mask and dipped for the lower voltage purple it reacted completely unexpectedly. It erased the scales that should have been a higher voltage color and instead made the whole thing this gorgeous mottled solid finish. But....it's a one shot deal on these blasted finishes. If I strip it then it won't react the same when I anodize again. I'd be happy to keep that copper as is and forgo the idea of the scale pattern, but now I can't make the lock side match. So annoyed right now. Going to have to strip them both, re-cut the templates, go through applying all that again, then end up with something that isn't going to match the finish on my Buc as intended @DougFLA123 This is my failed attempt at making up those vinyl template instructions for you lol
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Well, that might be pushing it a little lol I'm just hoping it makes a noticeable difference in the speed and quality of the work 😁
Kavik
I don't know what I'm the world made me think 1/16" titanium sheet would be thin enough to bend by hand to fit into a cylinder 😳 Dumbass lol This just got more complicated, but I'm still committed to making it work, for keeping the "bath" small with anodes around multiple sides. I feel like this will help with consistency, and allow the higher voltage to work without raising the amps by having to travel through so much water. More to come soon 😉
I have a collection I would love to sell some at great buys if interested let me know.
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Knives......i am not looking to make money, just own way too many and would like to thin it out. None were ever used ...all in perfect condition from manufacturers....
BarryO
Ah, wasn't sure if maybe you were talking anodizing supplies since, ya know, this is an anodizing info thread lol If you got a list of what you're looking to get rid of, I'd give it a read though w_wolfie over at the good ol' yahoo dot com
With the arrival of my Dao, i decided I needed to do something a little different on the Buc from my original post, since the handles are way too similar. A bit of a reference to it's Buccaneer / pirate-y lineage 😁 I've actually had this idea in mind for a while, but finally had time to sit down and play with the vinyl cutter tonight.
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Looks better in person, a very subtle "ghost" effect Unfortunately, gonna have to redo the whole thing. Had some issues with the vinyl sticking, and a couple uneven spots (the purple highlights were unintentional). Plus there are a couple scuffs and scratches that need covering anyway. But still, thought it was a decent enough first attempt to share 😁 And before it goes back together this time, the hardware is all getting torched. That shiny silver needs to go.
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What's hilarious to me about the Buc and Dao is how similar yet individual they are. I saw the Dao and thought, 'dammit, I would have only grabbed one Buc if I had known'. Then I get the Dao and immediately think 'this is exactly what I was expecting, but different. Maybe I need a spare Dao as well...'
Omniseed
Lol you know, if they'd been released at the same time, I might have only gotten the Dao. I do love the unique looks of the Buc, but I rarely carry/use it. It's a little ridiculous if I need to cut something in public But, I don't regret owning both 😁
Sharing some new work.
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Here you go
Ender12
Very interesting, thanks for sharing! And agreed on the update ZT post above. The depth is good 👍
Cool thread! I have a ti ZT 0450 had professionally anodized but havent tried it myself yet. I do have a ti twosun knife i might just try diy anodize
Cdoyle
It can definitely be a fun little hobby :) I gotta get back to a few knives I have waiting to be done, but keep getting distracted
Here is a two sun knife I've been tinkering with.
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Gunnersmate2
What's the model number on that one? That looks like a fun one to experiment with, with all those levels
Kavik
I think it's the ts68. Sorry it took so long to reply
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Ahhhh, that's unfortunate. I thought you had that by now
Kavik
It was supposed to arrive over a week ago but got lost or missdelivered so they had to send out another. Should be here early next week, fingers crossed.
So I said I would post pictures of this Kiser knife I got to experiment on a while ago but I finally got time off work so here it is. I tried "painting" the flames with a q tip and ended up shocking myself and halted all work until I get some gloves. The q tip for me was hard to use and I'm going to look for another way to paint the flames @Kavik
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Have you seen the YouTube video where the guy heats his titanium ring with a torch then quenches it in wd 40 and repeats it like 4 times to get a black finish? If not I'll try and find it and post a link.
Gunnersmate2
Ah, didn't realize that one started out coated. My favorite part about all this is how easy it is to strip and start over if you aren't happy with the results 😁 Yeah, Balsa will probably work. Just let the piece soak for a while before you're ready to start using it I have seen that video, definitely something I want to try! But I don't know if it's safe to do on a frame lock or if it will mess up the temper that keeps the lock section springy. Will need to research some more first
More fun (practice) with sponges on the Kizer GPB1 set to 80v. Sponge sort of medium damp.
