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"Plating Solution and Metal Preparation"

October 27, 2017

Q. Good day All,

I am titling this question as "Electroplating Solution" as this is the first thing restorers and hobbyists research on the internet and you tube. And you find a lot implying you can do it yourself.

Let's work together Platers and Restorers and add value, where we prepare and the platers make our craftsman work shine:

Dear platers how can we at home do all the prep work, in such way that the items are ready for your baths? Insight and understanding of the industry will go a long a way, things that initially come to mind are:

- How should items size batched by? small items, big items, round items, flat items does it matter?
- How to identify different coatings, from silver, yellow, black, shiny finishes?
- How should items be prepped, are there specifications to follow, things like is all the dichromate stripped off, and zinc stripped to base metal?
- How do we inspect (Quality) of our prep work, me guessing at stuff using ultra lights, etc?
- Cleaning: one of the issues I have noticed is that once you have careful, blasted, sanded or wire brushed the items need to be plated immediately as oxidation sets in immediately. This for my purpose is an issue, meaning I would like to do all the cleaning of a batch say yellow finished dichromate items. This could take a couple days to do, is there a solution that the items could put into to preserve them until plating?
- How should items be arranged for hanging, are there such things as gages that the items are arranged and can we make the hangers? The thought being of doing this connecting all the items, then putting them in the sealed bucket with the preservation liquid?
- Heard about barrels, and need some insight on the process, is it as simple as the items are dropped to the line of the same process? If the items are ready is it then just a case that the items are inspected, popped in a barrel and hour later they come out the other end?
- Would it be helpful to measure all the items and do the surface area calculations, or would they simply be weighed?
- How to do indicative selling costs (for plating only), in my profession as cost estimator, there are always cost indicators like $/ ton, $/ area etc? This would be very helpful, and will also demonstrate that plating is not expensive, rather the prep work is if you drop off a bucket of rusted bits.

The below is my Plating Solution formula -- Please read -- I am sure this way you will get a professional finish by doing 95% of the work yourself without buying any chemicals.

Some back ground I am a Mechanical Engineer, and originally did my time as a Turner and Machinist. In my younger days was always involved with fixing motorcycles and cars. However, these were never very old with not many rust issues. So was always involved in the mechanical side of repairs and painting.

Things have changed now; I would like to get into doing restorations of much older classic motorcycles with the aim of making a living from it. So I have bought a rusted hulk, that has everything wrong it, with the purpose of learning everything possible doing a bottom up re-build -- my friends say I am mad, look at that thing!

My initial observation is all the corrosion, and my target is to try and get this little Yamaha to be as close to condition as the day it rolled off the factory floor.

First thing that comes to mind is painting, cleaning aluminum, engine re-build, but then you realize the one thing standing out staring you in eye, is all the fasteners, clips, brackets and stuff that are/were plated in array of colors are corroded. Bright zinc, yellow, black and Chrome. Also some other parts in an olive grey color. And the first thing you think of is the need to re-plate them.

So like so many of us is we have a wonderful tool these days at our disposal, the internet, especially you-tube you can learn how to do anything. So find all these video clips "how to plate easily at home". And you go yes I can do it, it is not complicated, battery/ rectifier, some wire, anode material, fish tank bubbler and other stuff.

Then next you do a google search plating solution and yes you do end up here and you tube with people making all sorts solutions in being brewed in kitchens, garages and so on. I am impulse kind of person, even ordered a rectifier it is sitting on the desk as we speak.

Now you start searching for all these chemicals, some of them you suddenly stand out as dangerous like HCl acid, hydrogen, lead and others you did not even know about, and you start finding out why they are controlled substances.

I have now spent almost 2 weeks, looking into these substances, reading up on all sorts of dichromates, so called eco-friendly solutions etc. But for every one of these there is always a requirement for something nasty like Cr3, dichromate, etc.

Finally total exhaustion and defeat set in with a feeling that I have wasted my time and went to bed.

I woke up this morning and realized that, all this knowledge I had gained was worth every hour spent and that I actually had the solution all along. This with decision that I had made with how I was going to handle the painting.

Now as many will know that in spray painting it's 95% about the prep work, knocking out dents, blasting, filling, sanding and priming takes weeks. Spraying the primer is an easy one as if the primer has runs and whatever does not matter as it is going be lightly sanded as the base for your expensive top coat.

Now the top coat only takes a couple of hours, but this coat will showcase your workmanship, any imperfections in your prep work, scratches & dips will stand out. But being who we buy a spray gun, borrow a compressor and as we do not have a paint booth wait for that day that should be perfect. The perfect day of sunshine, not too hot, not too cold no humidity and we mix the paint and dump in some thinner start the compressor and start spraying.

Afterwards we sit back and look at it, and your mind is saying can I live with it, some places having runs, dull areas, egg shell, somewhere an insect landed. Then you spend weeks with rubbing compound buffing and so on. And you find you have disappointment, because wrong compressor, wrong spray gun, wrong spray nozzle, incorrect spray gun pressure setting and all done in an uncontrolled environment.

So to be cost effective on the paint I had made the decision to do all the prep work myself, and to hand over the prepped, and primed pieces to a professional spray shop for finish coat.

