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topic 57748

Is Copper plating on Nickel possible?

A discussion started in 2011 but continuing through 2019

September 23, 2011

Q. Hi, I recently came across a question on this website with someone asking about plating Cu on Ni. I was just wondering if it is actually possible. Since Cu has a lower SHE than Ni, I would not expect that to happen. I was wondering if somebody could throw more light on it.

Abhimanyu Bhat
PhD Student - Austin, Texas, USA

September 23, 2011

A. Hi, Abhimanyu.

We have 60 thousand threads on this site, so I can't find the one that you have in mind. If you can tell us the topic number, we can clarify in what ways we may be misunderstanding each other. I don't know what SHE is an acronym for, but plating copper onto nickel is not a problem at all. In fact, our FAQ "How Electroplating Works" shows school children how to plate copper onto nickels and quarters from an innocuous vinegar solution :-)

Electroplating copper on top of electroless nickel plating is an industrial commonplace.

Good luck.


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

September 26, 2011

A. I think that the SHE is for comparison to "standard hydrogen electrode"

Q. Then I look at Ted's comment that Cu over EN is common. Why would you do that?


James Watts
- Navarre, Florida

September 26, 2011

A. Hi, Jim.

Copper is plated over EN in automotive copper-nickel-chrome scenarios. Plated plastic is started with EN, but the car manufacturers then plate copper before the nickel and chrome, apparently because the flexibility of the copper somehow helps them meet the thermal cycling requirements. In plating aluminum an alkaline electroless nickel strike can be used over the zincate; I remember a journal article claiming better corrosion resistance for cast aluminum wheels if they started with electroless nickel instead of cyanide copper.


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

July 25, 2019

Q. Can we electroplate nickel with copper? Are there any shortcomings as to why this shouldn't be done, if any

Muskaan Gupta
- Adelaide, South Australia, Australia

July 2019

A. Hi Muskaan. This page tells you that "plating copper on nickel is not a problem ... an industrial commonplace ...", and that it's done on automotive plating on plastics, and on aluminum wheels. It's also very common to nickel plate steel before acid copper plating because steel can't directly be acid copper plated.

But as for whether there are "any shortcomings" or "[reasons] why this shouldn't be done"? That's asking the readers to conjure up hypothetical scenarios that are probably of no applicability anyway :-)    Instead, please tell us your situation so the readers can answer straightforwardly whether they see any problems with what you want to actually do.


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

July 25, 2019

thumbs up sign Thanks for telling this Ted. I was working on designing a copper electroplating practical cell and was looking for what materials can be coated without much fuss. Nickel should be it!

Muskaan Gupta [returning]
- Adelaide, Australia

November 24, 2019

Q. Hi all. I'm an average Joe looking to restore several copper plated, zinc die cast parts of a larger assembly that was made in the early 70's.

Researching on the web, I discovered how "easy" electroplating could be and decided to try vinegar based copper sulphate electroplating. As you already know, and I found out the hard way, the copper didn't take in the areas where polishing over the years had worn away the copper plating. On the bright side (pun intended) the plating took very well elsewhere, which I felt as a sense of accomplishment.

I went back to the web to discover that a cyanide based copper strike was traditionally the first plating process on zinc. Although a bit discouraged because I felt like an average Joe shouldn't mess with the hazards of cyanide, I later found two other options, non-cyanide based copper strike solutions and electroless copper plating. During that research process I also found this website and have been enjoying the posts, which leads me to the following questions:

Which process would most likely produce favorable results in providing a base-plating for subsequent copper sulfate plating processes?

1 Try a vinegar based nickel sulfate.

2 Purchase a non-cyanide based copper strike.

3 Purchase an electroless copper plating kit.

I would like to continue down this rabbit hole and see this project through, but also want to be a responsible DIYer, so I will defer to your professional opinions.

Also, if a non-cyanide copper strike is the best option, could someone suggest a source, please? I like Gesswein products for polishing molds and found they sell EarthGold Copper Strike. Would you recommend it?


James Mason
Toolmaker - Liberty Lake, Washington, USA

November 2019

A. Hi James. The non-cyanide copper strike is probably the best best. Go with the Gesswein or the one of your choice; sorry we don't suggest brands or sources here, or post responses which do (why?)


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

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