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Copy Chrome Start-up

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  • Copy Chrome Start-up

    Hello, I tried Copy Chrome 8oz complete set-up today, for the first time, on a fishing reel handle about 3"x 1/2"x 1/8", with a brass base. I compounded the hell out of it, by hand, with automotive polishing compound to remove corrosion on the chrome. It left a somewhat pitted finish with brass base spotting. I buffed any haze off completely with a clean cotton cloth before setting up Copy Chrome. I strted to use Copy Chrome as per instructions. At first it seemed to work, then it started to become a dark & dull, almost nickel looking haze. I rinsed the part afterwards in water to remove any solution. Next, I tried to polish up the new chrome finish with polishing compound to eliminate the darkened haze and all Copy Chrome came off with the dark haze, back to where I started. This is a practice part and after all that, I do need any and all advice. Did I polish part adequitly before plating? Did I move the wand over the part too slowly to create the dark haze? I have antique reels with brass or copper bases and would like to refinish some parts.

  • #2
    You can't plate over chrome

    You should know that you can not plate over chrome.
    Nothing will plate to it. All of the chrome has got to stripped off first.

    If you recieved the Caswell plating manual, read through the section on "pickels" and it will instruct you on how to strip off the chrome.

    Additionally, the plating under chrome always nickel.
    Copy Chrome (or nickel) will not plate to itself without reactivating it first. You have to pickel the part in dilute battery acid first prior to plating.
    See the Caswell manual, it tells you how to do it.

    Another thing to consider is that even if you did manage to remove the chrome (and there are still pits in the underlying nickel plate and brass base metal) no amount of Copy Chrome will cove up the pits.

    You will have to copper plate the part (after a nickel or Copy Chrome strike coat first if the base metal is steel) and sand (yes I did say sand) the copper down until all the blemishes are gone. This could take multiple copper coats, sanding between coats (think of the copper like high build automotive primer prior to painting.....same idea. When all of the blemishes are gone, buff the copper to a high shine, clean the part, then plate with the Copy Chrome.

    As far as your use of automotive polishing compound:
    I once used "Blue Magic" metal polish on some small brass fittings prior to plating them to bring up the shine after machining the parts.

    I throughly cleaned the parts with lacquer thinner and "Dawn" dish detergent prior to nickel plating them. To my suprise, the plating did not "stick" and started to flake off.

    Reason?......The metal polish got into the pores of the metal and no amount of manual cleaning could remove the polish (must have had some silicone in it).

    I would suggest you never use any type of car wax/compound on your parts prior to plating. Use a buffing wheel and be sure the part is free of all buffing compound, finger prints, etc. prior to plating.

    It may be out of your reach, however, I ultrasonic clean all my small parts prior to plating, Whatever you do DO NOT touch the part with your hands after cleaning the part. Body oils will prevent the plate from bonding or will look "splotchy".

    I have been plating for a long time and I am always learning something new. Don't give up, keep will be worth the effort.

    I would also suggest you get into tank plating verses brush plating.
    It will cost a little more, however, the benifits far out weigh the initial cost.

    Hope this helps.

    George W.

    See some of my plating at:


    • #3
      Hello George, Appreciate your advice and help. I think I jumped the gun with trying plating. I ordered the paperback manual #7 to get me going in the right direction. The instructions that came with my kit didn't go into detail and I should of got the manual first. What kind of ultrasonic cleaner should I eventually get, like the ones for jewelry? I want to do this on a small time basis for now as my facilities are small compared to some set-ups I already saw on Caswells website. I will keep you posted! Thank you very much again, Gene.


      • #4
        Gene, You don't have to have an ultrasonic cleaner. it just insures that the parts are real clean.
        I use a small 8oz type that is used for jewelry. It is a true ultrasonic (about $80.00) and not one of those cheap $15-20 cleaners.
        I use about a capful of "Cascade" automatic dishwasher detergent in the cleaner.

        After buffing, I remove the majority of the buffing compound using lacquer thinner and paper towels followed by a scrub with "Dawn" dish washing detergent using a soft toothbrush.

        If the parts are small enough to go into the ultrasonic cleaner I still do the above and ultrasonic clean them for a few minutes. A hot water rinse (don't dry the part) and then "hot" into the plating solution.
        By "Hot" I mean the part is all wired up to the power supply and then gets lowered into the solution.

