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topic 1298

Nickel Plating Solution Recipe Needed!


A discussion started in 1998 but continuing through 2018

1998

Q. Can anyone give me a recipe for a nickel plating solution that gives a smooth finish?

Rachel W [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]
- Australia


1998

A. A Watts nickel formulation will give you a smooth matte plate:
40-8-6 ounces per gallon of nickel sulfate, nickel chloride, boric acid, respectively; pH 4.0.

It may depend on what you mean by "smooth": bright? leveled? reflective? Recipes are proprietary, and I don't know of anyone who would give this to you. You can buy or get samples from the major supply houses.

pooky tom pullizi signature
Tom Pullizzi
Falls Township, Pennsylvania


ASM Metal Handbook
9th Edition, Vol. 5

"Surface Cleaning, Finishing & Coating"

from Abe Books
or
info on Amazon

A. Hi Rachel. The formula Tom gave you gives a matte rather than bright plate, as he said; but you can buff it to brightness.

Bright nickel plating 'as deposited' requires a "carrier", a "brightener", an "auxiliary brightener" and a "wetting agent". If your interest is academic, then old fashioned non-proprietary nickel addition agents are explained in ASM Handbook, vol.5 =>

Those older addition agents include saccharin or paratoluene as the carrier; thiourea or reduced fuchsin as the brightener; sodium allyl sulfonate or 1,4-butyne diol as the auxiliary brightener; and sodium lauryl sulfate as the wetter/anti-pit agent.

Considering the complexity of formulating addition agents though, 'nobody' actually tries to mix their own. They either buy the mix from a supplier or just plate the nickel dull/matte, then polish/buff it to a luster (which is what was done years ago before these addition agent systems were developed :-)

Good luck!

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


1998

Q. There has to be an easier way to plate nickel!

Does anyone one know an easier/faster/smoother way to electroplate nickel onto copper than using a nickel sulfate plating solution?

Rachel W [returning]
- Australia


1998

thumbs up signThe person that invents a way will be in the same good position as in finding a genie in a lamp. But the lamp was probably plated with sulfate nickel (how would you release the genie if you didn't have to polish once in a while?).


Tom Pullizzi
Falls Township, Pennsylvania


1998

Q. Any ideas on what current density would be required for the above mentioned plating solution?

Rachel W [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]
- Australia


1998

A. About 20-30 amperes per square foot, average.


Tom Pullizzi
Falls Township, Pennsylvania


1998

"Nickel Plating 2014"
by The Nickel Institute
View On-line for Free

nickel_institute_handbook

thumbs up sign Tom, you know this topic better than me, but I thought 40 ASF was the right current density for bright Watts Nickel?

Hi, Rachel,
It looks like you might be sort of winging it without a plating book or hands-on guidance. If so, please see if your library can offer one of our recommended "must-have" books.

I hope I didn't read things wrong and offend you, but while this forum can be useful for answering specific questions, as Tom answered with the formula for Watt's Nickel, it's not the most efficient way to introduce people to electroplating; books are "tutorial", proceeding from scratch to deep knowledge over the course of a hundred pages, whereas web postings tend to either be repetitive to a maddening degree or over our heads; plus readers may wrongly assume they can just jump in without safety and environmental hazards -- especially when they go unmentioned in threads like this (as evidenced by the first 7 entries)-- whereas they are prominently mentioned in most books.

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


1998

thumbsdownThanks for the vague idea of a recipe; as for "winging it" I've managed to improve that recipe and it now gives the brightest and finest finish I've ever seen in nickel plating. As for building a library - there seems little point as most books are not specific enough with respect to recipes.

Also you might want to reassess your ideas on who uses this site; quite a number of the letters I've read on this site seem to be written from an inexperienced point of view - and I doubt any of these "peers" would mind sharing their girth of information amongst those who find that texts are sometimes inadequate.

Rachel W [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]
- Australia


1998

I am happy that you are plating better. Sorry you don't like the service.


Tom Pullizzi
Falls Township, Pennsylvania


1998

Dear Rachel:

We're happy for your success, since sharing info is the very purpose of this forum and its tens of thousands of entries ... but we do refer people to books for far more efficient tutorial learning and to increase the likelihood that they understand what the hazards are and the appropriate safety protocol. In my own town recently a hobbyist killed himself at his kitchen table with a cyanide copper plating solution, and put the responding police officer in the hospital -- so I don't like to offer recipes without mentioning safety.

