Ugly Box Electrolysis Unit

Getting started with the Ugly Box Electrolysis Unit

in Serious Detecting Blog

The Ugly Box Electrolysis Unit is a nifty product that everyone interested in cleaning their finds should consider buying. It is designed to stabilize dug coins, metallic artifacts and jewelry by slowing (or stopping) future degradation. In addition, the process will clean the treated object, helping to remove oxidation, encrustations and other contaminating materials

Included in the box

  • Ugly Box unit
  • Brine powder (mix approx.1 tsp per cup of water)
  • 3 leads, with alligator clips
  • 6-volt battery pack, for accessories
  • Carbon catalyst rod
  • THUNDER accessory
  • THRASHER accessory (with extra steel wool in the handle)


You will also need

  • Tank (small Tupperware or similar, not metal)
  • 1x 9 volt (rectangular) battery
  • 4x AA batteries
  • Water, enough to cover coin/object
Ugly Box Figure

Some basics: Warnings!

  1. The Ugly Box electrolysis process produces very low levels and small quantities of hydrogen gas. Use in a ventilated area.
  2. Never rig the Ugly Box to a wall-plug socket. The potentially higher voltage can damage the device AND there is a risk of fire.
  3. Never use a 9-volt battery on the ‘Accessory’ side of the Ugly Box (diagram H). ONLY use the included 6-volt pack (4 AA batteries). The higher voltage will damage the accessories (Thunder / Thrasher).



  1. Nickels (pure nickel and nickel alloys) should not be treated with the Ugly box; as there is a risk of discoloration and other damage.
  2. Copper objects - including pennies - are treated a little differently. Start off the process with leads at opposite ends of the tank and run the unit for short durations.
  3. The Thunder accessory is designed to be submerged in the tank and is waterproof. It can sit on the bottom of the tank and/or physically touch the treated object for the greatest effect. The Thunder should be powered on for short bursts - 5 to 10 seconds at a time, 20 seconds MAX. Multiple Thunder activations can be used per session.
  4. The Thrasher accessory is NOT designed to be submerged. The object being treated should already be ‘cooked’ with the Ugly Box and should be wet. Thrasher can be used in-between electrolysis sessions. Do not attempt to clean the item in one sitting. It is designed to remove heavy layers of degradation in layers and should be employed in multiple applications.


Setup & Use:

  1. You will need the following: a. Ugly Box kit b. Tank, large enough to fully submerge object. Ideally, plastic (never metal); small Tupperware containers work great. The smaller the better. c. 9-volt battery (rectangle battery) to power the electrolysis process d. 4, AA batteries to power the accessories
  2. Place clean tap water in the tank, enough to cover the object being treated.
  3. Add brine; approximately a teaspoon/cup of water (you don’t need much) and stir.
  4. Attach a 9-volt battery (diagram I.)
  5. There are three colored leads included in the kit, with alligator clips on each end. It does not matter which color lead is used for any specific part of the process. We recommend using one specific lead always for the catalyst side of the circuit.
  6. Attach one end of the first lead to the object being treated – make sure it is touching the base metal surface. Attach the other end of the first lead to the node labeled COIN. (diagram D). Submerge the object in the brine tank.
  7. Attach one end of the second lead to the carbon catalyst rod (included). Attach the other end to the node labeled CATALYST (diagram B). Submerge the catalyst rod in the brine tank. The user should re-use the same lead over and over for the catalyst side of the electrolysis unit. This lead will break down and periodically needs to be replaced.
  8. *** IMPORTANT. Attach the third lead to the two nodes (red and black) on the side of the box, labeled EXTERNAL DC POWER (diagram F). These nodes are designed to be used with the 12-V power pack (sold separately). If you don’t attach this lead to close the circuit, the device will not work!
  9. Turn ON the Ugly Box (diagram C)
  10. You will know the device is working if you see a reading on the voltmeter (diagram A). Ideally, the reading should be 7-9 volts. a. If the voltage is low (under 7.5-8), (i) the battery may be depleted, (ii) the lead may not have good metal contact, (iii) the tank may be too large, or (iv) there may not enough brine in the solution.
  11. Small bubbles may collect on the object being treated, particularly toward the end of the electrolysis process.
  12. The correct amount of time needed to treat a specific object will depend on many different factors. Typically, an object may require 10-60 minutes to be stabilized and cleaned. Never keep an object in the unit for more than an hour at a time.
  13. Use the Thunder accessory to speed the process and break up heavy debris. The Thunder is designed to be submerged in the brine solution. You can have the Thunder rest on the bottom of the tank, and/or touch the object. Should only be used is short bursts.
  14. The Thrasher accessory is NOT designed to be submerged. It should be used AFTER the object is stabilized with the Ugly Box. The object should be wet when using the Thrasher. If you use up all the steel wool, there is additional steel wool stored in the Thrasher unit. You can also replenish the unit with 000 or 0000 grit products available at any hardware store.
  15. Depending on the object, level of decay or debris, and other factors; multiple treatments may be needed to achieve the desired results.
  16. Once the Ugly Box treatment is completed, it might be helpful to rub some toothpaste on the coin (or object) for a final quick polish (will act similar to jeweler’s rouge). Then rinse.
  17. Buffing the coin (or other objects) with a soft cloth may remove some of the detail, and is not recommended.

If you don't have an Ugly Box yet, check it out here


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