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topic 3191

Power Supply for Hobbyist Zinc Plating


I'm very pleased to have found this website, and hope I can find some assistance. I am setting up a small hobbyist zinc plating operation. I have all of the required materials, but my question relates to power supplies. The materials I have suggest approximately 1-1/2 volts applied to the cathode and anode, at a rate of .025 amps per square inch of material to be plated. The parts I plan to plate range from an inch to 400 inches or from .025 amps to 10 amps.

D-cell batteries will only work briefly for the smallest of items. Unfortunately there seems to be no source for an affordable adjustable power supply. I considered using an inexpensive auto/marine battery charger [linked by editor to product info at Amazon] as a source, some are available in 10/2 amp settings for 6 and 12 volts. I had hoped to use resistance to control the power to the required settings. I dug out my old college physics textbooks and spent much of this morning number-crunching, and it seems possible to use resistance in series with the plating load to reduce voltage and resistance in parallel with the plating load to reduce amperage flowing to the plating load. I've calculated the required resistors and none seem to exceed 420 ohms at 10.5 watts. I found variable coil resistors that can handle this load.

Am I on the right track or are my assumptions flawed? Am I missing out on some simpler/more affordable approach? Any help that can be offered is greatly appreciated. D. R. Kane

Damon K [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]
- North Wales, Pennsylvania


It would take dozens of D batteries in parallel to deliver 10 amps @ 1.5 volts. The parts cost for a line-powered 1.5VDC @ 10A power supply shouldn't be too much, perhaps an experienced electronics person could build one for you if you can't yourself. Try a surplus electronics store to keep the cost down. If 6 volts is really too much, then this might be the way to go.

Joe DavissonJoe Davisson signature
Joe Davisson
St. Louis, Missouri


Battery chargers generally supply unregulated, unfiltered power, with lots of ripple. This is good for charging batteries but not so good for certain kinds of plating. It's not hard to build a power supply. Radio Shack has a great little book with detailed plans for constructing voltage regulated power supplies. That might be the way to go, if you can't find a used one. By the way, controlling voltage and current with resistance can be done, but in the 5 - 10 amp range the resistance elements will have to dissipate a lot of power and can get mighty HOT.

dave wichern
Dave Wichern
Consultant - The Bronx, New York


Why don't you use the battery for the source of current in plating, and recharge a second battery with the battery charger offline?

tom pullizzi portrait
Tom Pullizzi
Falls Township, Pennsylvania


You could try using a PC switch mode power supply. These power supplies are usually thrown away with old computers, I'd be surprised if you had to pay money form one. The +5V output is regulated and usually have > 15A current rating. Make sure you use *all* the red and black wires at these current levels and keep below %80 rated output. These supplies are build at absolute minimum cost so don't expect them to be a rugged and reliable power source.

Happy plating

Adam Seychell
- Melbourne, Australia


What kind of plating you want to do? Decorative, Corrosion protection etc. What kind of solution you are using? How much money to invest?

Harshad v [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]
- Alhambra California USA.

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