And electroplating involves haz-mat chemicals. Chromium plating solution and formaldehyde addition agents for nickel plating are known carcinogens; the cyanide required in many plating solutions is a powerful and fast-acting poison; numerous compounds when added to acid will release deadly poison gasses.

Then there is disposal. Ecologically-oriented hobbyists can lose their idealism when the price to properly dispose of a small shelf of chemicals runs into 5 or 6 figures. What of secondary containment? One beaker of chrome plating solution broken on the garage floor can poison the wells for blocks around.

Best of luck in your plating work, but please consider a haz-mat training seminar if you'll be continuing to mix chemicals. Good luck.

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


2005

opinion! Electroplating is very hazardous and I hope that morons do not try to attempt it. The person should be given full training before trying to electroplate anything.

Mack Tonhg
- Sydney, N.S.W, Australia



2001

Q. Hi:

I am a retired Mech Eng. and want to gold plate, on the inside, a silver wine goblet. From what I have read on these pages it seems like I should surrender to someone who does this professionally. Seems to me I would have to clean the inside of the goblet with ?, then use an electrolyte ? in the goblet as I hook up the battery to the gold coin and the goblet. The amperage/voltage must be important. If this involves costly, hazardous chemicals I could back off but I'd like to know what would be involved.

Thank you so much,

Greg Eyolfson
- Rainier, Washington


Medallion Liquid Gold Plating Kit

2001

A. Hello, Greg.

If you only need a thin coating, you can purchase a "liquid gold" immersion plating solution =>
This requires little beyond heating the solution in a microwave and wiping the inside of the goblet with the solution . Please see our FAQ "Silver Plating at Home" for more information on immersion plating. Good luck!

Dissolving your gold coin would probably involve hazardous chemicals. Good luck.

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


sidebar2 February 8, 2009

A. Gold Plating the inside of a Silver chalice does not require dissolving gold into any solution whatsoever.

If you want a truly stunning surface, forget electroplating, use "SPUTTERING".

Sputtering is "evaporating" a coil of a metal so that it "spray paints" itself onto a target. This is how you make optical coatings onto things like sunglasses and lenses.

Mostly sputtering is performed in a vacuum chamber because the element being plated reacts with the air (usually aluminum or silver). In this case it is not a problem...gold is virtually inert. Additionally, your target "surrounds" the sputtering coil, so it will deposit in one shot.

Picture this: You take a small coil of gold wire and suspend it inside your goblet on the end of steel electrodes. Then you pass perhaps a couple of Amps at about 2KHz through the gold gold and it vaporizes. It will adhere to the silver surface readily as if it were spray painted on there. The hardness of the surface will be low.

Note: It would be better if you made a Plexiglas disc to hold the electrodes and cover the end of the chalice, so you could put it under vacuum (the air in the chalice will remove heat from the aerosol gold molecules and make the surface less shiny).

There is more than one way to skin a cat.

Russell Crow
- Dallas, Texas


thumbs up signThanks, Russell.

Yes, sputtering of gold is a viable alternative to electroplating in many circumstances. Probably more watch cases and dials are sputtered than electroplated.

But I question it being a viable alternative for someone like Greg who wants one single specialty item coated. I've never heard of a shop anywhere that offers sputtering services on one-off items, and a sputtering chamber can cost several hundred thousand dollars. Yes, perhaps he could build a small informal one himself, but there's a lot of learning involved in that approach as well.

Regards,

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



August 14, 2008

! [Company name deleted by editor] offers training videos, complete reasonably priced kits, new processes, electroless Plating, safer chemicals. A very good site for those interested in plating on a small scale at home.

IMHO Old time platers would like us to believe that plating is some sort of "Magic." The fact of the matter is that many High Schools of Science and Technology teach basic plating practices in chemistry class. The "Old Timers" need to realize that satisfactory results can be obtained at home or in the shop with newer, safer, environmentally responsible ways.

Joseph Lincoln
- Springfield, Massachusetts


August 14, 2008

thumbs up signHi, Joseph. We had to delete the company name you quoted at their request, but people can easily do a google search for companies marketing to hobby platers. Thanks!

