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"Basic Plating Help"


Recently, I was given photocopied excerpt from a book supposedly published around 1890's. There were detailed instructions on how to perform nickel and silver plating. The instructions were; Use a 3-10% solution of Hydrochloric acid mixed with tap water. a 1.5 VDC battery and a glass container for the solution. Attach the source, nickel, silver, gold. to the positive side of the battery and the destination on the negative side and immerse them both into the solution. Improvising, I have duplicated this process and have been able to successfully apply silver and nickel plating. I use a solution of Baking Soda to neutralize the acid after the plating process. And I prepare the metal to be plated with acetone. However, after silver plating a piece of brass I noticed that it began to turn colors after a short time. And the only source I can find for nickel is a NS3 welding rod or a nickel coin. Which is 25% nickel and 75% copper. Everything that I nickel plate ends up copper colored until I buff out the finish. It then looks like chrome. I have varied the voltages and solutions to where I think I have the right combination. But I think I am missing something somewhere. Any ideas? Thanks.

Patrick Casto
- Longwood, Florida


One thing that 1890's book is missing, Patrick, is 120 years of progress :-)

Try to get your hands on a modern book like the Metal Finishing Guidebook or the Electroplating Engineering Handbook.

You also need to know that in 1974 the EPA made electroplating the nation's first categorically regulated industry -- which means that every drop of rinse water, let alone the nickel and silver plating solutions, is a regulated material that you cannot discharge without treatment and a permit (please see 40 CFR 430, which will be available online). As long as you do not plate any item you sell, or plate anything for money, you probably are not a 40 CFR 430 business though.

For the nickel, the most important thing is you need to get proper nickel anodes. Every plating shop has nickel crowns or nickel squares. Ask a local shop if you can buy a few dollars worth, or go to one of the vendor's of brush plating kits for consumers (several are listed in our Products and Services directory). This is probably not a very good nickel plating solution, but I guess it will work after a fashion for a hobbyist.

I'm surprised you can plate silver at all since I thought silver chloride would precipitate out of solution. Silver plating may not be for hobbyists: first, you can only plate it out of deadly cyanide solutions or proprietaries; second, you might generate a wildly explosive silver fulminate if you aren't careful; third, soluble silver salts are such a powerful biocide that casual neutralization with bicarbonate just isn't good enough.

As for the cleaning, forget the acetone; use a scrub brush and Pumice [affil. link to info/product on Amazon] , and maybe a little detergent.

Best of luck.

Ted Mooney, finishing.com
Ted Mooney, P.E.
Striving to live Aloha
finishing.com - Pine Beach, New Jersey

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