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topic 0769

Brush plating of aluminum parts

A discussion started in 1997 but continuing through 2017


Q. Is there a practical way to brush plate aluminum parts like car wheels, amplifier mounts, speakers, etc. with nickel and then gold? I know that I can dip it in nitric acid, zincate, nitric acid again and then electroless nickel plate it but that is a little much for what we want to plate. I need something simple but something that will yield a decorative, bright surface as well.

Rob Henry


A. Any of the brush plating vendors can help you out with this. Will take about 2 grand in equipment and solutions, and to do good work you will need to go to their school for a week. You need to do a lot of work on compliance with EPA if you are going to do plating. The fines start at $500 and go to $25,000 per violation per day.

James Watts
- Navarre, Florida


A. Better stick with tank plating. Based on the surface area and the complexity of the shapes you want to plate, brush plating is not the better alternative. Although you can brush plate the parts you mentioned, you may not be happy with the results -- especially when trying to plate onto aluminum.

Derek Vanek
Independence, Ohio


A. Don't even attempt it. If you want to Au plate the Al, send it out to a conventional plater. Decorative Au plating on Al is not worth the time or effort. It is possible the amount of work involved is very very long.

Tom Sivula
plating shop - Harbor City, California

To minimize searching and offer multiple viewpoints, we've combined multiple threads into the dialog you're viewing. Please forgive any resultant repetition or failures of chronological order.

Are Aluminum Rims Brush Platable?


Q. I have recently purchased a Plating Machine. I have since been asked many times to chrome plate over aluminum car rims. As I understand this is very hard to do to say the least, or impossible. However, curiosity got the best of me and I would like to know is there a way to brush chrome/plate over aluminum?

Thanks in advance.

Paul Renshaw III
Gold Plater/Beginner - Killeen, Texas


A. The absolute best place to get that answer is from the people that built your "plating machine". Unless you have one of their largest units, you are going to have a rough time doing a large area.

James Watts
- Navarre, Florida

Brush Plating Aluminum Instrument Cases


Q. I wish to Brush Plate Aluminum Instrument cases and backplates so that they can be soldered to. Many Aircraft instruments are hermetically sealed with a copper band and solder. Most cases and backplates are made of aluminum that have been plated up to a copper with a nickel finish which has been coated with a 1/2 " wide tinning of solder (60/40) rosin core. When opening the unit sometimes the plating comes off.

I'd like to know what size power supply along with the correct chemical's should be used. I've heard of Sifco using an Electrocleaning process first then reversing polarity and applying some type of Activator (#1 or #8) what ever is used for aluminum. Next Nickel is applied (Acid or Alkaline)? and last, Copper High speed. Does anyone have an instruction sheet and procedure available? Also where can I obtain the correct chemicals and equipment. There is such a wide price range that I 'm not sure what to believe. If anyone would be so kind as to direct this Newbie plater it would be appreciated.

Charlie Riess
aviation instrument repairs - Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA


A. There are 3 or 4 major vendors of brush plating equipment that are all good which advertise here. Their prices used to be quite different on individual pieces and there was a noticeable difference in the price of a total package. You need to get literature from each of them and sort out what is the minimum that meets your needs.

For me, I do not need a calculator with all the variables built into a unit, but some operators could not function without it, so is it worth that cost. Bottom line is you need a power supply big enough to handle the area that you are going to prep and plate. After that, it is which vendors' wands and tips serves your purpose best. Then you make a cost benefit trade off. Do not forget to include solution costs in your calculation. Brush plating is very probably the most operator influenced plating going. The best equipment will produce bad results with a sloppy operator. If you follow the vendors instructions, the secret of brush plating is keeping the part wet and having a very rapid changeover from step one to step two and etc.

Regardless of price, buy from a vendor that has a school that you can go to. Half a day with a tech sales person is not the same as 3-5 days in a hands on classroom. Also, there is room for negotiation if everyone is aware that you are seriously looking at 3 vendors.

James Watts
- Navarre, Florida

"THE" brush plating book:
Electrochemical Metallizing
from Abe Books


A. Hi, Charlie. For a good insight into brush plating, see if you can locate a copy of Marv Rubinstein's "Electrochemical Metallizing" =>
It's super informative.


Ted Mooney, Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E.
Pine Beach, New Jersey

Brush zinc plating over aluminum

June 2, 2016

Q. Brush plating standards utilize certain alternate chemicals and brush plating methods to activate aluminum apart from the traditional zincate. I wonder if someone has attempted the build-up of heavy layers of zinc after a traditional zincate (either double or triple) to restore worn or mis-machined aluminum?

The actual situation is the impossibility or extreme difficulty to import those specific chemicals offered by brush plating houses into our country. I would appreciate any comment.

Guillermo Marrufo
- Monterrey, Mexico

June 2016

thumbs up signHi Guillermo. Hope you are well, and hope someone offers encouragement.

opinion!  Re. "the impossibility or extreme difficulty to import those specific chemicals offered by brush plating houses into our country". Mexico doesn't want to import USA products, and why should they? There was a time when trade helped everyone, but today there is little actual "trading", just the mega-corps making workers compete for jobs against whichever country's workers are more destitute.
NAFTA promised to increase USA jobs via exports that would more than make up for the "giant sucking sound" -- no surprise it didn't work that way. Now they tell us we must do the same thing with Vietnam, Malaysia, etc., via the Transpacific Partnership :-)


pic of Ted Mooney
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
Pine Beach, New Jersey
Striving to live "Aloha"

June 14, 2016

Q. Hello Ted,

In general, what you say is really happening but I wouldn't say it's a matter of political decisions or strategies, but costs. Communicating vases.
Hopefully, there will come a time when both our economies are not so apart, then the flow of merchandise will rise and that of people will diminish.

Back to my question, the chemical we are searching for is supposedly a potential precursor of explosives, thus, strictly banned.


Guillermo Marrufo
- Monterrey, Mexico

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