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How to Set up a Simple Home Electroplating System

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Q. Can I do some Chrome and Brass plating at home?

I am restoring a 43 ft. 1958 boat. Lots of bright work to cleaned up and some of the parts are hard or impossible to replace. I have sent some things out for professional plating, but the cost can be daunting. I am a chemical engineer, so I appreciate the environmental and other operating costs of the professional shops. I was just wondering if there are any replating kits and instructions that I might use safely at home to do some of the small plating work. Thanks for you help.

Bill Relihan
hobbyist, conservator - Apollo Beach, Florida

A. Hi, Bill. As you can see, we appended your letter to a similar thread. We have an "Introduction to Chrome Plating" on line here that will help you understand what is involved. I would not suggest real chrome plating at home because it requires toxic and carcinogenic hexavalent chromium, but there are imitations available. The best brass plating is cyanide based, which is an extremely powerful poison, but you may be able to find a non-cyanide brass plating solution (from EPI / Electrochemical Products Inc. [a supporting advertiser], for example, or a hobby plating site) that is good enough.


Ted Mooney,
Ted Mooney, P.E.
Striving to live Aloha - Pine Beach, New Jersey
March 19, 2009

March 17, 2009

Q. Hi my name is matt, I am very much into building cars and motorcycles and just about anything custom. I have never had anything plated and I understand the prices can be pretty high, I am just wondering if there is any type of metal plating I can do at home in my garage for my self, I actually have a set of wheels that are hard to find and would like to try to plate my self, (the chrome is peeling on them) I would also like to plate a lot of other parts under the hood of the Camaro I am building, it's a 1979 Z28 and I am trying to completely restore it, and there is a lot of things I would love to chrome plate and don't want it to cost me a arm and a leg. I don't mind to labor at all I found a kit for 899.00, this is close to the kit I found, the difference is the kit I found is 6 gallon instead of 4.5, I would like to know also how much plating will a 6 gallon kit make and do you have to have any kind of license or permit to buy the kit. I understand it is an art but I do like learning and would really love to learn the trade without spending over a 1000.00 dollars, I would also like to know if there is any kind of newer technology that would make it safer and easier for someone with no experience and the finish I am looking for with the automotive parts. I have always been a quick learner and believe I can do it. There are also a lot of books that say how easy it is to do it at home and I don't believe that and am kind of sketchy about them. Any help would be greatly appreciated, thanks matt. P.S.: this is the kit I found, like I said it's exactly the same except bigger 6 gallon not 4.5 Gallon Kit

6 x 6 Gal Plating tanks with lids
2 x 6" x 8" Nickel anodes & bandages
2 x 4" x 8 Copper anodes & bandages
2 x 12" x 12" Chrome Anodes
2 x 8" x 8" GP Plates
3 Pack Nickel Crystals w/Brightener (Makes 4.5 Gals)
3 Pack Copper Crystals (Makes 4.5 Gals)
10 x 1.5 oz Copper Brightener A
3 x 4 oz Copper Brightener Part B
3 Cans Chrome Crystals (Makes 4.5 Gallons)
Chrome Activator
1 x 4.5 gal Flash Copper Chemicals (A, B, C)
2 Packs SP Degreaser (Makes 8 Gallons)
4 x 300 W Ceramic Heaters
1 x 200 W Glass Heater
2 x Thermostats
3 x Filter/pumps (For Nickel/Copper & Flash Copper Kit)
Fume Control Balls
2 Pack Pickle #4 (Makes 4 Gals)
Manual and DVD

matt mcdonald
beginner - Greeley, Colorado

A. Hi, Matt. We appended your inquiry to an earlier thread so you can conveniently read a number of different perspectives, and we hope you'll get further responses.


Ted Mooney,
Ted Mooney, P.E.
Striving to live Aloha - Pine Beach, New Jersey
March , 2009

Q. I would like to apply precious metals to animal skulls. I am going to use beetles to clean the skull.Now I am currently trying to find a soft,low melting point, easy to work with alloy that will stick to the bone. This alloy would also be the cathode in the electroplating process. I understand your concerns with liability in regards to plating. Any other thoughts?


Matt Bostwick
- Helix, Oregon
August 7, 2009

A. Hi, Matt. Please see our FAQ on plating flowers, plants, and animal skulls. There are other ways to metallize than to melt metal onto something, and I think you'll find them better for this purpose. Good luck.


