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HOW TO SET-UP A SIMPLE HOME ELECTROPLATING SYSTEM.

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Q. HI, MY NAME IS RAY.

AS A HOBBY I RECONDITION OLDER MOTORCYCLES. I FREQUENTLY HAVE THE NEED TO CHROME PLATE OR NICKEL PLATE SOME COMPONENTS. I AM WONDERING IF IT IS FEASIBLE TO SET UP A PLATING SYSTEM IN MY GARAGE? I NEED TO KNOW WHAT A SIMPLE START-UP SYSTEM WOULD TAKE. I UNDERSTAND ONLY THE BASIC CONCEPT OF HOW ELECTROPLATING WORKS SO PLEASE BE SIMPLISTIC ON ME. HOPEFULLY WAITING!

RAYMOND J deleted
HOLYOKE, Massachusetts


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A. Our FAQs "How Electroplating Works" and "Introduction to Chrome Plating" may help you, Raymond -- please give them a look. But unfortunately it may not prove practical for you due to OSHA safety regulations and EPA waste disposal regulations, especially if you want to make a business out of it.

The plating industry was the country's very first EPA regulated industry, and the burden of compliance is heavy even for full time businesses. Further, chrome plating solution is carcinogenic (think "Erin Brockovich" [link is to movie info at Amazon] and hexavalent chrome). If you charge a friend a few dollars to plate something, suddenly you are in the business and possibly subject to reporting and disposal requirements. So please start by investigating the regs before buying anything and becoming forever responsible for its disposal. Best of luck!

pic of Ted Mooney Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
finishing.com
Pine Beach, New Jersey

.

Q. Funny, I have seen chrome plating kits in motorcycle mags. One long ago for 25 bucks. Recently for more but I can't remember where or how much. I want to plate the slides in Amal carbs. I am sure that this would improve their reliability. If you have any info on who would do this, please let me know.

p.r.k deleted
- g'ville, Florida


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A. Hi PRK,

Yes, you saw plating kits for about $25 some years ago -- today it's around $80 =>
... but these were/are not chrome plating kits. Again, chrome is a heavily regulated carcinogenic toxin.

If you wish to investigate entry level electroplating, you could also contact a supplier of brush plating equipment and small systems like the site's supporting advertisers GoldTouch, LDC, or Sifco.

But if you spend some more time at this site, reviewing letters from earlier posters with similar interests to yours, you'll see why we urge caution and investigating the regulations before you buy any chemicals (especially chrome) and become responsible for them. In America, once you use the plating chemicals (maybe even once you open them), you are the "waste generator" and they become your waste forever regardless of how much you pay anyone to take, treat, or dispose of them. So look before you leap :-)

Good luck!

pic of Ted Mooney Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
finishing.com
Pine Beach, New Jersey

Tin-Zinc Electroplating System


+++

Q. Raymond J of Holyoke asked about a home plating system. Did anyone answer him ? If so what is the answer? I want to chrome plate my auto parts and will be 6' L x 18" W

James D deleted
- Sylacauga, Alabama


+++

Q. I am curious how well these home brush-based chroming kits. In particular, I have an old 1970's bicycle with chrome forks and rear stays, and chrome lugs. The chrome is almost intact, but there are lots of sand-sized rust specs in places.

If I can clean off the sand-sized rust specs, what will be the result of chroming using one of these home kits ($30 from JC Whitney, etc.) I am not looking for a perfect job, I'm looking for something that looks good at 5 feet and protects the finish so it doesn't rust anytime soon.

Donald Gdeleted
- San Diego, California


+++

A. James, brush plating and minimal tank plating is clearly possible; we mentioned and linked some suppliers already. But you seem to be speaking of an automobile bumper or some other very big copper-nickel-chrome plated item, and this would be a large undertaking both in how much you'd need to learn to apply all the layers, and the effort of successfully plating such a large item with a tiny stylus. I think you may want to start much much smaller and with a chrome-free plating solution.

Donald, I don't think JC Whitney offers one anymore but, as noted, there is a $80 tin-zinc plating system available from The Eastwood Company.

Our site's focus is primarily industrial, where people typically spend thousands of times that much for a plating system. We're certainly not trying to talk you out of a $75 investment in learning. But quality plating with a real plating outfit is hard. Quality plating with a toy can be a joke. To chrome plate James' bumper with a plating cell like the kits you refer to, would require thousands upon thousands of AA batteries. Your job is smaller, but look up Faraday's Law and figure out how many batteries you would need. And then you still have the issue of preparing the substrate so that your plating won't peel off, the fact that it's a chrome substitute not really chrome and it won't quite match, etc. It's a big job.

Our concern isn't whether you spend $75 -- please do! And please try the plating experiments in our FAQ "How Plating Works", which will cost you nothing. Good luck; we just don't want to tempt you out onto a slippery slope that can pollute, be very costly, or possibly beset you with fines. Good luck!

pic of Ted Mooney Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
finishing.com
Pine Beach, New Jersey

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A. I use a home kit frequently to chrome aluminum pieces. Just have to treat it first - remove the oxide layer and apply a layer of zinc -- I use a zincate solution.

MW Jansen
- Southern California

weiner book
Chromium Plating

Weiner & Walmsley


Electroplating Engineering Handbook

Water and Waste Control for the Plating Shop


+++++

thumbsdownThis is just a comment, you can ignore it, but I don't think you will be able to based on the NUMEROUS posts in the past.

