Nickel plating

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SmithDoor

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There are two problems
1) if use tap water can change the color
2) plastic tanks.
Use ironing water / distilled water
Use glass jars

Dave

Thanks for all the inputs on nickel plating. I gave up and went with the brass. This is the Edwards Radial 5. Plumbing bending was a new experience.
 

tim9lives

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Yeah Master. The YouTube videos act like it’s easy. Most of them, are coating a copper penny. Copper seems to take the nickel plating much better. The problem is that steel and iron are very difficult to plate with copper using most chemicals we can get. Almost every article I’ve read mentioned using a cyanide copper strike formula. I don’t even want to mess with cyanide.
That said, I gave up many times over the last number of years. Zinc is an easy plating project using just vinegar and epsom salt. It’s easy.
But, as far as nickel goes....the only successful attempt I’ve ever had was using what’s called the Watts Nickel Formula when plating steel. I haven’t tried plating cast iron yet. That’s because I haven’t scaled up yet. I’m planning on scaling up and doing some larger items soon. My main motivation is rust prevention and that’s why I tried the plating of cheap parallels. The parallels have been holding up great.

also...when plating it’s absolutely necessary to have everything totally clean. Must wear gloves and wash all traces of oil off the workpiece. I first washed the parallels with Bar Keepers Friend. Then electrocleaned in an alkaline bath. Then a 10 second dip in a diluted muriatic acid dip. The acid dip was a diluted acid. Like one part acid and two parts water.
And it’s highly recommended to use distilled water. But I did use filtered tap water because the pandemic just hit and there wasn’t any water in the stores. After all of that... I checked the parts with a spray bottle filled with water to see if I had a good water break. That means no water is beading on the part.
And then to the Watts plating.
 
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doc1955

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Yeah Master. The YouTube videos act like it’s easy. Most of them, are coating a copper penny. Copper seems to take the nickel plating much better. The problem is that steel and iron are very difficult to plate with copper using most chemicals we can get. Almost every article I’ve read mentioned using a cyanide copper strike formula. I don’t even want to mess with cyanide.
That said, I gave up many times over the last number of years. Zinc is an easy plating project using just vinegar and epsom salt. It’s easy.
But, as far as nickel goes....the only successful attempt I’ve ever had was using what’s called the Watts Nickel Formula when plating steel. I haven’t tried plating cast iron yet. That’s because I haven’t scaled up yet. I’m planning on scaling up and doing some larger items soon. My main motivation is rust prevention and that’s why I tried the plating of cheap parallels. The parallels have been holding up great.

also...when plating it’s absolutely necessary to have everything totally clean. Must wear gloves and wash all traces of oil off the workpiece. I first washed the parallels with Bar Keepers Friend. Then electrocleaned in an alkaline bath. Then a 10 second dip in a diluted muriatic acid dip. The acid dip was a diluted acid. Like one part acid and two parts water.
And it’s highly recommended to use distilled water. But I did use filtered tap water because the pandemic just hit and there wasn’t any water in the stores. After all of that... I checked the parts with a spray bottle filled with water to see if I had a good water break. That means no water is beading on the part.
And then to the Watts plating.
When I did my brass pipes I made for my v-8 it seemed to taake very well. I think the secret is clean and buff the brass to a high shine plus use a good de-greaser. I use the stuff Wal-mart sells. Its an orange base de-greaser. Also I used a vinegar bass solution not acid. And the same goes for copper plating. Some materials that will not take nickel you need to copper plate first brass is not one that needs to be copper plated. Anyway like I said I do have a video of brass zoomie pipes being plated. They turned out looking like chrome when finished.
 

tim9lives

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When I did my brass pipes I made for my v-8 it seemed to taake very well. I think the secret is clean and buff the brass to a high shine plus use a good de-greaser. I use the stuff Wal-mart sells. Its an orange base de-greaser. Also I used a vinegar bass solution not acid. And the same goes for copper plating. Some materials that will not take nickel you need to copper plate first brass is not one that needs to be copper plated. Anyway like I said I do have a video of brass zoomie pipes being plated. They turned out looking like chrome when finished.
Yeah Doc. All copper based metals take nickel very nicely. Brass is mostly copper so it will accept a nickel electroplating very easy. And is just like a lot of those YouTube videos. And...vinegar is 5% acetic acid. It works but it’s a slower process. When plating brass or copper it’s fine. But steel and iron need a more aggressive acid in order to pickle the metal in my opinion. Vinegar will work but it’s slower. But with brass and copper you just don’t need a lot of etch on the metals
And the problem is that it’s very, very hard to plate steel or iron with a copper strike. All of the commercial platers use a cyanide copper strike.
At least that’s my take from what I’ve read. I tried many different formulas, trying to copper plate steel. I ended up with a dull copper base which was covered with a black soot. And this was using a regulated power supply and following all the voltage and amp plating rules.
But, if you’re trying to plate any copper based metal then there’s a number of simple formulas out there which will suffice.

and yes...distilled water is always much much better. I finally purchased 6 gallons for my next attempt at this electroplating
 

SmithDoor

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If you ever go in commercial plating company you see at less 7 tanks for plating zinc.
This to get nice bright zinc color. Takes very short time .

