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Show Quality Chrome Specs

We manufacture products for outdoor use. We require our products to use the nickel chrome plating process to produce a show quality finish. We have had issues with thin,dull or burnt chrome in the past and would like a specs sheet to provide for plating companies to follow using a specific criteria. Any help on this would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!

Lynn Austria
product manufacturing - Vancouver, B.C., Canada
April 10, 2008

Hi, Lynn. I am not certain exactly what "show chrome" really means. To me it means chrome that is nice enough for a winning entry at a car show, and to me that means that there must be a buffed copper layer under the nickel, rather than relying simply on the self leveling characteristics of nickel plating.

For outdoor use you must have at least two layers of nickel plating (semi-bright followed by bright) after the copper plating and before the chrome. Some OEM specs call for three or four. You can get from their "Quality Guide to Nickel Chrome Plating". Good luck.


Ted Mooney,
Ted Mooney, P.E.
Striving to live Aloha - Pine Beach, New Jersey
April 11, 2008

April 11, 2008

Ted, I would have to disagree with some of that. Cerainly good quality steel can be polished and buffed, then bright chrome and nickel plated such that you cannot tell by looking whether it has been copper plated or not.

"Show quality" is all about appearance, and cannot be achieved by simply specifying the process to be used. That does not account for the importance of workmanship.

I can follow any process specification that can be written, and still produce cosmetically unacceptable work.

Some might define "show quality" as being free from any visible imperfection, but in the real world, that is impossible. Harley-Davidson issues a very long and detailed specification for visual inspection, in which they try to define just where the tiniest imperfection crosses the line from acceptable to unacceptable.

In the end the best method is probably a set of duplicate samples, one for the buyer and one for the supplier, and which show examples of what is acceptable and what is not.

jeffrey holmes
Jeffrey Holmes, CEF
Spartanburg, South Carolina

Thanks, Jeffrey, I probably don't disagree with you; I took a short cut rather than describing every possible scenario. I have seen typical OEM rough polished steel bumpers receive high quality nickel and chrome plating, and I have seen buffed copper bumpers receive the same plating. There is a huge and obvious difference in smoothness and reflectivity; self-levelling nickel just can't fully make up for an unbuffed surface. You may be correct that the third possibility, fully buffed steel, is indistinguishable from a copper plated substrate.

And on the rest of what you said, I agree, and I'm sure Lynn and the readers appreciate your help. I do remember a time a couple of decades ago when cars still had chrome bumpers and Chrysler was "empowering" assemblers to reject work . . . and at some plants for a while there were zero acceptable bumpers. Absolute perfection on a large chrome plated object may be too high a goal.


Ted Mooney,
Ted Mooney, P.E.
Striving to live Aloha - Pine Beach, New Jersey
April 12, 2008

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