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topic 52408

Best Alternative to Black Oxide Plating

June 16, 2009

Q. My company manufactures specialized test equipment in small quantities. In the past we have used black oxide plating on the various steel parts in the equipment. Unfortunately, at least in Northern California, black oxide plating is no longer available.

We have used black zinc plating as an alternative but the price has been high. For example, a 3" x 7" x 5/8" steel rectangular plate is costing us $4. each to be plated in lots of around 100, almost as much as the raw material costs us. In addition, although the black zinc plating looks good, we have occasionally had flaking of the plating, something that was never a problem with the black oxide.

Is there an alternative to black zinc plating that will give us a black appearance but be less expensive than black zinc? The test equipment is always located inside and generally is never wet with water but will sometimes get oil splashed on it.

If there are no plating alternatives that are black in color, is there a more cost effective plating that still has good appearance in a different color (i.e., silver or gold?).


Paul Pitchener
Product Designer - Brisbane, California, USA

June 18, 2009

A. Hi, Paul. Zinc is the least expensive metal plating, although silver or gold might be a bit less expensive than black. Black oxide is apparently what you need and it is inexpensive, and I would be very slow to move to a more expensive and less satisfactory coating until I was positive that black oxide was impossible to get. Because the quantity is small you may be able to expand your geographical limits if necessary.


Ted Mooney,
Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
Pine Beach, New Jersey

June 24, 2009

A. Well Paul I find it rather hard to believe that you can not find anyone to do your bluing for you. Granted there are no plating shops up here in the Great White North that do caustic bluing but there is a good reason for that. The simple fact of the matter is that there is a gunsmith under every rock and bush that are willing to do caustic bluing for under $40.00 per gallon for small parts that require no polishing. The plating and machine shops finally stopped doing caustic bluing. They just could not compete. I would imagine the situation is much the same down there. I just looked at the California Yellow pages and there are 441 listings under guns and gunsmiths. I'm not a gambling man but I would be willing to bet a case of beer that there is a gunsmith within 15 or 20 minutes of your location that would gladly run your parts though for a small fee. I think you would be quite surprised to learn how much bluing gunsmiths actually do for machine shops. Gunsmiths are generally always a dollar short and a day behind in rent. I once made 500 small jackshafts for a local hobby shop that was selling them to little old men and ladies to polish rocks and model airplane parts with. Go through the yellow pages and start calling shops. :o)

rod henrickson
Rod Henrickson
Edmonton, Alberta, Canada

June 25, 2009

A. Try in-house, do-it-yourself room temperature blacking from (1) Hubbard-Hall, (2) Birchwood Casey, or (3) EPI (Electrochemical Products Inc.) [a supporting advertiser] in Madison Wisconsin. If there are others, please forgive me

robert probert
Robert H Probert
Robert H Probert Technical Services
supporting advertiser
Garner, North Carolina

Editor's note: Mr. Probert is the author of Aluminum How-To / Aluminio El Como

June 30, 2009

! It should be noted that the cold blues are a poor replacement for caustic bluing. They don't offer the longevity of caustic blues. In fact they offer little more than 1/10th the protection of caustic blues. It should be noted that cold blues can be made to last longer with thorough cleaning and heavy waxing of the parts. Also cold blued parts should not be handled with bare hands as the acid in our skin tends to break the cold blues down relatively quickly. :o)

rod henrickson
Rod Henrickson
Edmonton, Alberta, Canada

July 6, 2009

Black Oxide is still readily available at many facilities in your general area.

Bill Grayson
Metal Finishing - San Jose

November 17, 2016 -- this entry appended to this thread by editor in lieu of spawning a duplicative thread

Q. Hi, we are using black oxide coating for steel components but can we have another method which would be less hazardous to the human interface or it would increase the life of component against moisture?

suraj Gorlewar
- India
  ^- Privately contact this inquirer -^

November 2016

A. Hi Suraj. We need to know the application and the environment for a thoughtful answer, but zinc electroplating is inexpensive, corrosion resistant, and poses less risk of burns.


pic of Ted Mooney
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
Pine Beach, New Jersey
Striving to live "Aloha"

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