Plating stained-glass frames / came
Q. Hello from Saskatchewan, Canada. I'm a stained glass artist and have recently seen lead or zinc came (came is the metal used to frame cut pieces of glass so that they can be soldered together) which has been electroplated with brass. I am very interested in learning what is involved in doing this technique. Anyone out there know how this is done and what kind of specialized equipment is needed? Any information would be greatly appreciated. Thank you.Teolinda L [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]
Q. My father is retired and has become an accomplished stain glass artist. Recently he had heard from a friend that somewhere on the net there is a description of how to make an electroplating device at home for some of his lead frames. Please let me know of such a contraption or point me on the right direction to search. ThanksNIKONSALE [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]
October 24, 2011
A. Hi, folks. I'll be happy to describe what is involved. Most brass plating is usually done from cyanide-based plating solutions which are inappropriate for casual or hobbyist use (and in these post-911 days you may find it impossible to buy cyanide except for shipment to registered industrial facilities). So, if it fits your needs, it may be best to contract the work out to a local plating shop, which is an industrial facility with extensive safety equipment and safety training.
If you wish to do the plating yourself, you will need to buy a proprietary non-cyanide plating solution. If the came is zinc you can scrub it with pumice and a little detergent to clean it, rinse it, activate it with dilute sulphuric acid, rinse it again, and electroplate it with a non-cyanide brass plating solution (either by immersion in a tank or with a "pen plating" / "brush plating" device). Brass tarnishes, so you'll need to rinse it, dry it, and lacquer it.
In as much as you need to lacquer brass to prevent tarnish anyway, some people elect to just use a brass-toned lacquer and skip the brass plating. You could investigate this idea with the site's supporting advertiser G.J. Nikolas.
It is probably best to stick with zinc and avoid lead for a number of reasons. Activating lead requires hydrofluoric acid which is incredibly nasty stuff which burns to the bone.
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
Pine Beach, New Jersey
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