This site DEFINITELY overstates dangers of home plating, I personally believe the reason is that if everyone found out how EASY it is to plate at home, the commercial shops would lose, LARGE...including yourselves.

I have been plating at home for years now, no problems. I find that there are dangers to EVERYTHING that a do-it-yourselfer must be careful of. Your attitude on this subject is "Don't get into woodworking at home, you could cut your hands of what with all those power tools." or "Don't get into painting at home what with all those fumes".

Honestly, RUBBISH!

How about doing us and yourself a favor and start posting educational responses to peoples questions and drop the 'tude.

Go ahead, blast me too. Oh yeah, I do take my waste to proper waste management facilities. Any "SHOP" can make mistakes as easily as a home do-it-yourselfer.

Jim M
- Kingston, Ontario, Canada


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Jim: we are happy to print your opinion, that's what a public forum is for. Here on this site is all the space you want, free of charge, to tell people anything you want from what you've learned in your years of plating at home.

You are right that I won't ignore your posting; I'm the site host and my job is to respond to postings not to ignore them. But I don't own or manage a plating shop, never did, never will; and your claims of ulterior motive just paint you as a petulant adolescent. Grow up.

This free site includes thousands of pages of information for students, plating book reviews, links to plating educational societies and training sessions, a calendar of events of where you can attend free plating lectures, ASTM plating standards and free MIL standards, addresses of free plating libraries, and tens of thousands of highly detailed responses to plating questions and problems. We never censor postings (except ads and ad-hominem remarks), so please share your plating experience instead of whining that we're not doing enough.

pic of Ted Mooney Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
finishing.com
Pine Beach, New Jersey

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thumbsdownYES I AGREE please POST EDUCATIONAL RESPONSES ABOUT CHROME/GOLD PLATING JUST LIKE ANYTHING IT'S DANGEROUS..YOU AUTA SAY DON'T DRIVE A CAR YOU MIGHT GET IN A ACCIDENT...IF THE MARKET FOUND OUT ABOUT THE PROFITS THEY MAKE THEY WOULD LOOSE $$...I'VE BEEN PLATING GOLD FOR OVER 1 YEAR NOW WITH NO PROBLEMS NOW I'M EXPANDING INTO GOLD...WITH OR WITHOUT YOUR COMMENTS...FOR ANYONE INTERESTED IN CHROME OR GOLD PLATING YES YOU CAN DO IT IN HOME THEY ARE MAKING MORE AND MORE SYSTEMS FOR THE HOME OWNER...GOOD LUCK CAUSE I'VE HAD IT...AND IT'S NOT JUST ME!

tyrone b
- Louisville, Kentucky


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Tyrone: This isn't the Hotel California; you can leave any time you like. But you, too, are welcome to tell people how to do electroplating at home. We'll give you all the space you want and it won't cost you a dime. So get to it -- or is your posting just vacuous bitching?

Your analogy that our warnings are similar to telling people not to drive because they might get in an accident is a great one, thanks! The government requires that every driver be trained, tested, and licensed; the government requires that every vehicle be registered, inspected, and insured. If you don't comply, you'll be fined or even jailed.

Similarly, the government demands training, testing, and licensing of all plating shops and their employees. Operate without the registrations, the blood tests showing that the employees are safe, the discharge permits, the testing of bath surface tensions, the ampere-hour logs, the waste accumulation records, the manifesting, the annual hazwoper certification, or without advising your neighbors of the materials that you have on hand (Community Right-To-Know law), and you are subject to fines or even jail time. I know two plating shop managers who did hard time.

Yes, you can probably get away with driving without a license, registration, or insurance. And in my experience as well as your own, you can probably illegally operate a small plating business and stay below the radar. And many of the regulations do not apply if you never sell a plated product or your plating service. But if a neighbor child contracts cancer for any of a thousand natural reasons, and her parents find out that you were chrome plating in your garage, discharging carcinogenic fumes into the air as a business or even a hobby, God help you; your life as you knew it is over.

pic of Ted Mooney Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
finishing.com
Pine Beach, New Jersey


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thumbsup2Chrome plating in your garage! Cover ups and conspiracies!
I was born into a custom chrome plating business. I worked there as a young teenager. I'm in my mid fifties now. Custom chrome plating is all I have ever done. I run the business. I know every aspect. I have done everything. Metal stripping, polishing, bead blasting, cleaning and activating for plating, cyanide copper plating, acid copper plating, nickel plating, chrome plating, customer relations, reporting to various agencies (EPA, DNR, local sewer districts, Etc.) All accounting and payroll. I know I am missing a few things, but I think Ted will understand.

And now Tyrone says its a big cover up to deny people a chance to make millions in their garage. Oh Lord! Maybe we need a Canadian disposal place that doesn't require permits and testing as inferred in an earlier comment. To think all the years wasted when I could have done it in my garage and made millions!

Frank DeGuire
- St. Louis, Missouri, USA


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Q. To MW Jansen: how about some details. I want to touch up a couple spots of chrome sheet metal.

Volts, amps, source of solution, what are anode and cathode materials, temperature, etc?

GF Kron
- Novato, California



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Q. Hi to those of you who will answer questions and not whine. I was wanting to replate the pot metal parts from my 68 El Camino. What's the best way to prep the parts with moderate pitting, and should they be treated as an aluminum part in the plating process? Last but not least if you're not willing to eat it or drink it, then treat it as a nasty substance be responsible. Dumping it down the drain goes right back into your drinking water. Thanks.