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Still not quite what I was planning, but neat enough to leave like this for now and revisit it later
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Ya I think they fixed some of the website bugs @DougFLA123
@Kavik @Gunnersmate2
Awesome, glad that's finally working again! @Gunnersmate2 Yeah, i have a friend who has a small Leatherworking business, we've been talking for a while about building one of those for forming leather masks and such. Definitely looks like a lot of fun for that. And would love to be able to do my own wood laminates and micarta
Trying this again, last post seems to have disappeared Bestech Shrapnel, in pieces
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I couldnt find the Minitherium discussion...but anyway, when you purchased it at BladeHQ.com, were you charged sales tax? I’ve never been charged sales tax by them in the past, but it looks like I would be now if I purchase from them. In the past only Utah residents would be charged sales tax. Is this a thing now? Is it a state by state thing or all states?
DougFLA123
https://www.massdrop.com/talk/10140/kizer-minitherium-in-cf?utm_source=linkshare&referer=94FC7J No, I wasn't. Maybe they opened a warehouse or something in your state?
At www.reactivemetals.com they have an anodizing paintbrush setup that looks very user friendly and safe. I shocked myself trying the "paint" method and didn't enjoy it very much. lol. @kavik
Gunnersmate2
Yeah, i tried making a home made version myself and melted the bristles trying to solder it together lol shoulda been a natural hair brush I guess Get a pair : Magid Safety M011B9 Electrical Gloves | ASTM D120-09 Compliant Class 0 Rubber Electrical Insulating Gloves with Straight Cuff, Work, 11" Length, Size 9, Black (1 Pair) https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00BAZXF2O/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_apa_MLW1Bb5E3MEH9 Seriously. I wear them any time I'm doing something by hand, or even just to be on the safe side if doing a higher voltage bath
Kavik
I have a pair on the way. I'm done painting until I get them because of the higher voltages. I also got a tekpower power supply coming. Tired of fooling around with my setup
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I was finally able to get yellow. Because of my cheap power supply I've been having issues with yellow/gold. It's not a color I particularly like it just frustrates me when I can't do something.
Sharing my latest work.
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I used nail polish.
Depends on what you want done.
Great thread. I can't believe I'm just now finding it. Thank you for pulling all this info together in one spot. Much better than my random scattered posts on different knives. 👍🏻 Love seeing all the creative stuff being done.
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Yes, I really like that splatter picture on the target too! Could that splatter have been done with wax, which I assume would be easier to clean up than nail polish? Really nice work! So much fun to see what everyone is capable of and how nice anodization can turn out!
Same issue with this site
Thank You for this post. I'd really like to learn more about anodizing.., perhaps one day try it out myself🤷‍♂️. KT✌
KT83
👍 Have fun, be safe 😁
I'll have a couple more to add soon, still tweaking them and need to get pics
New knife, TwoSun TS35 FireAnt Just arrived today, so I had it apart to inspect it and figured what the hell, might as well anodize it lol
From
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To this
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In about 45 minutes for setup, cleaning, testing colors, anodizing, weathering (same method I did on the Buc, just slightly different colors), and anodizing again
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I'm digging the CF accent over deep purple, and the dark bronze against the purple too Purple at 19v
Bronze at 12v Unfortunately, this one is showing fingerprints and changing colors where touched more than any others I've done so far 🤔
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Ohhhhh! Haha fair enough (was just giving you a hard time anyway.... And wanted to make sure you saw the new post with the Shrapnel. I love how it turned out :) until I touch it 😩)
Kavik
I missed the shrapnel will look now
So here is my new project. I picked up this kizer, Ki4447A1 for $70. It's not a knife I will ever carry, I got it just to practice anodizing and other finishes. The flames are ridiculous to me but I figured I could practice using the "painting" method, positive to work piece and negative lead to anything porous like a sponge or like kavik did with a chop stick, on them.
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My thoughts exactly. I don't necessarily like the design on the handles but it was on sale and I needed a knife to practice on.
Gunnersmate2
It looks like you can play with coloring the background and the flames until you come up with some really nice combination.
That's dope man! I like your method of using the strainer in the bowl as opposed to hanging it from somewhere. I'm gonna give it a go and see if it works better than my method of using a piece of wire to hang it on. Of course if you're anodizing multiple pieces at the same time, the wire hangers might be the way to go since you don't want them in contact with each other.
maxbernstein
I still hang the piece from a wire to connect to the positive lead, but the plastic basket let's me be less concerned about touching the sides when lowering it in by hand, and let's me stir it around to shake off any air bubbles as they form
I've only done things a piece at a time so far, but I was under the impression it's okay for pieces to touch? I've seen some small part batches done in piles in a strainer with a wand for a positive lead poking and stirring at the pieces till they're all colored
Hope it works out to your advantage :)
Stay on topic the moderator is a controlling little prick and he gets upset very easily..
Bullhaulerz
Who's upset here bud? 😘
What kind of knife is that in the tutorial?
