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"Trying to make Nickel Acetate D-I-Y"

February 12, 2021

Q. I attempted to make nickel acetate with white vinegar, salt, 1 nickel rod cathode, and 4 nickel strip anodes. The nickel is purported to be 99.6% pure. After four hours, my anodes (+) were worn almost completely away, and my cathode was covered in nickel trees(?) with absolutely no change in the color of the vinegar. I am using an automotive battery charger for power.


What am I doing wrong, please?

Christopher Folmar
- San Antonio, Texas

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February 2021

A. Hi Christopher. A similar process, electro-recovery, is used for making nickel chips from solutions of nickel salts, so your results are not actually surprising: you are dissolving nickel from the anodes but you're plating it out on the cathode. What you would like to do, which isn't that easy, is to have a much higher anode efficiency than cathode efficiency, so more nickel goes into solution than comes out and quickly.

You don't say why you want to make nickel acetate -- and this isn't the way it's usually done -- so different ideas might not give you the result you seek, but try more anode area and less cathode area, and adding a bit of hydrogen peroxide as an oxidizing agent and tell us what happens.

Luck & Regards,

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Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
Aloha -- an idea worth spreading
finishing.com - Pine Beach, New Jersey

February 13, 2021

Q. I am trying to make plating solution. Perhaps I am using the wrong terminology. Thank you so much for the response.

Christopher Folmar
- San Antonio

February 2021

A. Hi again. Some of the youtube videos you see on nickel plating are reasonably sound, some are simply ludicrous, but this is not how nickel acetate is made. A problem with trying to make a solution your way will always be that hobbyists can afford no analytical instrumentation, and consequently will have no idea of the solution concentration, contaminant levels, or anything. So when it doesn't work right, what can people possibly advise about how to fix it?

If you are serious about attempting plating you should buy nickel plating solution from a hobby plating supplier. If you want to go a level deeper into the background, you can buy Nickel Sulphate, Nickel Chloride, and Boric Acid and try to make up your own Watt's Nickel Solution (use the search engine, the formulation is on numerous pages of this site).

A youtube video which does make sense to me suggests trying Miralax as a brightener. It's not really the right brightener for nickel, but it does seem to have some effectiveness while being safe and very easy to get.

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Small Plating/Anodizing Power Supply

You should also buy a power supply -- experimental size are so cheap today it's hard to believe -- and a Hull Cell. Do a google search for 'Hull Cell', then click the "Shopping" tag.

But if you need to do it on a zero budget, a small cathode and large anode might get you there with your vinegar. Note that your description does not match your photo: the rod is dissolving so it's the anode; you need to start by reversing the leads so the surface area of the anodes is bigger than the cathode. Good luck.


pic of Ted Mooney
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
Aloha -- an idea worth spreading
finishing.com - Pine Beach, New Jersey

February 13, 2021

thumbs up sign Thank you again for the information. It has been very helpful. I will do further research and decide which method to pursue.

Christopher Folmar
- San Antonio

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