Michael Walters
novice - Water Gap, Pennsylvania


July , 2007

A. Hi, Michael. "Potmetal" may be zinc diecastings or aluminum diecastings (they look just about identical although aluminum is much lighter). But a 1968 car probably used zinc diecastings rather than aluminum, so zincating probably isn't necessary.

It isn't easy to fix those pits because the porosity absorbs water and plating solutions, thus causing contamination; plus the absorbed water or gases can come back as steam when the parts are heated and that causes holes and blisters. But the usual way to deal with mildly pitted diecastings for restoration is to copper plate them in cyanide copper plating solution and "mush buff"; this means basically to "mush" the soft copper plating into the pits by/while buffing. After the pits are pretty much filled with copper you can go on to more copper plating, then nickel plating, then chrome plating. Good luck!

pic of Ted Mooney Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
finishing.com
Pine Beach, New Jersey



+++++++

Q. Could I electroplate with a AAA (1.5 volts)?

Joe Wilson
hobbyist - Virginia Beach, Virginia


+++++++

A. For the purposes of a grammar school or early high school science project, yes you certainly can, Joe. Please see our FAQ: "How Electroplating Works". Beyond that we'd need details of what you hope to do, though. Look into Faraday's Law because plating is energy intensive and that AAA battery is only going to be able to electroplate a thin layer of metal on an item the size of a quarter before it's exhausted.

pic of Ted Mooney Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
finishing.com
Pine Beach, New Jersey


+++++++

Q. I have no experience with plating, but I have a great deal of experience with OSHA and EPA. The thing that would scare me the most about plating in my garage and disposing of the hazardous waste is this. Even if I did all the paperwork it requires to order, store and use the materials, then to dispose of the materials as hazardous waste, the thing that would not let me sleep another night I lived is the "Cradle to Grave" rule by EPA. Once you dispose of the material, the paperwork has to be maintained forever! And should the container you dispose of this material in should leak, then you the disposer are responsible and legally liable. The cost of a cleanup could be millions, and the fine is $25K per day until it is cleaned up. And you have to pay to reseal the junk, restore the junk and that means everyone else's junk stored with it. I just want to know, since I am just starting, what a fair price to pay for plating. I am restoring an old car and I want to plate the bumpers, etc. What would be a fair price?

Gus Weaver
hobbyist - Harrodsburg, Kentucky


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A. Hi, Gus. The biggest cost of plating, especially replating old stuff, is labor. It would be fair for a plating shop to charge you about the same amount for their time as a plumber or mechanic would -- maybe just a little more because of the cost of material and because a plating shop's equipment costs more than a plumber's equipment.

So the real issue is how long will it take, and this will depend on the condition (how much buffing and polishing is required) and on how high quality the job is. Reworking a single old bumper involves far more labor than manufacturing from scratch a new mass-produced one. So, unfortunately, it will cost at least the same as a new bumper.

pic of Ted Mooney Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
finishing.com
Pine Beach, New Jersey


January 11, 2008

A. Ted is on the money with everything he has said. I began looking around for a home based chrome plating kit...thinking it was that easy. It costs about $500 here to strip, repair and rechrome a vehicle bumper. In my wisdom, I thought I could do it for next to nothing. I came up against ALL the hurdles Ted has mentioned. I paid the $500 and have a fantastic bumper and no headaches. I am impressed with your site and knowledge Ted...keep up the good work mate....Peter

Peter Carey
- Perth, Western Australia


January 15, 2008

thumbsup2Thank you the kind words, Peter! A quick aside --

Some people just love working on their boats. They are happy as clams, beer can in one hand, scraper in the other, day after day. I'll ask on boating forums where I can get something done, and these folks will not tell me where to get it done, instead they bend my ear that I should do it myself. They almost cannot comprehend that some of us scrape our boat only out of necessity, that we despise this maintenance, and that our only interest is in getting it over with.

I think that part of the "friction" here is this: someone will say they're trying to electroplate something and I may read into it that they just want the darn thing plated, and aren't familiar with the fact that plating jobshops are readily available to do it for them. Meanwhile the enthusiasts who enjoy hobby plating are convinced that the person would absolutely love to electroplate it themselves and we are stomping on their potential joy :-)

I especially appreciate your posting because it implies that you didn't particularly like the idea of electroplating yourself, and you tried it only to save money or because you didn't know that plating jobshops could do it for you.

pic of Ted Mooney Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
finishing.com
Pine Beach, New Jersey



April 8, 2008appended

Q. I would like information on how one would go about starting a chrome plating business on a small scale.
Any information would be helpful.

Maynard D.Tuttle
- Cherryvale, Kansas


April 9, 2008

A. Hi, Maynard. I think you'll find our previously mentioned Introduction to Chrome Plating will give you a quick but good feel for what the chrome plating business is about.

To open a restaurant without ever having worked a day in one would be a risky proposition, but at least you've spent thousands of hours in hundreds or thousands of restaurants in your life, so you have acquired some good info about how they run and what's important. You don't have that advantage when it comes to plating shops though. So I would strongly urge people to try to work a summer in a plating shop before volunteering to be eternally responsible for the toxic chemicals you will need to buy.

