Home /
Search 🔍
the Site
pub Where the world gathers for
plating, anodizing, & finishing Q&As since 1989


Telling the difference between a nickel finish and a chrome finish

An ongoing discussion beginning back in 2012 ...

July 16, 2012

Q. Can a part just be nickel finished, and not chromed?
If so, how can you tell?
for example toy train parts from 1930s and 40s, would you expect them to be chromed, or if possible just nickel finished?

Gary Anderson
hobbyist - Stephen, Minnesota, USA

July 17, 2012

A. Hi Gary.

Parts can be either nickel plated or nickel-chrome plated (nickel plating followed by chrome plating). If parts are used indoors, nickel plating is still quite common; but for exterior use, most everything today is chrome plated.

If they're from the 30s they are not chromed, because chrome wasn't done in production then. I'd bet on nickel on toy train parts anyway though. Nickel has a faintly yellow cast and chrome has a faintly blue cast, but it's hard to tell except by comparing them to known samples or to each other.


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

July 18, 2012

A. Sorry to say, Ted, but nickel-chrome was almost universal on automobile trim by the mid 1930s. Although used previously on smaller parts, Ford switched the Model A radiator shell and bumpers from Nickel to Ni-Cr for the 1930 model year, and all car makers followed soon after. So by the early 1930s, chrome plating was widespread. By 1940 the only nickel still bring done was some small barrel plated parts.

Train parts, however, are small and therefore many were nickel barrel plated and likely continue to be so even today.

jeffrey holmes
Jeffrey Holmes, CEF
Spartanburg, South Carolina

July 18, 2012

You're right of course Jeffrey. I relied on my memory rather than double-checking, which was a mistake! Colin Fink made chrome plating practical with his 1926 patent, which I falsely recollected as being 1936. Sorry.


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

August 1, 2012

thumbs up signThanks for the replies;, this should answer my question.

Gary Anderson [returning]
- Stephen, Minnesota, USA

November 25, 2019

A. On Automobile chrome, Henry Ford never made chrome plated radiator shells in 1930. In fact, Ford only chrome plated them for less that two months in late 1929. In 1930 and '31 he switched all bright work, including radiator shells, to stainless steel. Prior to November 1929 all bright work was Nickel, except the bumpers, which were actually chrome since the Model A was introduced in December 1927.

Robert Hill
Pilot - martinsville, Indiana USA

Restoring a motorbike

October 13, 2013

Q. Hi, I'm just about to start a restoration of a 1920's French bike called a Stella, what year did manufactures stop using nickel and start using chrome.

bike restorer - BLAYE, FRANCE

October 16, 2013

A. Hi Serge. We appended your inquiry to a thread where the question was already answered. In the 1920's it would have been nickel only because chrome wasn't yet commercialized.


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

finishing.com is made possible by ...
this text gets replaced with bannerText
spacer gets replaced with bannerImages

Q, A, or Comment on THIS thread -or- Start a NEW Thread

Disclaimer: It's not possible to fully diagnose a finishing problem or the hazards of an operation via these pages. All information presented is for general reference and does not represent a professional opinion nor the policy of an author's employer. The internet is largely anonymous & unvetted; some names may be fictitious and some recommendations might be harmful.

If you are seeking a product or service related to metal finishing, please check these Directories:

Chemicals &
Consult'g, Train'g
& Software

About/Contact    -    Privacy Policy    -    ©1995-2023 finishing.com, Pine Beach, New Jersey, USA