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Can stainless steel be chrome plated in a high quality manner?

March 4, 2008

Q. I am the shop superintendent for a mechanical/ architectural contractor. We do a lot of custom exposed metal work which sometimes involves anodizing,polishing,or chroming. Here is my situation: I have a piece of T-304 stainless steel, 4" x 14" x 1/8" thick (2B plain finish).The logo "F-150" has been laser cut in the piece (like a stencil), but was barely left intact so it could be polished as one unit and removed individually later. The customer requested a polished mirrored finish. Upon return of the part from a polishing/plating shop, the customer wasn't happy with the small polishing "swoosh" marks even though it did have a mirror finish. He said he wanted it to look like chrome. The polishing/plating shop told me that was the best they could do with a small manually-done application as compared to full-size 4'x10'sheets bought with mirrored finishes. They also told me that they don't apply chrome to stainless steel because it won't hold. So I checked with another plating shop and they said basically the same. My question is: Is this true? Can stainless steel be polished and then chrome plated so its finished appearance looks like a flawless "liquid" chrome has been poured over it? And secondly, do you always get small inherent "swooshes" when you polish stainless steel, or is it possible to get that ultimate mirrored finish? I would appreciate help in answering these two questions. Thank you.

Bob Auchard
Mechanical/ Architectural Contractor - Santa Clara, California, USA


March 4, 2008

A. Stainless steel can be nickel-chrome plated in a high quality manner, Bob. The necessary preparation steps include a Wood's Nickel Strike, and some plating shops do not have experience with that and therefore do not offer it; but once you find the right shop they will be able to do a quality job.

Yes, those parts can be polished with no swoosh marks, but I'm certainly not claiming that I could do it :-)

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

March 6, 2008

A. If you are old enough,you may remember back in the 50's, all Pontiac's had a trademark band of 5 ridges formed out of stainles steel, AND THEY WERE QUALITY CHROME PLATED in Adel Georgia.

However, the thin film of chromium will not hide the polishing lines. The polishing must be mirror perfect before it gets to the plating room. As Ted said, there are experienced plating plants that can do your job.

Robert H Probert
Robert H Probert Technical Services

Garner, North Carolina

Editor's note:    
   Mr. Probert is the
   author of



March 17, 2008

A. Hi , there is no reason at all that s/s cannot be plated .

As the guys above have said , woods nickel strike , bright nickel and chromeflash is a relativly simple job .the finish of the plating depends on the quality of the polishing , and there is no reason there should be "swoosh" marks , if the polisher is any good !

Nickel and chrome will highlight any defects in the base metal , so polishing is the most important part of the procces to get the perfect finish.

Hope this helps

J Smith
- Essex, England


March 20, 2008

A. Don't go telling a plater that the polishing is the most important part of the process. Maintaining a plating line properly is a back breaking job that requires every bit as much talent as a good polisher. A good polisher should be able to get a swoosh free job on a good piece of stainless and a plater properly set up should be able to plate it. I don't do plating on stainless myself because I have never set up for it and the demand for it is so small now days on small custom jobs that it is not worth it. At least not in my area. Most of my customers are quite happy with a bright swoosh free buff job.

Frank DeGuire
- St. Louis, Missouri, USA

March 20, 2008

A. Hi Frank , I myself am a PLATER- not a polisher- so I know how demanding running a plating line is - but its very annoying when you do a lovely bright chrome finish but are let down by the polishing - I am not a polisher so I cannot comment on how easy or difficult it is , but I do know that swooshes in polishing can be avoided .

Hope you read my first response correctly - because I was explaining the plating process , not having a moan about platers !

J Smith
- UK


March 21, 2008

A. Try electropolishing. Might be easier

Tom Sivula
plating shop - Harbor City, California


March 22, 2008

A. Mr.Smith. All the people I meet think polishing is the majority of the work and platers are just" dipping it" in some bubbly water afterwards.
It has made me a platers advocate. I just want everyone to know that plating is just as important as polishing when it comes to doing good chrome work.
Sorry if I was a bit too forceful in pointing that out.

Frank DeGuire
- St. Louis, Missouri, USA

March 27, 2008

A. Hi Frank , yes I agree , it is annoying when people think all we do all day is just " dip it in " ! if only they knew just how much work it takes to do some jobs ........ I'm just waiting for the day when a solution is invented so all we have to do is " give it a quick dip " .... until then , we will have to keep doing it the hard way ! have you got any jobs going ? I would love to live and work in America ! :-)

J Smith
- UK


March 27, 2008

A. Hi, J. I've dipped strawberries into melted chocolate; dipping bezels and hood ornaments in chrome is the same thing; but for Show Chrome I hear it's best to dip them in melted copper first :-)

Regards,

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


January 31, 2013

Q. Hi Guys,

I am making a stainless steel product with the shape like a empty 4" x 4" x 4" box. The material is SS304. I asked a manufacturer to mirror polish it allover. They told me they can only polish the outside, but can't polish inside, as no tools can work inside. They tried other ways, nothing works. Now I suggest chrome plating it, as I thought by this way inside and outside will reach same mirror result. But I have the following concern:
1. will the chrome plating hold firmly and last long?
2. I know chrome on brass is good, but no idea on stainless steel.
Any suggestions? Thank you.

George Wu
- New York, US

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