If that isn't possible, then at least join the National Association for Surface Finishing (nasf.org) and attend the local monthly meetings and the annual Sur/Fin convention, take a 2 to 4-day introduction to plating through NASF or Kushner Plating School, read a few of the most important books, and subscribe to the monthly journals to understand what's going on. Good luck!

Regards,

pic of Ted Mooney Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
finishing.com
Pine Beach, New Jersey



sidebar August 10, 2008

thumbsup2Hi I can give you a good answer to this. I purchased some paint called Mirrorchrome from ALSA Paints. I have never in my life seen a chrome paint that actually shines like chrome until now. It took me several tries but finally after the fifth one I figured it out.

You prep your item just as you would for any paint job then spray on a Black gloss, I used an over-the-counter Base clear black. Clear coat it, then comes the tough part, wet sand it all the way to 4000 grit then polish it to a mirror shine then just spray on the chrome it takes about 15-20 min to flash over then polish it with a lint free cloth then let it cure for an hour then spray a coat of the clear over it. I did find you have to use a base clear clearcoat all others put a haze over the chrome. Anyway check out Alsa and see their videos; it does work.

Scott Lancaster
- Norridgewock, Maine


August 10, 2008

Hi, Scott. We try to discuss things in generic terms here rather than bringing specific company names into it because, with the anonymity of the internet, there is often a race to the bottom when salespeople see other brands of chrome-look paint praised, so they pretend to be satisfied customers. Plus, we really can't ask the site's supporting advertisers to pay for testimonials to their competitors :-)

But chrome-look paint is, for the amateur, a great alternative to real chrome plating. We thank you for providing so much detail on what worked for you!

Regards,

pic of Ted Mooney Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
finishing.com
Pine Beach, New Jersey



March 15, 2009appended

Q. Can I do some Chrome and Brass plating at home?

I am restoring a 43 ft. 1958 boat. Lots of bright work to cleaned up and some of the parts are hard or impossible to replace. I have sent some things out for professional plating, but the cost can be daunting. I am a chemical engineer, so I appreciate the environmental and other operating costs of the professional shops. I was just wondering if there are any replating kits and instructions that I might use safely at home to do some of the small plating work. Thanks for you help.

Bill Relihan
hobbyist, conservator - Apollo Beach, Florida


March 19, 2009

A. Hi, Bill. As you can see, we appended your letter to a similar thread. We have an "Introduction to Chrome Plating" on line here that will help you understand what is involved. I would not suggest real chrome plating at home because it requires toxic and carcinogenic hexavalent chromium, but there are imitations available. The best brass plating is cyanide based, which is an extremely powerful poison, but you may be able to find a non-cyanide brass plating solution (from EPI or Zinex, for example, or a hobby plating site) that is good enough.

Regards,

pic of Ted Mooney Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
finishing.com
Pine Beach, New Jersey



March 17, 2009appended

Q. Hi my name is matt, I am very much into building cars and motorcycles and just about anything custom. I have never had anything plated and I understand the prices can be pretty high, I am just wondering if there is any type of metal plating I can do at home in my garage for my self, I actually have a set of wheels that are hard to find and would like to try to plate my self, (the chrome is peeling on them) I would also like to plate a lot of other parts under the hood of the Camaro I am building, it's a 1979 Z28 and I am trying to completely restore it, and there is a lot of things I would love to chrome plate and don't want it to cost me a arm and a leg. I don't mind to labor at all I found a kit for 899.00, this is close to the kit I found, the difference is the kit I found is 6 gallon instead of 4.5, I would like to know also how much plating will a 6 gallon kit make and do you have to have any kind of license or permit to buy the kit. I understand it is an art but I do like learning and would really love to learn the trade without spending over a 1000.00 dollars, I would also like to know if there is any kind of newer technology that would make it safer and easier for someone with no experience and the finish I am looking for with the automotive parts. I have always been a quick learner and believe I can do it. There are also a lot of books that say how easy it is to do it at home and I don't believe that and am kind of sketchy about them. Any help would be greatly appreciated, thanks matt. P.S.: this is the kit I found, like I said it's exactly the same except bigger 6 gallon not 4.5 Gallon Kit

6 x 6 Gal Plating tanks with lids
2 x 6" x 8" Nickel anodes & bandages
2 x 4" x 8 Copper anodes & bandages
2 x 12" x 12" Chrome Anodes
2 x 8" x 8" GP Plates
3 Pack Nickel Crystals w/Brightener (Makes 4.5 Gals)
3 Pack Copper Crystals (Makes 4.5 Gals)
10 x 1.5 oz Copper Brightener A
3 x 4 oz Copper Brightener Part B
3 Cans Chrome Crystals (Makes 4.5 Gallons)
Chrome Activator
1 x 4.5 gal Flash Copper Chemicals (A, B, C)
2 Packs SP Degreaser (Makes 8 Gallons)
4 x 300 W Ceramic Heaters
1 x 200 W Glass Heater
2 x Thermostats
3 x Filter/pumps (For Nickel/Copper & Flash Copper Kit)
Fume Control Balls
2 Pack Pickle #4 (Makes 4 Gals)
Manual and DVD

matt mcdonald
beginner - Greeley, Colorado


March , 2009

A. Hi, Matt. We appended your inquiry to an earlier thread so you can conveniently read a number of different perspectives, and we hope you'll get further responses.