        If I was plating nickel over existing nickel, the cleaning steps above would be the same, except that the part would go into the battery acid pickle for 30 seconds, a 15 second rinse, and I would reverse the current (the leads hooked up "backwards" from normal) and reverse plate the part for (10) seconds then switch the leads back to their normal position. Normal being the positive on the anode and negative on the part.

        The battery acid pickle re-activates (micro etches) the existing nickel and reverse plating the part further insures the part is ready to accept the new plating. Just don't reverse plate for too long. 10/15 seconds is plenty.

        I know a lot of this does not apply to you since you are currently brush plating, however, never hurts to have too much info.

        When you get the Casswell manual, keep it handy and read through it often. OK, so it is a "Guy" thing, but keeping it in the bathroom works for me. LOL

        As far as you "jumping the gun".....hey, how else are you ever going to learn something new. An old boss once told me "You never know if you can do it unless you try". This boss was a real pain in the A$$, but I can't tell you how much I learned from him. I owe him a lot for what he taught me over the years.

        Keep on keeping on!

        George W.


        • #5
          Copy Chrome Start-up

          Hello George, I appreciate the information. I will keep my eyes open for components when I'm in Home Depot or Lowes the next time. I will have a lot of chrome stripping in the future, some antique items I have are in rough shape due to saltwater corrosion and careless previous owners. They are beautiful in their present condition with some or alot of chrome loss and I hope to bring them back to their original shape. Loved your '66 Mustang, I had a 1969 Mach 1, 3-1973 Mach 1's, and an 1987 GT in the past and wish that I would of kept all or any of them. Some I restored, used as everyday drivers, or drag raced...Fun Fun Fun! They are all gone now and like everything else, we move on. I will look you up in the future as I slowly proceed with my projects. Thank you, Gene.


          • #6
            Copy Chrome 2nd Attempt

            Date: 4/14/04 1960?s Penn 9/0 Fishing Reel Spool: (Chrome over copper base) 3 ??x 3 ??. 1) Soaked part in White Distilled Vinegar (5% acid) to remove green corrosion from copper based chrome spool for approximately 24hrs. 2) Rinsed spool with hot tap water. 3) Cleaned spool with odorless paint thinner. 4) Cleaned spool with Acetone. 5) Scrubbed exposed copper where corrosion was and rest of existing chrome areas of entire spool with Comet bathroom powder cleanser, Scotch Guard Green abrasive pad, and hot tap water. Dried with clean paper towel. 6) Set-up Plug N? Plate Copy Chrome wand and solution. Poured approximately 1/4oz of Copy Chrome solution in glass shot glass. Soaked wand cloth in full bottle of Copy Chrome for initial soaking and closed bottle from any spills. Placed black alligator clip (neg./ Cathode) to spool. Placed red alligator clip to wand (pos./ Anode). The Negative Cathode attracts metal from the Positive Anode. 7) Plugged in transformer. Moved the wand (energized) with steady, continuous, stroke along spool @ approximately 1sq. inch per minute. As wand seems not to be plating anymore, dip back into ? oz. Copy Chrome solution in shot glass. Continue plating with continuous steady motion. DO NOT STOP IN ANY ONE PLACE, or you will burn part and see it get darker very quickly. Relocate black (Negative Cathode) around part so wand red (Positive Anode) doesn?t get too close and maybe touch (Short Transformer) or wires tangle. 9) Plated spool for approximately 45min. and made 4 passes around inside of spool over original copper base and original chrome. Some dark spots and hazing seemed to appear after 3rd pass. 10) Unplugged transformer, disconnected black (neg. Cathode) and red (pos. Anode) alligator clips. Placed wand with wet pad on shot glass. 11) Rinsed plated spool in hot tap water for 1 min. and dried gently with clean paper towel. 12) Success! Part accepted Copy Chrome plate directly to copper base. 13) Applied Turtle Wax 100% Pure Brazilian Carnauba wax to entire plated spool by hand using small circular motion. 14) Once wax was dry approximately 10min., wiped off plated spool again with circular motions by hand, continuously using cleaner parts of clean white 100% cotton rag. Noticed 70% of dark spotting and hazing came off, and all copper base areas on spool had a more of a nickel look than chrome. All copper base areas did accept Copy Chrome plate. 15) Applied ?Blue Coral? Clearcoat Polishing Compound using small circular motions to entire spool, and let dry for 15mins. 16) Removed Clearcoat polishing compound with small circular motions by hand from spool continuously using cleaner parts of clean white 100% cotton rag. Noticed about 20% more dark spotting and hazing came off. 17) Final Result: Approximately 90% of dark spotting and hazing came off with polishing. Spool does look a little darker after plating onto original copper base and over original chrome areas with Copy Chrome plate, possibly from heat? Original copper base areas seem more like nickel plate than chrome. Reel spool does look better than before and even though plated, the plating does show where the corrosion once was. Will try next time with 1st) Chrome Stripper solution, 2nd) A layer of Flash Copper onto original copper base, 3rd) Polish, 4th) A layer with Copy Chrome plate, 5th) Polish.[/size][/size][/size][/size]


            • #7
              Gene, looks like you are really trying your best.

