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Copper plating steel or aluminum motorcycle gas tank and frame?

A discussion started in 2007 and continuing through 2017 . . .


Q. I've searched on the matter but have not found anything for my situation.

I'm thinking of a paint scheme for my bike and would like to know if it would be feasible to copper plate a steel motorcycle frame and (maybe aluminum) gas tank. I would then paint over some of it (stripes, etc). I'm wondering how hard the copper would be, how resistant to scratching or if I can do something to finish (i.e., clear coat?) it properly. I would also like to venture into copper plating the aluminum motor (1970s motorcycle). I understand that these parts need to be properly polished BEFORE plating? Is this all pie in the sky? Any advice / criticism is much appreciated. Would someone take a wild guess as to cost? (i.e., over 500$ over 1000$)

Being a hobbyist, I would try to do much of the prep polishing.

George Fournier
hobbyist - Toronto, Canada


A. Orange County Choppers has done a completely copper plated chopper, so, yes, it can be done. >$1000, maybe >>$1000. Amateur polishing will probably not work very well. Take it apart and send it to a custom plating shop

jeffrey holmes
Jeffrey Holmes, CEF
      South Carolina


Q. Can you mask an area of the tank and chrome the rest of it? ie. I want a copper stripe running across the tank. I assume I have to completely copper plate it, then mask the stripe, then continue onto the chroming process.

Also, can I clear coat over all of this to avoid the copper from oxidizing? Would normal clear coat work?

George Fournier [returning]
- Toronto, Ontario, Canada


A. Virtually any combination of plating and paint you can dream up is possible... however you will have to find a plating shop which is both equipped and willing to do the work. Talk to them about what they can and will do.

This is not a home project.

jeffrey holmes
Jeffrey Holmes, CEF
      South Carolina

April 23, 2009

A. This sounds great. Keep in mind, that all copper plating is subject to oxidation immediately indoors. I have been in the Navy and seen what copper looks like exposed to the elements. Cover your copper with a clear coat or an epoxy at the bare minimum, and expect a great deal of attention to be paid over time to ensure you have a shiny work of art. I want to do copper plating on a few things using a brush-on technique of copper sulfate. I hope that it stands up to the open-air application I have in store for it on my Suzuki Boulevard!

Gabe Taijeron
- Hampton, Virginia

May 20, 2017

Q. Hi
I'm customising an old BMW motorcycle and would like to copper plate the rocker box covers.
They're a non-steel casting, I presume an alloy of aluminium or zinc.
Its an old bike, and I'm keen for the copper to age and patina, so a bright finish is not required, but I'd like to to be reasonably durable and abrasion resistant, so I expect to need a reasonably thick coating.
Can you recommend a good process to use, which will help me locate a suitable electroplater (ie once I know what I'm looking for)?

Andrew Hubbard
- Wellington, New Zealand

May 21, 2017

A. Copper is not very durable nor abrasion resistant. You can let the copper age an patina or force patina using a patina solution, then just clear coat it using a coating designed for it. A clear coat that is not glossy at all that will kill the natural patina effect, the clear coating using 2k or catalyzer will give you a durable surface.

Marvin Sevilla
- Managua, Nicaragua

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