Regards,

pic of Ted Mooney Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
finishing.com
Pine Beach, New Jersey


August 7, 2009

Q. I would like to apply precious metals to animal skulls. I am going to use beetles to clean the skull.Now I am currently trying to find a soft,low melting point, easy to work with alloy that will stick to the bone. This alloy would also be the cathode in the electroplating process. I understand your concerns with liability in regards to plating. Any other thoughts?

Matt

Matt Bostwick
- Helix, Oregon


August 15, 2009

A. Hi, Matt. Please see our FAQ on plating flowers, plants, and animal skulls. There are other ways to metallize than to melt metal onto something, and I think you'll find them better for this purpose. Good luck.

Regards,

pic of Ted Mooney Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
finishing.com
Pine Beach, New Jersey

November 6, 2010

Q. Hey, has anyone tried [brand name omitted by editor] Tank Plating and Brush Plating systems?

Joe Soltis
- Scranton, Pennsylvania USA

November 6, 2010

A. Hi, Joe. Sorry, but comparing brands on this no-registration-required site has often led to shills posing as satisfied customers, or getting long-winded sales pap in return, ultimately followed by a rancorous race to the bottom. Sorry but we can only discuss technical issues and not brand preferences. But there are a number of suppliers who can easily be found by googling for "hobby plating". Good luck.

Regards,

pic of Ted Mooney Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
finishing.com
Pine Beach, New Jersey



February 14, 2011

Q. Greetings Ted.
Looks like a great forum with lots of information.
I apologize for not reading all 50,000 pages, but I just want to permanently solve a corrosion problem in a farm tractor. Two small parts, critical to the operation of the diesel fuel injection & control system in the C.A.V. fuel pump repeatedly corrode & seize, requiring the disassembly, cleaning & polishing, and then reassembly of the C.A.V. pump. Very tedious and time consuming, great opportunity to lose parts when done in the field, etc.
Both of the affected critical parts would fit in a coffee cup at the same time, and, since they rust, appear to be ferrous metal.
After reading the basic tutorial, it appears it would be simple to zinc plate these parts in the farm shop.
Would it be faster to use battery acid electrolyte as the liquid (instead of vinegar)? or dissolve a zinc anode in the electrolyte, then "dip & wait"? (as mentioned in "solution disposal")?
What would the effect be of raising the current source from a flashlight battery to a 12 volt vehicle battery?
I realize that that depositing material (zinc, copper, chrome, or other) will cause the parts to be a different size afterwards, and I will have to get it back to the correct size in the critical area, either by pre polishing (we've already polished it a lot!) or post polishing.
We don't care what it looks like; I would like not to have to ever see it again, but until we solve the corrosion issue, this machine has way too much unplanned maintenance.
Obviously, to remove the corrosive from the fuel would be step #1. Apparently that hasn't happened so I am looking for additional things to solve the problem without spending large sums of money, preferably things I can do with materials on hand.

#2, "new" parts installed in this equipment also corrode as fast as the old parts.
I understand this process is probably hazardous, I am aware of safety issues, and would like to avoid problems by being aware of them, and being prepared.
Thanks for any advice & assistance you can share.
CE

Chris Edwards
Farm support - Cullman, Alabama, USA

February 14, 2011

A. Hi, Chris. Don't apologize for not doing the impossible -- there are threads here that I haven't read in 10 years.

Yes, battery acid is a stronger and better electrolyte than vinegar. And for small scale amateur attempts like this, zinc boat anodes should work as the source of zinc. You will find that 12 volts is way too much though. The zinc ions won't be able to transfer electrons fast enough, so water in the solution will be converted to hydrogen gas, and the parts will "burn" instead of getting good plating. Maybe try rechargeable batteries. A battery pack and charger from an old cordless phone would probably deliver 2.4v or 3.6v that you could perhaps try. Or you could try the under $75 Eastwood system mentioned above. Good luck. But consider having a machine shop make stainless steel replacement parts?

Regards,

pic of Ted Mooney Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
finishing.com
Pine Beach, New Jersey

Zinc Anodes



sidebar May 18, 2011

Q. Ted, I want to silver plate some old British Pennies "Victorian" to make some pieces of jewelry for my Granddaughter "Victoria" I think this would require something quite small to do this like maybe a fish tank...What do suggest for equipment John Harvey??

John Harvey
Hobbyist - Cambridge Ont Canada

May 19, 2011

A. Hi, John. Please see our FAQ "Silver Plating at Home".

The non-electrolytic silver plating from the commercial silvering solutions is very thin, but may be up to what you need, and it's certainly the easy way. Good luck.

Regards,

pic of Ted Mooney Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
finishing.com
Pine Beach, New Jersey



October 2, 2011

Q. Uh, I don't have a dog in this fight, but I AM curious about a similar process that I have used to remove rust, paint and old finish from motorcycle parts. I use a soap solution, and a AC/DC 12V source. The crap comes off over night and leaves a truly workable surface for painting.

I'm wondering if, should I simply reverse the poles of the DC source----assuming that I have prepped the selected item well enough--- and provided some source of material such as junk silver jewelry for a silver finish, could there be a reasonable plating outcome? Thoughts?

Best Wishes,

Bruce

Bruce Sims
Education - Lindenhurst, Illinois, USA


October 13, 2011

A. Hi, Bruce.

There will certainly be an outcome: we have an FAQ that teaches 2nd and 3rd graders how to zinc or copper plate with kitchen-safe materials in minutes. In principle electroplating is very very easy. The hard part is obtaining truly useful plating -- plating that will adhere rather than brush right off or peel off; plating that is free of pits and porosity which accelerate corrosion rather than retard it; plating that will have a good shine to it and reasonable thickness. I think your prospects for plating with home brew are better for nickel plating than silver plating though. Good luck.