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If you dont wanna buy all that there some boy in Wyoming that are turning out some quality work ar a reasonable price it's called bladeswelove.com
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I can't, no. The post was flagged by a member and deleted by MD.... Like most of his posts 🙄 Of course, now that his posts are gone, I gotta clean up my responses that make no sense now lol
Kavik
Lol, it is funny when posts go away and what’s left makes no sense. 😀
Latest work.
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The shiny side was sanded like crazy. Started at 100 and worked my way up to 2k. This is how it looked before ano.
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Ender12
I just recently picked up a Spyderco Mantra with titanium handles and I'm thinking of anodizing it. I think I'm going to bead blast it then etch then anodize it to see if I can get a matte finish
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Here’s a sith buc I did for a customer
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Gunmonkey1974
Are you taking orders?
MadCadder
Email me ... gunmonkey1974@gmail.com I can find out what you’re looking for and let you know if it’s possible
So I did this for my wife. Had to get her in on my knife addiction. I think it's working she was really into the ano and the process of it. To be honest she did most of the work on this knife, I broke my hand and can barely dress myself so I got my better half to do the work on this.
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this is her knife and she wanted it purple but once it was all purple she and I didn't like the look so we gradually increased the voltage while pulling the scale out of the bath. Nothing fancy but not bad for a one handed gimp and a rookie.imo
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Ohhhhh, no, no..... If I create it for you I'm likely to name you in the title and give it some wiseass description lol
Just go to the Blades category, click the Talk tab up top, then click the Create Post button. Pick your category, and write your post 👍
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Kavik
Ah, thank you! : )
Here you go @DougFLA123, the promised sponge pics :)
Just a rough torn natural sea sponge dipped in the same solution I use for the bath. Positive connected to the handle, negative holding the sponge. Rubber gloves on for this, too much chance of accidental contract
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Set your voltage to the max you want for the colors. It should end up around that color in the spots with most contact, and tapering away towards the edges, back down the spectrum. Re-dip your sponge as needed, keep it fairly wet but not dripping.
The results :
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Not too shabby for the first try 😁 My original plan for this knife was actually to try and "paint" a craggy cherry blossom branch across it....this might be the key to making that possible, and I may be saving that lightning effect for my Dao when it arrives And a side note, be mindful of the surface you're working on lol
I just had it sitting on a paper towel on the counter, and when the towel got wet.......
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Which lead to a whole other experiment on the flip side, sponging through a paper towel at varying voltages, and transferring the texture from the towel while creating a (sloppy) gradient.....with a little work, this could become something cool too
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The possibilities for things to experiment with are literally endless! Lol
Kavik
Oh! I’m just seeing this for the first time! Very interesting!
Up next, the Kizer Wakulla....a knife I didn't love once I got it in hand, but my visions for this one when I saw the drop was part of what inspired me to try anodizing....so it had to be done anyway lol
Prep: Went over the whole thing with a 240 grit scouring pad type thing mounted on the drill press (part of a paint removal/surface prep kit), then a quick dip in Whink to etch
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Step 1:
Anodize the inside of the "mesh" in a 75-95v gradient by bringing the whole thing up to 75v, then raising the voltage while slowly pulling the piece out of the bath
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Clearly I need more practice at the timing and smoothness of this method, but since it's just for the inside of the mesh I thought it'd be okay
Step 2: Wetsanded the top surface with some 1000 grit paper wrapped around a wine cork to give it a firm backing that could follow the contours
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Step 3: Anodize the surface of the "mesh" with a 55-75v gradient (in hindsight, i should've let more purple into the gradient)
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Step 4: Start bungling things up lol
I first tried carefully sanding around the center section, that was a pain in the ass. Then I tried using a rust eraser sponge, that was worse than the sandpaper. Finally i decided to just mask off the whole center area with nail polish so I could etch it again, telling myself the polished mesh area will pop more anyway if the rest of the handle has a more matte finish lol
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It was right around this time that i inexplicably started craving strawberries 😂 Step 5:
Learn to gather supplies BEFORE starting a random project at 11:00 at night 🙄 This is as far as I got before finding out I'm out of acetone
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Kavik
Was it difficult to remove the nail polish? Could nail polish remover affect the titanium in some way?
DougFLA123
Easy as pie... I went to home depot and bought a gallon of acetone (that's way overkill, but i'll use it for other stuff for years to come lol) and soaked them in a shallow pyrex dish for all of about 30 seconds before it started coming up on its own. Then an old toothbrush helped make sure everything came out of the grooves
But that was on a deep cut surface. If just painting a mask on a flat surface it could be wiped off with a cotton disk soaked in the stuff
It didn't seem to affect the metal, or the existing anodization in any way. But I'd think it's probably best to use the 100% pure acetone type remover, make sure it's not one with fragrance and moisturizers built in, just to minimize risks of complications