Ted Mooney,
Ted Mooney, P.E.
Striving to live Aloha - Pine Beach, New Jersey
August 15, 2009

Q. Hey, has anyone tried [brand name omitted by editor] Tank Plating and Brush Plating systems?

Joe Soltis
- Scranton, Pennsylvania USA
November 6, 2010

A. Hi, Joe. Sorry, but comparing brands on this no-registration-required site has often led to shills posing as satisfied customers, or getting long-winded sales pap in return, ultimately followed by a rancorous race to the bottom. Sorry but we can only discuss technical issues and not brand preferences. But there are a number of suppliers who can easily be found by googling for "hobby plating". Good luck.


Ted Mooney,
Ted Mooney, P.E.
Striving to live Aloha - Pine Beach, New Jersey
November 6, 2010

February 14, 2011

Q. Greetings Ted.
Looks like a great forum with lots of information.
I apologize for not reading all 50,000 pages, but I just want to permanently solve a corrosion problem in a farm tractor. Two small parts, critical to the operation of the diesel fuel injection & control system in the C.A.V. fuel pump repeatedly corrode & seize, requiring the disassembly, cleaning & polishing, and then reassembly of the C.A.V. pump. Very tedious and time consuming, great opportunity to lose parts when done in the field, etc.
Both of the affected critical parts would fit in a coffee cup at the same time, and, since they rust, appear to be ferrous metal.
After reading the basic tutorial, it appears it would be simple to zinc plate these parts in the farm shop.
Would it be faster to use battery acid [affil links] electrolyte as the liquid (instead of vinegar [in bulk on eBay or Amazon])? or dissolve a zinc anode in the electrolyte, then "dip & wait"? (as mentioned in "solution disposal")?
What would the effect be of raising the current source from a flashlight battery to a 12 volt vehicle battery?
I realize that that depositing material (zinc, copper, chrome, or other) will cause the parts to be a different size afterwards, and I will have to get it back to the correct size in the critical area, either by pre polishing (we've already polished it a lot!) or post polishing.
We don't care what it looks like; I would like not to have to ever see it again, but until we solve the corrosion issue, this machine has way too much unplanned maintenance.
Obviously, to remove the corrosive from the fuel would be step #1. Apparently that hasn't happened so I am looking for additional things to solve the problem without spending large sums of money, preferably things I can do with materials on hand.

#2, "new" parts installed in this equipment also corrode as fast as the old parts.
I understand this process is probably hazardous, I am aware of safety issues, and would like to avoid problems by being aware of them, and being prepared.
Thanks for any advice & assistance you can share.

Chris Edwards
Farm support - Cullman, Alabama, USA

February 14, 2011

Zinc Anodes

(affil links)

A. Hi, Chris. Don't apologize for not doing the impossible -- there are threads here that I haven't revisited in years.

Yes, battery acid is a stronger and better electrolyte than vinegar. And for small scale amateur attempts like this, zinc boat anodes should work as the source of zinc. You will find that 12 volts is way too much though. The zinc ions won't be able to transfer electrons fast enough, so water in the solution will be converted to hydrogen gas, and the parts will "burn" instead of getting good plating. Maybe try rechargeable batteries. A battery pack and charger from an old cordless phone would probably deliver 2.4v or 3.6v that you could perhaps try. Or you could try the under $75 Eastwood system mentioned above. Good luck. But consider having a machine shop make stainless steel replacement parts?


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


Q. Ted, I want to silver plate some old British Pennies "Victorian" to make some pieces of jewelry for my Granddaughter "Victoria" I think this would require something quite small to do this like maybe a fish tank...What do suggest for equipment John Harvey??

John Harvey
Hobbyist - Cambridge Ontario Canada
May 18, 2011

A. Hi, John. Please see our FAQ "Silver Plating at Home".

The non-electrolytic silver plating from the commercial silvering solutions is very thin, but may be up to what you need, and it's certainly the easy way. Good luck.


Ted Mooney,
Ted Mooney, P.E.
Striving to live Aloha - Pine Beach, New Jersey
May 19, 2011

Q. Uh, I don't have a dog in this fight, but I AM curious about a similar process that I have used to remove rust, paint and old finish from motorcycle parts. I use a soap solution, and a AC/DC 12V source. The crap comes off over night and leaves a truly workable surface for painting.

I'm wondering if, should I simply reverse the poles of the DC source----assuming that I have prepped the selected item well enough--- and provided some source of material such as junk silver jewelry for a silver finish, could there be a reasonable plating outcome? Thoughts?