Your assumption that amateurs are up to date while professionals are out of date is silly; it's like saying only backyard mechanics can design and fix Hybrids, not professionals; or only midwives can do laparoscopic surgery, not surgeons :-)

- Your "old time platers" visit Capitol Hill every year to meet with Congress (NASF Washington Forum) to try to get laws like the "Categorical Standards" modified, which state that every drop of water associated with plating is regulated as hazardous even if you can safely drink gallons of it.
- Your "old time platers" travel the country to attend expositions/conferences (Sur/Fin 20xx, Coatings 20xx, Southern Metal Finishing) on new technology which might ease the regulatory and environmental burden. They meet monthly (AESF Branch meetings, NAMF Chapter meetings) to insure that they hear every presentation on each new technology like trivalent chrome plating, white bronze as a replacement for nickel, zinc alloys as a replacement for cadmium, and cyanide-free silver.
- Your "old time platers" sponsor research every year (AESF Research Sponsors program), paying for the university programs which study and improve plating processes.
- Your "old time platers" write the peer-reviewed journal articles (Plating & Surface Finishing, Metal Finishing, Journal of Applied Surface Finishing) which keep us up to date with the latest developments.
- Your "old time platers" have training & certification programs to test whether they actually know their stuff (Certified Electro-Finisher, Master Surface Finisher) vs. who is just talking out of their axx.
- Your "old time platers" sponsor exactly the high school science fairs you talked( about (Milwaukee Science Fair, Chicago Science Fair), as well as contests for aspiring auto designers (The Bright Design Challenge).

Meanwhile people selling plating out of their garage are in violation of countless laws including failure to have a NPDES permit, failure to follow DOT registration requirements in transporting their waste to the dump, failure to register the start date for their hazardous waste accumulation, failure to test that everything going to the drain is within the required ppm range, failure to register for the MACT program, and failure to alert their neighbors of the chemicals they have on hand ("Community Right to Know Act"). If a neighborhood child develops cancer of any type for any reason, and her parents find out you were chrome plating in your garage, God help you.

Everyone is in favor of "newer, safer, environmentally responsible ways"; but talk is cheap and it is your "old time platers" who prove their environmental responsibility by maintaining all of the required permits, which in turn means they are regularly inspected by the regulatory authorities, while the garage platers don't register, remain ignorant of the law, hide below the radar, and guess that they are not doing too much environmental damage, although they often lack the knowledge to actually know. The worst case of plating pollution that I am aware of in a 45-year career was from a chrome shop in a 2-car garage (Odessa Chrome Superfund Site / U.S. vs. Sequa et al). It became a superfund site, and the legal fees (before the actual clean up costs even begin) is in the multi-millions.

Your turn.

Regards,

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



September 5, 2011

!! Oh my God, I can't believe what I'm reading on this page. The OP just wanted to plate something, for crying out loud! And the mods on the forum reply with, "Sure, this is finishing.com, where we expertish persons teach the layperson how to do things, and we know you want to plate something in nickel, so tell you what. We'll tell you how to do it: go read a book on the subject. Lots and lots of books on the subject. And don't forget to refer a friend to the experts on finishing.com!"
Then you guys go on a windy diatribe about the hazards of plating something, which follows this line: "Plating is serious business. You're dealing with corrosive chemicals known to the State of California to give the children in your neighborhood terminal cancer if they breath the stuff just once. You think handling radioactive waste is hazardous? The chemicals used in nickel plating makes radioactivity look like a mosquito bite! I mean, you're dealing with deadly chlorine gas, where one drop can burn straight through your steel-toed boot. And sodium chloride, which releases a lethal, deadly stinking gas cloud upon exposure to citric acid that will blanket several square miles, causing death all around. PLATING IS NOT FOR MORONS! You must come prepared wearing a radioactive suit, a 100 psi halon fire extinguishing system, and fume-hood conduit throughout the working area. And this is if you just want to plate a doorknob or something..."

Glenn Steven
- san diego California, USA.


September 5, 2011

thumbs up signHi, Glenn.

The original poster was immediately given the formula she asked for. Readers will decide for themselves whether it is you or we most guilty of exaggeration :-)

Regards,

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


November 6, 2011

thumbs up signIt's pretty funny to see a complaint about safety concerns. Plating uses a ton of chemistry, and if you've had formal education on it, you know that certain chemicals can harm you. But, what you don't know is just how badly or quickly unfamiliar chemical solutions can hurt you and others.

So good, you want to plate a doorknob? Well, I hope everyone gives the warnings before someone goes and harms themselves, their family, and their community!

Great advice is on this site, and the warnings are part of what's so great about it.