Now if I had to take the pieces to them all rusted and dented yes it will cost an arm and a leg, as you have to pay them to do that 95% of the work.

Now my solution is to do that prep work myself, and hand them over to a professional plater, this will make all my hard work (the detail), which 95% of the time shine out.

But on the other hand have read all sorts of things like, but plating costs a fortune. Yes of course it will if you take a bucket of rusted stuff to the platers, this as they have to take someone off a big quantity job to prep these items remove rust sand etc. to get them ready to run through a set process. Also there the economy of scale factor, like if every second week you strip a component and take a few things for plating it is going to cost.

My solution is to strip entire bike down, catalog log the items, then to sort them into their various finishings, blue, yellow black, chrome and to prep them ready for plating.

I think it will be cost effective for platers, restorers, motor heads, and manufacturers of one off things if we work together. The value is in how to prepare the parts as to be ready for the baths, this solution be cost effective for both customer and plater alike, considering the below:

Cost mostly seems to the issue why most want to do it themselves. It seems easy to do plating, battery/ power supply some wire, a tub, some roof zinc? Yes for experimenting with a penny. I normally work as a Cost Engineer, so while doing my research started noticing the immensity of cost as below:

- Rectifiers, batteries, wires, tubs, spray bottles, ph testers, tank warmers, agitation equipment and so on
- Solution chemicals, chromates and cleaners some of the stuff is for industrial use and you have to buy a 25kg bag, even if you only need 100grams
- Glasses, masks, cleaners ear buds, measuring cups, scales.
- Hazardous waste disposal

This list can go on forever, and you will continue being at hardware buying stuff. Imagine rather spending money on mini lathe, welding machine etc. With these you sand things, make missing parts, a much better investment. With all the hidden plating stuff costs the lathe or welding machine will be cheaper.

Some videos I watched on you tube, one guy was doing some main motorcycle axle bolts, this process looked painfully slow. Repeating the heČ??s zinc process on one bolt, plate zinc for a while (rough grey finish), rinse, rub with steel wool, wash, rinse, acid dip, rinse back in the bath and then repeat 3 times. Let's be real here; a car or a bike has lots of items, it will take forever. Imagine using this time to rather be busy with the fun part re-assembling your project making real progress.

I currently reside in Japan, and if you are in one of the big centers, space in your house/ is at a premium. You have to store all this stuff, equipment, tubs, chemicals so even if I could buy the stuff, where do I store them? Also some chemicals have specific storage requirements, temperature, humidity, sunlight -- as they could possible react and become a different compound without you knowing.

At the end of the day as restorers we strive for quality, when someone opens the hood of restored car, and as a mechanical engineer the details stand out, bolts, clips stickers and so on. Most of the time you can see quality, but not always until it is too late.

On some videos I have seen some guys are getting good looking results at home, then the thought occurred to me, these coatings have been designed to last 20 years or something. None of these guys are saying anything about quality control and a thought came to mind. Imagine someone who bought one of my restored bikes is back a year later threatening to sue if I do not replace all the rusting items. Imagine how this will reflect on your reputation, plus rework cost.

There needs to be specifications, also this is your guarantee if a professional plater is quoting specifications then you have the right to go back on defects. Also when dealing with a professional platter, you can quiz them on how compatible their specification is relative to the original part's specification.

Do not forget about quality control, it is important to ask how they inspect the items with respect to specification. And do they have any accreditations or members of any associations,

This all could be $bonus one day when selling your restored item whatever it is, and you can demonstrate that the items were professionally coated by plater XXX to Specification XXX, with deviations to the original spec in terms later technical advancements and/ or due to banned substances, etc.

This is most important factor, it should be the first consideration but purposely left it until last as many are looking at the other factors thinking they can handle the safety factor.

I now live in Japan; here they have simple values that most nations can learn from Japanese daily life and these are; set example, be responsible, and to be considerate of others.

If you are planning to do home plating with very dangerous/ toxic substances illegally, and cannot truthfully say you can abide by these simple values, THEN DO NOT DO IT!

I have thought of the consequences of home doing it. Seen videos on the web with people doing this in their garages and kitchens, preparing all sorts of toxic stuff with pets walking about, noise of children in the background and so on. This is showing total disregard to the values above. So you really want to poison your family, pets, and neighbors plus destroy the environment? The simple value above: BE CONSIDERATE OF OTHERS.

Also we now live in the world of terrorism, people that supply chemicals are suspicious of who is buying the stuff. Say you keep buying or make a big order on some substance, that could possibly used in a bomb. You could suddenly find your house surrounded by yellow crime scene tape, police, guys in white chemical suits, sniffer dogs, helicopters flying above. Imagine what the neighbors would be thinking ... you will be hated and would have to move, plus paying some hectic fine.

Every once in a while you will see on TV that some or another chemical plant has exploded into a raging fire. Even the professional companies with all the safety measures get it wrong, somebody mistakenly did something. Try explaining that to your insurance company that you accidentally mixed something and while you were out, the substance did something.

As said before I live in Japan; the houses are compacted close to each other and houses are of wood, steel framed design construction to withstand earthquakes. This is a recipe for a fire storm that could kill many people, imagine having to live with yourself afterwards and behind bars for life.

Peter Moffat
Motorcycle restorer - Japan

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