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topic 9304

Brush Plating Nickel

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(2001)

I have been reading the responses to Ms. White's question in letter 1298 in this forum and nobody seems to be giving her a straight answer. What is the big secret about nickel plating? For about a week now, I have been trying to get information about brush plating nickel .008" to .010" thick on the rear surfaces of the locking lugs on a rifle bolt. I've gotten conflicting information about how to do it myself with my brush plating kit, I can't find information on books on the subject at the local library web site, I can't get straight information about what books to study, I can't get straight information about vocational/correspondence schools that teach brush plating and I can't even find a professional plater who can do the job for me! One plater doesn't even know what brush plating is!

Again I ask, What is the big secret?, and, is there anyone out there who can give us some simple, straight answers to our questions, that my simple intellect can understand, to be able achieve my purpose?

Thanks much.

Norman E [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]
- Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, U.S.A.

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Ed. note on resources, Feb '08 --
For the electroplating books you seek, please see our Books page. There is a great book, Electrochemical Metallizing, solely about brush plating. Kushner Electroplating School runs an introductory plating course, as does AESF. For a course specifically on brush plating, please try contacting the advertisers in the banner at the top of the page. They can also refer you to brush plating shops if that's your preference. For more plating shops, please see the Directory of Jobshops. Best of luck!


(2001)

Hi Norm,

Most professionals are gun shy about about helping out hobby platers because there frequently is zero indication of what level of experience they have. Re-read Ms White's original letter. She gave zero information in her request about what she had tried or even what she was doing. ALSO, notice that she did not share her new found information with anyone else but complained in the follow up letter about others that did not share.

Brush plating is very simple, but is extremely operator sensitive, like possibly 10 times what tank plater operators are.

The best answer is to follow the instructions of the vendor that you bought the kit and chemicals from.

When I was plating, I would not work on guns because of the liability. There are lots of things that can go wrong. 0.008" is a lot to try to put on a lug and have it stay on forever. Consider having it professionally done.

Good luck with your efforts. Try it on a dummy part before you try it on the gun.

James Watts
- Navarre, Florida


(2001)

Dear Jim Watts;

Thank you for your response to my "tirade". Please understand that I have become quite exasperated over what I'm trying to accomplish. If I can do it myself, fine, but I keep getting conflicting information about this. If I can't do it myself, okay, then I'll send it to a professional plater. Thusly, for the last two weeks or so I've been trying to find a professional plater that can and will do the job at a reasonable cost. (For "$250.00 minimum" I can buy a new rifle!) I am an Engineering Designer and so I know something about what a small brush plating job such as this would entail. How much trouble can it be to plate a total surface area of 1/8 of a square inch with nickel, chrome or other reasonably hard material .007" to .008" thick? Some people just seem to insist on making simple things complicated. Could it be that this is so they can charge "through the nose"? Liability?, I would play hell trying to prove that a plater, who added a thickness of plating per my specifications, was the cause of my rifle blowing-up.

Again, thank you for your response. I'm back to the "find a plater" wars.

Norman E
- Bethlehem, Pennsylvania


(2001)

Whoever you bought the "brush plating kit" should be able to provide you the sequence of chemicals and power to use.

Problems: the metal actually absorbs a minute amount of oil that is very difficult to get out. Any trace of oil will reduce the adhesion of an already difficult job. I would soak it in a hot alkaline cleaner for about an hour and then rinse well.

You will need to have an appropriate mask for the "not to be plated area", this is typically tape. If this "spot" is elevated, you will need to build up layers of tape to get the surrounding area very nearly level with the spot to be plated. Now you need an area of conductive foil to act as a thief or robber or bleeder so that you do not have an extremely high current density area on the sharp edges. Typically, this is metal tape with the end bent over and taped to the parent metal so that it is conductive. Aluminum does not live thru the cleaning step very well, so think about copper or lead.

The real secret to brush plating is the setup. For critical jobs, you really need a separate handle and brush for each solution and for the + or- direction of the current if it is used both directions. A very rapid changeover is required.

Keeping the part wet at all times is 100% mandatory, even if it is only water.

Use a good strike to where you see solid color. Not too much tho, as this is terribly internally stressed.

Always start your brush stroke -- off of the part and sweep on/off. Your brush will probably be much larger than your part so you can stay on for a long time if you have a flow thru system. If you have a dip system, I really doubt if you will succeed. One method that can help is to use a lab wash bottle (squeeze squirt bottle) and try to keep the pad wet from above.

You probably will want a hard nickel, but typical max would be around 0.005 on an easy part. There are some "high build" nickels on the market that are hard. Sulfamate will be too soft but builds much better. There are some hardened sulfamates.