Regards,

pic of Ted Mooney Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
finishing.com
Pine Beach, New Jersey

Clean Earth Cyanide-free Gold Plating Solution



May 19, 2012

Q. Hi Ted,

I'm looking to increase my knowledge of the principles and practice of metal finishing, with a view to turning my brush-plating hobby into a more serious business venture. I've successfully plated several small objects and have had many people offer to pay me to plate objects for them, but here in the UK there appears to be a dearth of books/guides aimed at amateurs with an interest in the chemistry. I've already researched the criteria for, and costs involved in, setting up a small garage-based electroplating shop and have been given advice on handling, storage and disposal of hazardous/chemical waste. I now want to do some reading to increase my knowledge of the processes involved and I'm therefore looking to obtain guides from overseas, especially the US, which seems to be the place to get information - I therefore wondered if you could point me towards some decent literature which I could order from US...I'll even forgive you guys for spelling sulphur and aluminium wrong :)

Kind Regards

Damien

Damien Frost
- Lincoln, Lincolnshire, United Kingdom


May 21, 2012

A. Hi, Damien.

The Metal Finishing Guidebook is probably the least expensive and most available introduction. Best of luck.

Regards,

pic of Ted Mooney Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
finishing.com
Pine Beach, New Jersey

April 16, 2013

Q. Hi Ted. I admire your advice and wisdom. I wonder, have you heard of Nikola Tesla's statement in one of his lectures that he was able to produce single electrode electrolysis? I am an inventor and experimenter who would like some input into perhaps another method to plating involving DC energy of high voltage.
If you or someone you know has read of this, can you expand upon the process? Also, what is the optimum voltage and amperage for the electrowinning of Gold? Thanks in advance.
Daniel.

Daniel Troy
- Bairnsdale Victoria Australia


April 16, 2013

A. Hi Daniel. I've heard of Nikola Tesla and appreciate that he was probably an under-appreciated genius. However, every book I've seen about him seems wrapped in so much silly mysticism that I'm not going to read them :-)

Sorry, I don't know anything about plating involving high DC energy, although other readers are welcome to chime in.

A plating cell is the same thing as a battery being overcome and driven in the opposite direction. For example, a student's "lemon battery" with zinc and copper electrodes generates 1.2 Volts as the copper plates out onto the zinc. So to plate zinc onto copper will require somewhat more than 1.2 Volts to pump the electrons in the opposite direction. You can look up the "galvanic series" to see the natural electropotentials of each metal, and you'll see that gold is very noble. So the ideal voltage for electrowinning gold will be very low so that you don't plate out anything else that is in the solution.

Regards,

pic of Ted Mooney Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
finishing.com
Pine Beach, New Jersey


September 29, 2014

Q. Old thread but I have been reading and reading ... and reading ;) Cheers on your patience and openness to the range of questions from rookie to pro.
I have ridiculously fallen in love with cast iron. My first project was an old marine stove that I wired down and polished up.
So as I'm looking at my collection of trinkets I got to thinking about plating. It seems doable after some investment and study. I'm wondering though how you achieve detail in a piece. For example how do do get only the raised letters of a stove plate to be copper plated? I have a very ornate door. It would be neat all copper, it would be better if the copper was mixed with black areas to make it pop.

Cheers,
Brian

brian honky
- the cove, New brunswick, canada


September 2014

A. Hi Brian. There are two basic ways to do selective plating like that. The first is by masking the area you don't want plated. This can be done with melted wax, masking lacquers, vinyl caps & plugs, or (probably most practical for your case) tape. Platers' tape isn't much different than electricians black tape except it's thicker, usually is green or another color, and the manufacturers are careful or claim to be careful with the selection of the adhesive so it doesn't contaminate the plating baths. My bet is that electricians's tape will be fine for amateur use. The second way to do selective plating is by brush plating instead of tank plating. Brush plating is sometimes called tampon plating and that's a quicker way to visualize it because the tool you use is closer to a tampon than a brush. You tightly wrap an electrode with a few layers of cloth, then dip it into plating solution, and wipe it across the area that you want to plate. Good luck.

Regards,

pic of Ted Mooney Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
finishing.com
Pine Beach, New Jersey


September 30, 2014

A. Plan B--Copper plate the entire thing and then fill in the recesses with an appropriate paint. All kinds of gloss and temperature resistance is available. If it is too small for an artist brush you can use a syringe to fill in the cavity.

James Watts
- Navarre, Florida



November 4, 2014

Q. Hi Jim

I have read through your posts on "home plating" and plating kits.

I am in the process of starting up a small one man artisan business and plan to be doing small scale acid copper and acid nickel plating - no cyanide / no chrome just the usual salts of copper and nickel and the associate acids which I buy at 30% and dilute.

I am not going to be offering a plating service, merely plating my own hand made products.

I wondered whether you would offer the same level of caution to these forms of caution as you do to chrome? I am not talking of my safety here as I understand the chemicals more the issues of commerical plating.

I am not in the US and will follow local regulations but I am environmentally aware and would always wish to prevent leaks by secondary containers and also to deal with any disposal issues responsibly ( I hope not to dispose of electrolytes any time soon as I have been informed that with proper care they can last almost indefinitely ).

