What is Anodising?
Anodising is an electrochemical process whereby a metal is submerged in an electrolyte solution and an electric current is applied, transforming the surface of the metal to form an oxide layer. Anodising enhances the metal’s appeal as depending on the voltage applied, a range of vibrant and bright colours can be created on the surface. The higher the voltage, the more oxidised the surface becomes and the deeper the colour changes. Titanium is ideal for anodising but other nonferrous metals such as magnesium and aluminium can also be anodised.
The titanium oxide layer gives the perception of colour due to an interference phenomenon, similar to a prism. Light reflects from both the oxide layer and the underlying titanium at different angles and those reflections interfere with each other. Certain wavelengths of light cancel each other out or combine, so that the remaining light is perceived as colour. The great thing about anodising is that no dyes or chemicals are used, so it is in fact a highly controlled oxidation and enhancement of a naturally occurring phenomenon!
Anodising allows you to customise your Snow Peak Titanium products into unique, beautiful, and personal items that you can cherish for years to come. As anodising involves a reaction of titanium oxide rather than a paint or plating, it cannot chip or peel so you don’t have to worry about how your products will age. In fact, anodising actually increases resistance to corrosion and wear. Nevertheless, as we are just increasing the natural oxide layer, the layer will start to wear after use so colours may change slightly over time, adding even more charm to your unique item.
Our customers love anodising our whole Snow Peak Titanium range to create truly unique and colourful effects and customise their pieces. Snow Peak Titanium Sporks, Chopsticks, Mugs, Plates, Trek Combinations, Double or Single Wall, you name it – if its titanium, we can anodise it!
Titanium is extremely lightweight, durable, and highly resistant to corrosion, all of which makes it an ideal material for use in the outdoors. Anodising can add that personal touch to your technical gear when hiking or camping, or a splash of colour on your kitchen shelves which makes it so popular no matter where your interests lie. Kids and adults alike love the engaging and impressive process of anodising and delight in witnessing the bright colours transform before their eyes, often creating surprising results.
Firstly, we set up our Anodising Station on the IGT Three Unit Frame with the left and right extensions for added surface area. The set-up includes a DC power supply connected to a metal bucket filled with saline solution that we hold in our Waterproof Unit Gear Bag 220. The solution is created by mixing water with salt, so you don’t have to worry about any harmful chemicals coming into contact with your titanium products or your skin.
Next, we connect the circuit by attaching clips to the saline bath (the cathode), and the Titanium Spork, Chopsticks, Mug or Plate (the anode).
Finally, we dip the Titanium item into the solution and start to increase the voltage of the circuit. Depending on the surface area of the item, the titanium will react at a different pace, with sporks and chopsticks reacting and changing colour almost instantly. We draw the titanium product out slowly or quickly whilst adjusting the voltage to achieve the desired effect and colour. All sorts of outcomes can be created, including colourful gradients, rainbows, or sharp blocks of colour. However, even though we refer to a voltage-colour chart when anodising, precise colour control can be difficult to achieve so results can sometimes be unexpected. Nevertheless, the outcome is always unique and impressive!
Over the months, our team have experimented with anodising, and have discovered all sorts of techniques to elevate our anodising skills! Since the debut of our in-store anodising at the Snow Peak Summer Festival 2022, we have anodised a wide range of beautiful and unique titanium products, highly personal to each customer!
As the final perceived colour of the titanium item depends on the thickness of the oxide layer, which can be adjusted by varying the voltage and the immersion time, we wondered if there were any other ways that we could alter the anodising process and started experimenting with other creative techniques.
We experimented with blocking out sections of colour using nail varnish and then removing it, but this proved to be a slightly messy process, so we went on to develop the sticker method, described below.
The Sticker Method
One technique that we have developed for more creative anodising is the ‘Sticker Method’. This involves freehand cutting or drawing a design on a sticker sheet and then cutting it out. For example, you could create sticker initials, stripes, stars, hearts, or other shapes.
The sticker’s function is that once applied to the surface of the titanium, it creates a barrier so that the titanium won’t oxidise (and therefore change colour) underneath. This enables you to keep an area a certain colour whilst changing the colour around it. For example, you could anodise a mug pink, apply a sticker to the area you want to keep pink, and then anodise the rest of the mug to a darker colour (for example purple, blue or green). When you peel off the sticker, the surface underneath will have (hopefully!) retained the original colour. However, if there are any air bubbles or the anodising voltage is too high, it can sometimes penetrate into the sticker and create less of a defined line. Tip: press the sticker firmly onto the surface of your titanium item to minimise chances of this happening!
The Sponge Method
Our Assistant Store Manager Lyam discovered the ‘Sponge Method’ which involves soaking a small piece of sponge in saline solution and attaching a clip to it to pass the current through as the cathode and applying the damp sponge directly to the surface of the Titanium product to create a more dappled effect. Our Retail Associate Seb (otherwise known as our in-store Anodising Expert!) has taken this method one step further by using the sponge to draw thin lines, as if it were a pencil.
We often use the ‘Sponge Method’ in conjunction with the ‘Sticker Method’ to create intricate designs and patterns on our Titanium Mugs, for example, this landscape scenery that Seb anodised onto a Single Wall 450 Mug in Blue:
(This took Seb 8 hours to make!)
Key Points to Remember:
As anodising involves a reaction of titanium oxide with an electric current, it cannot be reversed once a certain voltage is applied. In other words, once you’ve anodised a product to a certain voltage (for example, fuchsia pink – 80V), it cannot return to yellow, orange or gold (all lower than 65V), but it can be anodised to blue (95V) or green (100V).
Bare in mind that more surface area there is, the longer it will take for the surface to react and anodise. Even though the whole process is very quick and only takes a few minutes, the reaction will occur much faster for an item such as Titanium Chopsticks, compared to the Titanium Trek 700, for example.
We have been able to achieve the most intense colours by starting with our Blue Titanium range (Blue Sporks, Chopsticks, Mugs) as you can see in the image below . However, by starting with a silver-coloured Titanium product, you can also achieve beautiful results in slightly more earthy tones.
(Silver spork on the left)
Most importantly, we do emphasise that due to the magic of anodising, results can be unpredictable with unexpected colours being produced – but this is all part of the fun!
It only takes a few minutes to anodise, so why not come into store to watch the magic of anodising and witness for yourself this cool, fun process!