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topic 3094

Inexpensive black electroplate technique?


Q. I have several dozen 1/2" diameter bolts, washers, and nuts that I would like to have 'plated' black. These are the type that one would buy at a typical Home Depot hardware store. I am not sure of the exact type of electro-plating that these have, I think it might be nickel-cadmium (please correct me if I am wrong). Knowing how expensive it is to have these plated 'black oxide' by a professional company, I was wondering if someone could recommend a relatively inexpensive way that I could do this at my home. Is there any type of home electro-plating electrolyte I can purchase that will plate a blackish color directly on top of the existing finish? Or must the nickel-cadmium finish be first removed? I have a 20 amp 12 VDC power supply at my disposal.

greg a [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]
- san diego, California


ASM vol5
ASM Metals Handbook vol. 5

Surface Cleaning, Finishing and Coating

Electroplating Engineering Handbook
by Larry Durney
from Abe Books


The Canning Handbook of Surface Finishing Technology

Electrodeposition -- The Materials Science of Coatings and Substrates


A. Hi Greg. You might be better economically served by going to a specialty hardware supplier and buying the fasteners you need with the black oxide finish already on them. They will not be expensive. The problem is that such parts are either plated or black oxided in bulk (by the thousands), adding very little to the cost of the fastener at time of manufacture; but it is labor intensive (and consequently quite costly) to finish them a few at a time on a rework basis regardless of the specific finish desired.

It is unlikely that the finish is nickel-cadmium, as that is usually reserved for very expensive specialty aircraft components; fasteners from Home Depot are almost surely zinc plated and chromated.

If you want to do something yourself, I'd lightly sand them to remove most of the chromate, then paint the exposed surfaces black. I think they'll look good. Best of luck.

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

October 10, 2010

thumbsdownHi. I have the same sort of questions as Greg. I guess since you do not sell a kit to do this, you did not want to take more than 60 seconds to write a reply. Maybe I am wrong, but you would have been the right person it seems to figure out HOW to do this instead of why not to do this. Any jerk can spray paint their bolts. When we take pride in our engines on motorcycles and cars, building the engines ourselves, the reply you gave sounds like a cop out.

I have gone through so many cars and this one, I wanted to plate the bolts to give a cleaner appearance. I even bought brand new ones from Honda to get plated.

I guess you are right though, if it is hard to do, and I cannot do it perfectly the first time, why even try.

Peter schmitt
- orlando, California us

October 10, 2010

thumbs up signHi, Peter.

Please skip the ad hominem attacks. They make websites sour places to visit; we've been on line a long time and credit our success primarily to readers appreciating civility. It wastes readers' time to talk about a "kit" that you don't want and we don't have, just to attack me.

Greg didn't complain, probably because his question was "Knowing how expensive it is ...", and we told him the reason it was expensive was the special handling involved, and that when manufactured in bulk they are inexpensive, and specialty fastener stores have them. You're insulting me for answering his actual questions instead of the ones you had in mind :-)

We also advised him, as he asked, that the plating was zinc not nickel cadmium. Had he come back and asked how to remove the zinc plating and do black oxide in pursuing a hobby, we'd have pointed him to the dozens of threads on this site covering the removal of zinc plating, which is easily but dangerously done by immersion in muriatic acid, and then said that it is possible but dangerous to do hot black oxide on the bolts on a stove top --- which is also discussed at length on this site.

If you can't get hands-on instruction, it takes a lot of reading to learn how to do this kind of stuff. Trial-and-error is fine towards learning how to do it "perfect", but trial and error isn't a proper approach to doing it safely. Why do you think so many plating books are written? Perhaps it's you, not me, who should commit to investing "more than 60 seconds". Good luck.


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

September 24, 2012

Q. Looking for an inexpensive "plating/coating" to achieve a semi gloss or matte black finish. We have frame stands made from 1" mild steel tubing. And also boxes of G90 sheet metal (like a shoe box with no lid).
Application is outdoor exposure.
Customer wants a black aesthetic having basic durability and corrosion protection.
Qty may be up to 100,000 of each.
Any suggestions?
Ed M.

Ed mumford
Metal fab - Houston,texas, usa

September 24, 2012

A. Hi Ed. The shoeboxes already have pretty good corrosion resistance by virtue of their G90 galvanized coating, but the mild steel tubing has none.

Some potential choices include electrocoating the tubing, and then powder coating both the tubing and the shoeboxes, or zinc-iron plating and black chromating, or black chrome plating, or possibly salt bath nitriding.

Black oxide is no more rust resistant than the oil or wax which you apply repeatedly, and is not an answer for durable outdoors corrosion resistance. Good luck.


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

Solution for really dark black electrodeposit?

February 9, 2015 -- this entry appended to this thread by editor in lieu of spawning a duplicative thread

Q. Can anyone recommend a solution that creates a really dark black electroplated deposit?

Julie Richardson
finishing - Houston, Texas USA

February 2015

A. Hi Julie. Black chrome can be formulated and operated in different ways, but some of it looks more like carbon black or fine wrinkle paint than chrome; this might be what you are looking for. There is also super dark black electroless nickel plating, the darkness coming from the sponge-like way it deposits, with the holes capturing the light ... but I don't know if this is commercially available or not, and it's probably not cheap.


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

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