I have a reasonable background in chemistry handling acids and so on.

I am in the position of a start up and I am trying to keep costs in the thousands rather than tens of thousands but at the same time I do intend to fabricate and buy a decent setup, I would of course be using sensible precauations like secondary containers to safeguard against leaks and appropriate safety measures for myself and rescue/fire although my workshop is ordinarily off limits to everyone except me and family members - no employees.

My largest objects would fit in a two foot cube.

I have been conducting small scale testing on plating minatures of my product and everything works fine, currently I am not operating at a commercial level, the test pieces are not for sale.

I have specific reasons for needing to keep this process in house, my secondary processes after plating can never be 100% and sometimes I need to repair the surface and go back to the plating stage - I find I need to be able to tune my plating to the requirements of these secondary processes.

So in short are your cautionary views applicable across the board or do you feel some plating methods and chemistries are more suitable for small scale than others?

Kind regards

Jon Light
- Nordjylland, Denmark


simultaneous November 8, 2014

A. Hello Jon,
I am not one to encourage plating at home, but if you must, the Acid Cu and Sulfate Ni would be some of the safer chemistries to use. For the Acid Cu you will have to store small amounts of sulfuric acid and a very small amount of HCl. For the Ni bath the chemicals needed are less hazardous, but should also be handled with care. I would recommend a storage cabinet made of a heavy duty plastic that you can lock up for storage of the replenishment chemicals. As far as secondary containment of your plating baths, you are taking the right steps. If you could buy the bath chemistries "ready to use" you will avoid handling the sulfuric and the small amount of HCl for the make up of the bath. Also keep in mind that vapors from the baths must be ventilated. Ni bath vapors (dust) can cause severe respiratory problems. Read and follow MSDS guidelines for each chemical used. Good Luck and take caution.

Mark Baker
Process Engineer - Phoenix, Arizona USA


November 6, 2014

A. I am not in love with plate at home kits. I have only had contact with 1 company. I guess that their prices were fair, but that is debatable depending on your access to chemicals and knowledge.

Out of curiosity, I bought that companies manual and was not impressed. Handling of wastes was incomplete and out right wrong in some cases.

Their control of chemicals used in plating was minimal.

I suspect that a fair percentage of their sales were used a few times and then put away and not used again.

Some people have a talent at plating with minimal education.

A large portion of the problems will come from the assorted environmental agencies. What one tells you can be opposite of what another tells you.

I would not plate in the same building as you live in! A detached garage could be OK, but not guaranteed.

2 foot cube parts will need at least a 3 foot cube tank. You are talking about 100 gallons, not just a couple of liters.

If you elect to do it, I would suggest rotationally molded poly ethylene or propylene tanks. Temperature will determine which. You can get appropriate tank support from enamel painted 2 x 4s.

This is a huge amount of secondary containment required.

An option would be to plate only the smaller parts and send out the rest to a commercial site.

You will need a minimal lab to control your chemicals.

Cobalt looks a lot like chrome, but is not as hard. It is generally harder than nickel. It is a whole lot safer than chrome to use.

James Watts
- Navarre, Florida



November 9, 2014

Q. Thanks James and Mark

Its good to get gut reaction responses.

I am taking a good look at the issues with Nickel. Acids I am familiar with, I have worked professionally in a lab environment with hazardous materials in earlier years and the things that worry me are contanimation issues - acids are black and white, you know whether you have had an accident with acid whereas things like the nickel airborne fumes may inflict damage over an extended period of time - personally I feel happier with the exposure issues you can detect easily, the black and white ones.

Do either of you advocate an extracted fume cupboard approach to acid Nickel? It would be easy and cheap for me to weld up an aluminium framed polycarb cupboard ( after checking first for material suitability ) if this is feasible then I would consider it worth the effort, I have also been considering whether it would be easiest to do away with fume balls and simply have a lid that descends into the tank as the workpiece descends - I have the advantage that all my workpieces are revolved spun surfaces (similar for plating tanks) so I do not need to plan for odd shapes, it would be simple enough to have the lid and workpiece moved down as a single unit on a central pole.

If I could I would gladly hand the nickel flash plating over to a professional so that I retain the flexibility of being able to do the copper plate myself but I am concerned with oxidation, I wonder how bonding might be affected with a four day delay between nickel and copper assuming of course that I use a pickle to activate the nickel surface.

I should add that part of my process involves a ceramic coating and the copper plated items are subject to elevated temperatures in a kiln after plating - I have found that copper plate holds up well but only if cleaning procedures are surgical, in my experience plating that seems well bonded at room temperature may not be so at elevated temperatures, it took me a while to achieve the levels of surface preparation required to reliably survive the heat process but now its stable with almost zero rejects.

I am also looking at the possibility of reducing my electrolyte volume by plating sheet metal before it is formed so that I can plate a flat sheet rather than a formed object, this would simply reduce volumes perhaps by as much as a factor of ten although I would lose a degree of flexibility as would need to retouch edges that have to be cleaned up - cut as part of the post forming process, this being unnecessary if the item is plated after forming. I have no idea how the copper plate would stand up to the forming process - shortest route is to suck it and see I think.

Thanks again...

Jon Lightbourne
- Nordjylland, Denmark


November 18, 2014

Hi Jon

I too have many reservations about home plating but there are two important points that have not been mentioned.