Jeremy Chan
- Honolulu, Hawaii, USA



December 25, 2011

Nickel Plating Solution

Q. I came across this thread looking for info on preparing a nickel electrolyte solution for plating coldroll steel.

I agree with some other posters above in regards to how the op's question really never got answered- So here's my question...

I'm a microbiologist (with a little knowledge in organic chemistry)- so I'm not a noob on handling chems, but I am a bit ignorant on the plating process (despite the countless hours of reading about it on-line.)

I have basically access to all the chemicals I need. I built a plating tank- and even a makeshift BSC to carry the fumes up & out of my garage.

I'm using an 8" x 1/4" .99.9% pure nickel filler rod for my anode- as for the solution- (like the op asks) I'd like some direction. I'm plating a few 16" x 2" steel cannon barrels.

As for chems- I have nickel sulfate, glacial acetic acid, hydrochloric acid, nitric acid & sulfuric acid.

I see a lot of conflicting info on-line about how to properly prepare the steel to be plated- and an equally amount of ways to prepare a basic nickel electrolyte.

yes- I know there is no such thing as a "basic" solution just like there is no "basic" cookie recipe- but there are elements that every nickel plating solution has- and I was wondering what those are?

for example- 3 tablespoons of nickel sulfate, 1 oz boric acid, 1 qt distilled water.

michael gambrazio
- worcester, mass USA


Powdered pumice

December 25, 2011

A. Hi, Michael. I thought Tom immediately and directly answered the question in the very first response. But to re-iterate --

The most common nickel plating solution is Watts' Nickel. It consists of:
- 225 to 300 g/l NiSO4.6H2O (nickel sulfate hexahydrate)
- 37 to 53 g/l NiCl2.6H2O (nickel chloride hexahydrate)
- 30 to 45 g/l H3BO3 (boric acid).

It is operated at 140° F, pH 4.0, and current density of up to 40 ASF.

Without brightening agents, this will not be bright as plated; you'll have to buff it for brightness.

The very easiest way to clean onesy-twosy items is to scrub them with a solution of powdered pumice, a little detergent, and warm water, using an old-fashioned tampico scrub brush. Then rinse, a quick dip into say 20% HCl, rinse, and into the plating tank. Best of luck.

Regards,

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


November 25, 2016

thumbs up signSeveral years ago I started plating as part of a small artisan workshop. I restrict myself to the less hazardous salts and find other alternative non-plating routes where necessary. I have a growing library of plating books and downloaded academic papers. I am not a chemist by education (physicist).

My operation is small (25 litres is a lot of electrolyte in my workshop) bunded containers of course, 1st wash pull out is recycled back into the electrolyte to replace evaporation losses (almost zero loss to the environment) and I am prepared to pay for disposal (my political allegiance is Green).

I understand the frustrations of amateurs wanting to do an adhoc job but as I progress and improve more I fully understand their concerns. The idea of folks flushing nickel or worse down drains, getting exposed to things they should not and so on is scary and its not always the person doing the plating who will pay the price.

I have invested time and money into making sure that my set up is environmentally sound, even though I am the only worker I still have documented work flows and practices not only to keep me on the straight and narrow but to avoid impact on my finished articles - I have a motivation in the sense that it is a small artisan business ( not a plate shop )and I have every reason to continue to refine, improve and learn and also the local authorities have the right to come round and check me out - I am just not sure a weekender has the same motivation.

Sorry to sound like I am sucking up to the pros and of course if they inspected my set up they still might find fault despite all my labours and research. That's precisely why I agree with them and wish to continue to learn from them not for a day or two but year in and year out.

Ted - keep on your current course you are right IMHO, you try to tread the difficult path between encouraging kids with school projects yet pointing out the environmental and safety pit falls. Unfortunately we live in an age of knee jerk reactions and people who have had no training or relevant education who think they know better than the experts. Despite photographs of the surface of Mars or the cure of many types of cancer and miracle eye operations the average Joe still thinks he knows better than the "experts" who achieved those things -- in his/her view Doctors are still talking out of their bottoms and news of man's impact on the environment is nothing more than chinese whispers. I am fed up with it and long for the times when people listened to those who know rather than those who shout loudest or get on their indignant soap box and share their "facts" with others. Experts are wrong sometimes but at least they were not guessing - anyone can toss a coin and be right some of time but science and civilisation has rejected guessing in favour of knowledge and it works most of the time.