But a commercial hard chrome uses just one tank.
The part is first machined or ground then clean with break cleaner next in to plating. The part after a day comes out tank a dill sliver color.
For a bright chrome needs to polished.

Dave
 

a41capt

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I have a decent luck using the Caswell plating copper as a base on steel. On pitted steel gun receivers, I’ve built a copper base and draw filed to a flat finish. The copper fills the pitting nicely, and then a plate of nickel to cover, and a beautiful reconditioned firearm.

I haven’t tried the acetic acid method from YouTube, I should give it a go to see how it works. I’m out of other chemicals so it’d sure be a cheaper option!
 

doc1955

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If you ever go in commercial plating company you see at less 7 tanks for plating zinc.
This to get nice bright zinc color. Takes very short time .

But a commercial hard chrome uses just one tank.
The part is first machined or ground then clean with break cleaner next in to plating. The part after a day comes out tank a dill sliver color.
For a bright chrome needs to polished.

Dave
Ok I went out to the shop and plated a piece of brass tube. I used the solution I made with vinegar and 2 pieces of pure nickel and a usb charger, So here is a short video of me trying to show how I have done it with excellent results.

 

SmithDoor

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Looks great
Thank you
Dave

Ok I went out to the shop and plated a piece of brass tube. I used the solution I made with vinegar and 2 pieces of pure nickel and a usb charger, So here is a short video of me trying to show how I have done it with excellent results.

 

awake

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Doc, that was a nice demo of the difference you get between a polished base and an unpolished one. Thanks!
 

tim9lives

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From what I’ve read....and mind you I’m certainly not an expert, but I did sleep at a Holiday Inn.
Anyway, the problem with most Chrome Electroplating is hexavalent chromium compounds are toxic. Like real toxic and also very highly regulated now. Electroless Chrome is a totally different animal.
But, for electro chrome plating steel they first plate with copper ( and that’s a cyanide process) .... theand then nickel plate and from there into the chrome tank. There is some newer tech using trivalent chrome which isn’t as bad for you. But the hexavalent chrome is super bad fumes. Heavy metal toxins. Plus , on the corrosive spectrum...it’s also up there with fuming muriatic acid. It’s a highly corrosive process in that everything in the shop corrodes.
But, plating copper based metals are much easier. Maybe I’m wrong Doc, but I’m guessing that if you go back into your shop and try to plate a steel bar using vinegar....it ain’t going to be easy. By the way....zinc plated nails and hardware isn’t the same as cold rolled steel. Nickel over zinc works a little easier than nickel over steel.

oh...the other thing about plating metals is the professionals don’t really share their secrets. Reading lots of posts on finishing.com even points out so much is proprietary info. But, watts nickel is well documented.
 
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doc1955

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From what I’ve read....and mind you I’m certainly not an expert, but I did sleep at a Holiday Inn.
Anyway, the problem with most Chrome Electroplating is hexavalent chromium compounds are toxic. Like real toxic and also very highly regulated now. Electroless Chrome is a totally different animal.
But, for electro chrome plating steel they first plate with copper ( and that’s a cyanide process) and then nickel plate and from there into the chrome tank. There is some newer tech using trivalent chrome which isn’t as bad for you. But the hexavalent chrome is super bad fumes. Heavy metal toxins. Plus , on the corrosive spectrum...it’s also up there with fuming muriatic acid. It’s a highly corrosive process in that everything in the shop corrodes.
But, plating copper based metals are much easier. Maybe I’m wrong Doc, but I’m guessing that if you go back into your shop and try to plate a steel bar using vinegar....it ain’t going to be easy. By the way....zinc plated nails and hardware isn’t the same as cold rolled steel. Nickel over zinc works a little easier than nickel over steel.
Nickel plating is not the same as chrome plating. Chrome plating is a lot harder in both respects as doing and outcome.
And the process I do and have had very good results is not done with any toxic acid unless you consider the acid in vinegar toxic. It is a simple straight forward process for nickel plating whether for a chrome look or to just stop oxidation. The main thing is to have parts that are to be plated clean. If you want a chrome look you need to start with well polished parts or material. Nickel plating will not cover scratches or surface imperfections
If you watch the video I posted you will see that it is a simple process to go from copper or brass to a chrome look in a very short time with no harsh chemicals.
 

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