What is the base metal? Acid copper plating on steel is near impossible to get good adhesion -- which is why professionals use cyanides (or pyrophosphate which is difficult to control)

Also, the plating stage comes at the end of an appropriate (and essential) cleaning process which again depends on the base metal and will require tanks, rinsing, heating, waste disposal, etc.

Remember that it is easy to get elementary advice on the internet but when things do not go to plan (and they won't) you are left with the mess.

Surely there is a local plater who can help.

Geoff Smith
Hampshire, England


simultaneous







simultaneous
November 20, 2014

A. Hello Jon,
I agree with Geoff regarding using outside services for the plating. I'm concerned about your process steps for steel. A nickel strike is required on steel before any subsequent plating. I assume this is what you mean by "acid nickel". It is not very common to plate Cu on Ni, but it can be done. It would be a shame if you spent all the time and money on the set up and didn't work out the way you planned. A Woods Ni strike coating done outside with a delay of 4 days until you are able to plate the Cu without the proper activation before Cu will cause adhesion issues. If you plan to go ahead with this anyway, a fume hood made of polypro would be essential. Chlorine gasses are nasty. As you may know, the bath is a low efficiency bath which means you will have gassing in the solution and above it. Now that you have shared more of what you will be doing it just makes sense to me to have all the plating done by a plating shop. Hope this helps.

Mark Baker
Process Engineer - Phoenix, Arizona USA


November 21, 2014

Q. Hi Geoff,

Many thanks for the reply, I will take your points in turn.

"Home plating" - I will be running a small business so I should point out that the amount of research, investment and so on is not representative of "garage" plating, I feel I will belong somewhere in between "home" and "professional". I have already spoken to local authorities and it seems I will get a permit and I will be subject to health and safety inspections; my disposal routine will be the same as for the professional, although my quantities will be lower and if I look after my electrolyte properly I hope not to be disposing very much.

"base metal" - the base metal is mild steel.

"cleaning process" - I use a wipe with cellulose thinners to remove grease which is involved in the forming process, this is the recommended way to remove the bulk of the greases involved in my process.

I then move on to a heated sodium hydroxide bath for a generous period which is finished off with electrolysis, I find this works very well for me, I would like to repeat earlier comments on my history with hazardous professional lab experience and investment in safety precautions.

I finish off with a 20% HCl acid pickle for around 30 seconds, I have found a prolonged pickle detrimental to finish as carbon within the steel starts to be exposed at the surface.

"Acid copper plating on steel is near impossible to get good adhesion"

I would have to disagree on the basis of practical results.

I assume of course that "acid copper plating" here is taken to include a flash nickel plate.

As I mentioned in my previous posts the plated object is taken to elevated temperatures (around 850 °C) after plating, I have found this to be a severe test of adhesion, many early test pieces failed at this temperature whilst displaying apparently perfect adhesion at room temperature. The problems were all down to either cleaning or the smutty carbon deposits that appear on steel if it is pickled in HCl acid for too long.

In addition I use a professional polishing machine and out of curiosity I have sometimes gone to excess and polished first through to the nickel flash plate and then down to the steel substrate, I have observed a gradual cut through with no evidence of flaking but gradual excavation through the layers as you would expect for fully bonded plate. The polishing process involves abrasion, surface friction and significant vibration which I expect would reveal an improperly bonded plate.

By reviewing my cleaning process to the stage it is at now I have managed to achieve a near 100% success rate. My earliest test pieces are now one year old but of course hindsight requires time and there is no accelerated testing procedure that can fully replicate the effect of time, however the rigors of elevated temperature and the harsh environment of "polishing to destruction" as outlined above are pretty severe tests I think.

"elementary advice on the internet" - I don't think my current level of understanding ranks as elementary. There is a temptation in this kind of discussion to be polar and rank all professionals as professional and all amateurs as amateur.

I have read online reports of health and safety visits to plating shops and the horrors they have reported there. I am degree educated (sciences) and have significant understanding of chemistry and I have worked professionally in hazardous laboratories and my budget for doing the job properly stretches to thousands and I will be in full co-operation and compliance with environmental and safety bodies -- does that make me an amateur or a professional?

What is the difference between a small artisan plating process with the correct equipment, environmental and safety procedures and a "professional" - if someone points me in the direction of training courses or certification then I will go that route.

I disagree with some comments on this thread that belittle the risks of dealing with hazardous chemicals. On the other hand when we limit the discussion to acid copper and nickel then I do wonder at a polarity in the argument that does not seem to allow for the possibility that an informed and researched individual with adequate funding might achieve standards that would be called professional.

"local plater who can help" - As I mentioned in an earlier posting I want to keep control of the copper plating process although I am considering whether to farm out the nickel flash plate, this would be good since the environmental and health issues with the nickel process are the ones that bother me more.

Jon Light
- Saltum Nordjylland Denmark


November 22, 2014

A. Hi Jon

If we underestimated your qualifications for this type of work, I would point you to the title of this thread "Plating at home".

We get a large number of questions asking for help with processes which are clearly beyond the understanding of the questioner.

You do indeed seem to have the basic knowledge in place, and to go further is probably beyond what is practical on an internet forum.

I would suggest that you contact the Institute of Materials Finishing - there is a link on this site or go straight to http://www.materialsfinishing.org/

They run distance learning courses on all aspects of plating and issue regular updates on EU regulations etc.

Geoff Smith
- Hampshire UK

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