Best Wishes,


Bruce Sims
Education - Lindenhurst, Illinois, USA
October 2, 2011

October 13, 2011

Gold Plating Solution

(affil links)

A. Hi, Bruce.

There will certainly be an outcome: we have an FAQ that teaches 2nd and 3rd graders how to zinc or copper plate with kitchen-safe materials in minutes. In principle electroplating is very very easy. The hard part is obtaining truly useful plating -- plating that will adhere rather than brush right off or peel off; plating that is free of pits and porosity which accelerate corrosion rather than retard it; plating that will have a good shine to it and reasonable thickness. I think your prospects for plating with home brew are better for nickel plating than silver plating though. Good luck.


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

Q. Hi Ted,

I'm looking to increase my knowledge of the principles and practice of metal finishing, with a view to turning my brush-plating hobby into a more serious business venture. I've successfully plated several small objects and have had many people offer to pay me to plate objects for them, but here in the UK there appears to be a dearth of books/guides aimed at amateurs with an interest in the chemistry. I've already researched the criteria for, and costs involved in, setting up a small garage-based electroplating shop and have been given advice on handling, storage and disposal of hazardous/chemical waste. I now want to do some reading to increase my knowledge of the processes involved and I'm therefore looking to obtain guides from overseas, especially the US, which seems to be the place to get information - I therefore wondered if you could point me towards some decent literature which I could order from US...I'll even forgive you guys for spelling sulfur and aluminium wrong :)

Kind Regards


Damien Frost
- Lincoln, Lincolnshire, United Kingdom
May 19, 2012

A. Hi, Damien.

The Metal Finishing Guidebook is probably the least expensive and most available introduction. Best of luck.


Ted Mooney,
Ted Mooney, P.E.
Striving to live Aloha - Pine Beach, New Jersey
May 21, 2012

Q. Hi Ted. I admire your advice and wisdom. I wonder, have you heard of Nikola Tesla's statement in one of his lectures that he was able to produce single electrode electrolysis? I am an inventor and experimenter who would like some input into perhaps another method to plating involving DC energy of high voltage.
If you or someone you know has read of this, can you expand upon the process? Also, what is the optimum voltage and amperage for the electrowinning of Gold? Thanks in advance.

Daniel Troy
- Bairnsdale Victoria Australia
April 16, 2013

April 16, 2013

A. Hi Daniel. I've heard of Nikola Tesla and appreciate that he was probably an under-appreciated genius. However, every book I've seen about him seems wrapped in so much silly mysticism that I'm not going to read them :-)

Sorry, I don't know anything about plating involving high DC energy, although other readers are welcome to chime in.

A plating cell is the same thing as a battery being overcome and driven in the opposite direction. For example, a student's "lemon battery" with zinc and copper electrodes generates 1.2 Volts as the copper plates out onto the zinc. So to plate zinc onto copper will require somewhat more than 1.2 Volts to pump the electrons in the opposite direction. You can look up the "galvanic series" to see the natural electropotentials of each metal, and you'll see that gold is very noble. So the ideal voltage for electrowinning gold will be very low so that you don't plate out anything else that is in the solution.


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

Q. Old thread but I have been reading and reading ... and reading ;) Cheers on your patience and openness to the range of questions from rookie to pro.
I have ridiculously fallen in love with cast iron. My first project was an old marine stove that I wired down and polished up.
So as I'm looking at my collection of trinkets I got to thinking about plating. It seems doable after some investment and study. I'm wondering though how you achieve detail in a piece. For example how do do get only the raised letters of a stove plate to be copper plated? I have a very ornate door. It would be neat all copper, it would be better if the copper was mixed with black areas to make it pop.


brian honky
- the cove, New brunswick, canada
September 29, 2014

A. Hi Brian. There are two basic ways to do selective plating like that. The first is by masking the area you don't want plated. This can be done with melted wax, masking lacquers, vinyl caps & plugs, or (probably most practical for your case) tape. Platers' tape isn't much different than electricians black tape except it's thicker, usually is green or another color, and the manufacturers are careful or claim to be careful with the selection of the adhesive so it doesn't contaminate the plating baths. My bet is that electricians's tape will be fine for amateur use. The second way to do selective plating is by brush plating instead of tank plating. Brush plating is sometimes called tampon plating and that's a quicker way to visualize it because the tool you use is closer to a tampon than a brush. You tightly wrap an electrode with a few layers of cloth, then dip it into plating solution, and wipe it across the area that you want to plate. Good luck.


Ted Mooney,
Ted Mooney, P.E.
Striving to live Aloha - Pine Beach, New Jersey
September 2014

A. Plan B--Copper plate the entire thing and then fill in the recesses with an appropriate paint. All kinds of gloss and temperature resistance is available. If it is too small for an artist brush you can use a syringe to fill in the cavity.

James Watts
- Navarre, Florida
September 30, 2014

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