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"In simple words only"


OK, I read the messages posted. I was hoping to gain more information on starting a chroming shop. What I got from all the talk was it will cost me thousands of dollars, I'll do battle with EPA,the DOE, DOT not to mention all the local agencies. Then I have to get customers and then hopefully make a profit that I can live on and continue to go on. I must admit, the thing looks real bleak! I would post this question to Ted, If you were to start a chrome shop what would you do and why. I think Ted has a vast amount of knowledge that no one is really tapping into.

Tom Edward
hobbyist - Heath, Ohio USA


I appreciate the kind words, Tom, but many people here are offering helpful advice.

It should be clear that I have no interest in opening a chrome plating shop; it fact I have an occasional nightmare that I am stuck in possession of one.

Please read our Chrome Plating Tutorial and you will understand what I would do: namely I would start by working in a plating shop for a couple of years. I think it is highly unrealistic for people to believe that they can successfully start a business in a field where they don't have nearly enough knowledge to qualify for a journeyman job. If one refuses to accept that and wants to keep their day job, second best would be taking a one-week plating course, plus reading at least a half dozen books and magazines cover to cover, plus attending monthly local meetings of the American Electroplaters Society for at least a year. I wouldn't commit a dime to equipment or chemicals until at least that point.

When I did start the business, I'd aim for the top end. We are living in an age where many consumers have more money than they know what to do with.

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


Tom, Ted is right in what he has said. Chrome plating is a complex subject, but we can summarise it. Firstly, there are two basic types of chrome plating, hexavalent and trivalent; don't worry about the names, just be aware of the two.
Hexavalent chromium is plated from a mixture of sulphuric acid and chromic oxide, often with other chemicals added. Sulphuric acid is a very powerful acid that will go through 6 inch armour plate given half a chance. Chromic oxide is also very nasty and this particular form of a chromium salt will not only dissolve the septum in your nose (like you've been snorting coke), but it is also a Category 1 carcinogen. Consequently, the use of this type of chromium is highly controlled and regulated and it is getting tougher. The good side about this process is that it gives good reproducible results when running properly. You will have all sorts of problems disposing of any waste solutions and rinses because most people, quite rightly, don't want this muck in their back yard. You CANNOT tip it down the drain or your water supplier will have you in court so fast you won't be able to go to the ATM to get yourself out of jail. Even if you want to continue on this route, you will need a good power supply that will depend on the amount of work you intend to do.
Now, you can also use trivalent chromium. This was actually the first plating solution for chromium, but it was not very reliable. Modern trivalent baths are much more reliable, and nowhere near as harmful as hexavalent baths, but do have numerous problems. Firstly they are difficult to operate and control, unless you know what you are doing. Secondly, the colour varies quite widely, so you may run into problems matching the colour of coatings. Thirdly, using a barrel can be a problem; as far as I am aware, and I am no expert in the latest technology, there is no reliable barrel plating process for trivalent chromium. The good side about trivalent baths is that they are nowhere near as harmful as hexavalent baths and can be much more easily handled. You will still need a power supply and a method of disposing of your waste waters and solutions. The most practical way of treating your waste is to use an effluent treatment plant, but that will cost many thousands of dollars. Again for either process, you will have to ensure that you do not discharge anything into the atmosphere, so you will need fume scrubbers.
Furthermore, you will need to know and understand the chemistry of the processes. You will also need to have a pretreatment facility to ensure your base material is perfectly clean and suited to being chromed. All of this adds to the basic cost and inconvenience, but without it you are doonmed to failure and should not even consider starting. If you want to waste your money by cutting out the pretreatment side, just send me a blank cheque very month and I will fill in the details!
All of this assumes you get permission to operate the processes from your local government, and if the USA is like the UK, that is a very difficult thing to be sure of!
I would implore you not to take short cuts and do potential damage the environment or your neighbours, otherwise you will be soon hounded out of business and (in my opinion) should be made to clean up the consequences of such actions with your tongue and teeth!
If you are now still keen to start your own chrome plating business, let me wish you well and the very best of luck. If you are successful, you have a good chance of making a good living.

trevor crichton
Trevor Crichton
R&D practical scientist
Chesham, Bucks, UK

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