Jon Light
- Saltum Jylland Denmark


November 2016

Thanks for the kind thoughts, Jon, and best wishes with your continuing efforts.

Regards,

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



NAMF Management Manual

October 4, 2016

Q. I'm a newbie to this and while I have a physics degree and understand the basics, it appears to be mostly trial and error insofar as proprietary solutions are concerned.

I'm looking to do some copper electroforming on a small commercial scale, along with subsequent nickel, silver and then some gold plating over the copper. What do I have to do to be legal? The copper sulfate is sprayed by the state on the roadsides here to prevent roots from growing. The nickel I'm doing is nickel acetate and I don't plan on throwing any away if I can help it. The silver is a silver nitrate-sodium thiosulfate-potassium metabisulfite. THERES NO CYANIDE HERE.

Ted Mooney mentions an NPDES permit, I went on their website and it clearly says if you dispose into a municipal waste water system you don't need it. He also mentions a DOT permit, I looked and my state is unregulated for that.
What is all of this talk of unregistered platers? Or is this only referring to cyanide and chromium types?

More information would be much appreciated.

Ryan Rankin
- kamuela, Hawaii, usa


1298

A. Hi Ryan. An issue that we may not have yet made clear is that waste regulations are based not just on what the waste is, but also where it came from. Even before there was an EPA, plating shop wastes were regulated by the Department of the Interior, which selected electroplating as the very first industry to be subjected to 'categorical standards' (in other words, effluent limitations based not just on hazards, but based on the industry which generated them).

Plating shops who discharge to a municipal waste water system most definitely must comply with EPA discharge standards! The way it actually works, though, is you apply for a discharge permit from your local POTW (sewer system) and they give you the standards you must adhere to, and they monitor you.

But a small custom jewelry designer might not be considered a 'plating shop' (you & I can't make that ruling; the EPA does). If you are discharging to a municipal waste water system, they are charged with enforcing whatever are the applicable standards for your operation, so that's who to contact. Although I suspect that most small custom jewelry designers don't register, I think you might be considered a plating/metal finishing shop. Good luck.

Regards,

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



January 13, 2018

Q. OK so y'all scared me!! I usually like to at least try to do things once but this seems a little over my head. So can anyone nickel plate an old kerosene lamp for me? Or at least point me in the right direction. Thanks.

Dave Fedderke
- Defiance Ohio USA.
  ^- Privately contact this inquirer -^


May 27, 2018

thumbsdownThis thread is very unhelpful. The question was about a recipe for bright nickel plating. The answers were about books, hazards, regulations, etc., etc, but not about the recipe. Doesn't matter if you are professional or not -- if you have nothing to say on the subject, don't post. Don't waste other peoples' time and yours.

Anatoly Grishin
Research - Los Angeles, California, USA


May 2018

Hi Anatoly. The recipe was given in the first response:

"A Watts nickel formulation will give you a smooth matte plate:
40-8-6 ounces per gallon of nickel sulfate, nickel chloride, boric acid, respectively; pH 4.0."

Readers remain free to stop there if they have no interest in books, hazards, regulations, etc., or to continue on according to their own interests. Some readers will appreciate your posting; others will feel that you had nothing to say and shouldn't have posted and wasted their time :-)

Regards,

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



Addition agents for D-I-Y bright nickel plating

October 28, 2018

Q. I tried Watt's nickel a couple years ago - it worked great.
BUT I would love to find practical additions to get a bright result without buffing. Using only HARMLESS chemicals like the above-mentioned saccharin.
BTW: safety data for most chemicals are found on line. Wikipedia is a good start.

jim karlock
none - portland Oregon USA


October 2018

A. Hi Jim. You can try sodium saccharin and formaldehyde, which should be reasonably bright. Maybe a g/l or two of saccharin and 1/10 as much formaldehyde.

I know that people don't want to hear that the best nickel brighteners/addition agents are not easy, but you see the question asked for decades but never answered 100% because it is complicated and proprietary ... and people are not completely satisfied when they can't, in a couple of hours, match what the major corporations have spent decades and millions of dollars on. My understanding is that the best nickel addition agents are synthesized from precursors anyway -- in other words you can't buy such a chemical (except from the proprietary supplier) because they are produced by synthesis (like making plastics from oil), and it is beyond the capability of individuals to buy and operate such chemical plants.

If you try the saccharin and formaldehyde, let us know what you learn please :-)

Regards,

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



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