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How to achieve highest quality plated finishes for decorative items on cabinet doors

June 15, 2012

Q. I am a cabinet maker and looking to inlay cabinet doors with a polished shiny nickel trim circa 8 mm wide as part of a decorative feature. I am investigating the best method by which to achieve a perfect quality finish and had a few questions:

- What is the best metal to plate on, mild steel, brass or indeed any other materials - when it comes to obtaining the highest quality plating finish

- I have been told to have these nickel-chromium plated not just nickel plated, in order to ensure it doesn't tarnish, is this correct?

- Would you suggest having the trim polished before plating? If so, what type of polishing would you suggest to ensure a perfect plated finish?

- The trim used will have mitered corners, would it be best to have the trim pre-cut before plating or afterwards?

- Are there any other suggestions you have when it comes to achieving a perfect finish or indeed any specification I should state as part of the plating process.

Any advice would be much appreciated.


Kind regards,

Sarah Smyth
Cabinet maker - London, UK

June 18, 2012

A. Hi Sarah. It is so nice to hear from someone who wants to do it right rather than do it cheap :-)

Brass is in my opinion the very best substrate to plate on to. It will look beautiful a hundred years from now and longer.

Chrome plating can be dazzling, but has no "warmth" at all. The very faintly whitish or yellowish tinge of nickel plating, as opposed to the faintly bluish tinge of chrome may be more pleasing. Call me a sunshine patriot rather than a true soldier for electroplating, but I think I would specify an automotive clearcoat over the nickel plating.

A picture is worth a thousand words, and an actual object is worth more than a million words: you will not be able to verbally specify the exact finish you want unless you go for full bright mirror finishing -- you'll have to see a few samples to specify any sort of satin, matte, or brushed finish. But just as a possibility, how about a tiger stripe of bright and satin, similar to the Resophonic guitar in letter 32950?

Brass will be exposed at the mitered corners if they are cut after plating, so I wouldn't. Best of luck.


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

First of two simultaneous responses -- June 19, 2012

A. I agree with Ted that brass is the best choice of material. Yes, it will require polishing/buffing before plating, but it's best to leave that to the plater who will know and do exactly what is necessary.

Find a good plater, perhaps one who does high end OEM parts, or one who does high end restoration plating, emphasize that you want it both beautiful and long lasting, and then, Ted is again correct, it could last a few lifetimes. You can have it done mirror bright or satin finished, or, again as Ted says, both.

You could take a look at bathroom fixtures, the better of which will be beautifully plated - bright, satin, and even combo. If fact, if you see what you like there, you could purchase a small one and give it to the plater - "Here, do it like this."

However, Ted likes clearcoated nickel. I prefer nickel-chrome. Potato/potato.

jeffrey holmes
Jeffrey Holmes, CEF
Spartanburg, South Carolina

Second of two simultaneous responses -- June 19, 2012

A. We do finishing for quite a few cabinet hardware manufacturers. Most of the higher-quality parts are made from brass. Surfaces can range from matte to satin to highly polished, and coatings can include powder coat, plating (usually nickel followed by chrome) and PVD (usually deposited over a nickel/chrome base).

There is actually an industry standard set of finishes set by the Builders Hardware Manufacturers Association. I believe it is BHMA/ANSI standard A156.18.

jim treglio portrait
Jim Treglio - scwineryreview.com
PVD Consultant & Wine Lover - San Diego,

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