Wisdom, so far.
1) do not insert any kind of spring loaded clips directly into your patina solution because they contain steel - did this and contaminated the solution - expensive oops - have some great copper plating solution now. Lesson learned. Iron + saturated copper solution = copper plates onto anything metal (should have remembered this from silversmithing)
2) An 8oz bottle of Sophisticated Finishes (about $10 something at H.R. Meininger's) has been the ticket. My brush: q-tips - no metal to contaminate solution, and completely disposable
3) scrubbed the dickens out of copper with a combo of 220 grit emery cloth (creates a cool texture too), then shape and form (good to use wire shaping pliers and my 'smack blocks' - hdpe plastic blocks made to flatten/harden metal from a jeweler's supply), then scrub the dickens out of them with a strong solution of Dawn (the old, tough on grease, hard on hands blue stuff) and hot water with a large toothbrush to get all the oil and grease off of them.
4) kept the metal warm in a bath of hot water, then as I pulled each one out, dried on paper towel, and carefully rubbed on patina solution - turned dark very quickly. Let dry slowly (created a 'bubble dome' out of press n seal), so that the 'vapor' from the drying solution (Ammonium Chloride and Copper Sulfate) does its thing (Ammonium). The warmer metal just gets the reaction going a tad bit faster without having to heat up the solution.
5) wire is gorgeous! Doing second coat tomorrow morning. Turning a perfect, funky, blue green like I wanted. 3 wires on the left got their first coat earlier this afternoon.
6) Mopani wood is one of the hardest woods you can drill on that you can get for cheap - use a corded, high speed, high torque drill, and the best bits you can find - used a 1/8" Milwaukee carbon steel bit on hubby's mondo drill - would recommend using a center punch (the non-spring-loaded kind) to start the holes or your drill will skip. Yes, the wood will smoke quite a bit - gets very hot, and clean out your holes as you go. Only had to drill 12 holes, so hopefully we didn't ruin the temper on the drill bit.
7) To take up some space and make the holes a little easier to find, I used some tension pins, 1/8" x 1/2", and pounded them into the holes with the hammer. Easier to find than poking around on the wood to find the holes! Pounded these in with a hammer, then found an old bolt to pound them in more to nearly flush on the wood surface - since they have a split on the side, they needed no adhesive, and will stay in there forever.
Looks like this now:
once the wire is to where I like it, I'll trim off the excess wire ends, add the clips, and set her up.
I'm curious to see if anybody is using any beetle kill wood for something like this - I think sanded and finished, it would look equally fantastic.