              The Copy Chrome has a very slight blue tint compared to regular nickel, however, it is still nickel.
              If you start out with a mirror like base surface and then Copy Chrome and polish the part, you will swear it looks just like real chrome until you put it next to real chrome....then you notice the color difference.

              With what you are trying to do (by plating just the pitted/bare areas) you will never get it to look right.

              As you had mentioned in your post, strip off all of the chrome, get down the the base metal and sand/polish the living daylights out of it using a power buffer, clean well, then Copy Chrome the part. It will look real nice.

              You can never get the part to look the same "color" as chrome, however, if there is nothing close by to compare it to, no one will be able to really tell the difference but you.

              I ran into a similar dilemma on my 64 PUCH I am restoring. I had about (50) parts that I Copy Chromed (and they all looked like a million bucks), however, some parts were almost or directly next to, some real chrome items.

              I had to take the large items down to the chromer (too large for me to do) so I took about 1/2 of the Copy Chrome parts down to be "real chromed". You don't even want to know what the final costs are going to be. OUCH! Lets just say it cost more then the entire motorcycle cost when it was new. The price we pay for perfection.

              George W.


              • #8
                Hello George, I was going to have some items professionally chromed until I talked to a friend who restored a Harley and he talked me out of it due to the high cost. I ordered the chrome stripper and copper plate to help my situation. I have to pick up better polishing materials, my Dremmal is to small for the parts I'm trying to chrome. Do you think the plug-n-plate silver could be a better alternative to the copy chrome as far as luster and shine? I have the silver but haven't tried it yet. The Caswell manual is very informative and I should of bought that first, it also makes good bathroom reading like you said! I wish I had the area to use the bigger chrome set-ups, but I'm determined to accomplish my chrome projects on a small basis for now. What size chrome system are you up to? I'm hoping the copper plate will help me out a lot, to cover the pitting and scratches I've encountered after stripping some of the parts. As far as polishing, do you think a variable speed drill with the proper polishing wheels might work, or am I destined to buy a bench grinder/polisher? I'm trying to conserve project money until I get my small system perfected. Thanks, Gene.


                • #9
                  Gene, I also plate silver and I have found that the nickel materials (nickel and Copy Chrome) are by far the "easiest" to work with and get good results.

                  When I plate silver, it is for very small electrical contacts for medical applications.
                  I can not use nickel because it is magnetic and the contacts are going into devices that go into a hospital MRI facility and no parts can be magnetic.

                  Silver will of course tarnish and you will be constantly having to polish the parts unless you apply a clear lacquer top coat.
                  I would stick to the Copy Chrome for your application.

                  As far as my set up goes, I have 2 gallon set ups of copper, nickel and and a (1) gallon Copy Chrome.
                  My silver and tin are only a quart size because the contacts I plate are so small.

                  If you strip the part, copper plate it, work the copper plating to a mirror finish then Copy Chrome it I am sure you will be happy.

                  I would also advise you to start tank plating instead of brush plating.
                  You will get so much better results (keep reading).

                  When doing Copy Chrome, I use it as a final "color" coat.
                  After the usual strip, nickel strike, copper, and polishing, I plate over the copper with a heavy (1) hour nickel plate. Then I buff the part (it usually does not need it...just habit) nickel pickle it and then it goes into the Copy Chrome.

                  George W.


                  • #10
                    Hello George, I appreciate all the information and wish I could use a bigger set-up, but my work area is limited. I do know Harbor Freight and several other distributers. I will go for the 3/4hp bench grinder/buffer and try to improve my polishing better. I do enjoy the technical part more than the polishing. Money and space is the problem now and you have helped out a lot, I will keep you posted. Thank you, Gene.


                    • #11
                      Gene, I guess my main point was that you could get into nickel tank plating for about $20.00 plus the cost of a small power supply like the one Caswell has for about $95.00.

                      Unfortunately, the power supply is the big ticket item for tank plating.


                      George W.