I have trained people in brush plating, including some very difficult ID parts, and I would only give myself a 30% chance of pulling your part off on the first try.

It is doable, but it is one big challenge.

Pre bake your part after the alkaline soak for 4 hours at 375 to 400 F. Bake it after plate also.

James Watts
- Navarre, Florida


(2001)

Hi, Norman. If proper hydrogen embrittlement relief isn't done, plating absolutely can cause a rifle to blow up! While you wouldn't be expected to know that, every plating shop should. Still sure you'd "have to play hell" to show their liability?

Sorry for your troubles, but the main reason for your exasperation is probably that plating isn't as straightforward as we'd like.

There are excellent books listed on our "must have" books page, several are very inexpensive. "Electrochemical Metallizing" is solely about brush plating. Or ask a supplier of brush plating equipment how to do this job; but as James Watts said, your thickness requirement is a problem as it is much thicker than most nickel plating jobs. Best of luck.

Ted Mooney, finishing.com
Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
finishing.com
Pine Beach, New Jersey


January 20, 2008

YOU CAN BUILD THE THICKNESS UP WITH AN ACID COPPER SOLUTION at 8 VOLTS THEN NICKEL PLATE ON TOP WITH THE NICKEL FOR HARDNESS EASY HONEST ...

David Park
- Cornwall, England


 

Thanks, David. Sounds like good advice.

Regards,

Ted Mooney, finishing.com
Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
finishing.com
Pine Beach, New Jersey


February 10, 2008

I have been reading this forum and particularly this topic for a while now, and I am also exasperated with the silly comments...for eg: you can't do it right on the first go, you need to read a lot of books, build a library etc. All these comments may be true and helpful in some way, but it does nothing for instant gratification, which is why people post, they've exhausted other methods and come here, which is exactly what I have done. I have to sift through multiple unhelpful comments to get to 1 or two posts with snippets of useful comments. Surely the idea of this is to help rather than 'off-put' people?
We all know that a there is a certain amount of 'experimenting' and failure with plating when we start and most of us don't want to do it in a professional capacity, so why all the sermons I wonder. Just a 'good basis to start' comment, or 'try mixing this much with that' is far more helpful.
So please, there are those that want to help and it shows, so good on them, but let's have less of the silly pedantic, unhelpful comments,yes, you are in a position of knowledge and power, get off your high horse and provide some useful comments.

Neil Rees
- Swindon UK


February 10, 2008

James Watts and David Park offered excellent advice to Norman, and I suggested the books, training courses, and plating shops he asked for. Where is the problem? Students & hobbyists are very welcome here, and we've written many FAQs for them. We can & do answer dozens of inquiries every day.

But, yes, we've said from day one that this site exists primarily for camaraderie & information exchange for professionals, Neil. If that ticks you off, please look for a hobbyist site.

Norman, a beginner, asked how to do nickel plating that is 3 times as thick as most experienced professionals would attempt; Mr. Watts spent a great deal of time with him on two occasions both explaining this and offering specific answers -- but Norman still seemed to insist that Mr. Watts was wrong, that it shouldn't be difficult, and that people were only claiming it was so they could "charge through the nose". Considering the circumstances, it was not pedantic to make it clear that -- sorry -- it is a hard plating job.

I've spent 40 years in plating and still learn a lot every day, and am a bit tired of being criticized for not being able to quickly and simply tell a beginner how to do a plating job that most professionals won't attempt :-)

Ted Mooney, finishing.com
Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
finishing.com
Pine Beach, New Jersey


February 7, 2008

DON'T PLATE THE LUGS ON YOUR RIFLE, THIS WILL BLOW YOUR HEAD SPACE AND MAKE YOUR GUN INTO A GRENADE! IF YOU PLATE THE LUGS YOU MAY NOT BE ABLE TO COMPLETELY CLOSE YOUR BOLT WHICH WILL OBDURATE THE CASE HEAD SUPPORT AND POSSIBLY RIP THE LUGS OFF BOLT SENDING THE BOLT CRASHING INTO YOUR FACE. AND IT DOESN'T TAKE A SCIENTIST TO KNOW YOUR FACE IS SOFTER THEN THE METAL THAT WILL BE FLYING AT YOU. GOOD LUCK WITH THAT THOUGH.

Tom Peacock
- Denver, Colorado, USA


February 20, 2012

There is a good article in (AMERICAN GUNSMITH) NOV. 1992, titled "Electroplating Small Parts".

Brush-plating small parts is easier than you think. It just takes practice and a little patience.

Hurchell Holmes
- North Plains Oregon USA



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