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There seems to be alot of leg work in plating PLEEASE HELP

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  • There seems to be alot of leg work in plating PLEEASE HELP

    It's taking me for ever to get bad results

    I tried to plate a steel kick stand for my bike and when I was finished I wanted to paint it again>

    The steps i took were sand Blasting, alight sanding, soak in #2 pickle, Flash Copper, (everythings good so far) Nickle for 15min this is were the
    problem starts, The top and bottom of the piece were very dull and my amps were right. so i buffed and preceded with Acid copper for fill in the blasting pitts 10 to 15 mins a time Acid coppered three times seemed to go on thin for a filler and wet sanded in between coats with 2000 gr. followed by Nickle again and was very disappointed after the Nickle was applied still pitting and some dark spots Want to throw the piece away Please help

  • #2
    Sounds like you are in a hurry.

    Prep work is 99% of a fantastic plating job.

    Keep in mind that the part must look like a jewel prior to going into the final plating solution.

    I just finished a clutch cover plate for an old motorcycle.
    Total time including stripping off the old chrome, beadblasting, sanding, nickel strike, coppering and sanding, buffing the copper and time in the solutions...10 hrs.

    A quick run down of the plating times:

    Nickel strike : 1 hour ( I do this to insure when sanding the copper I don't break thru into the steel).
    First copper plate: 3 hours (it was real pitted).
    Wet sand first copper plate (still a lot of pitting).
    Second acid copper plate: 3 hours.
    Sand it again.
    Buff to a mirror shine.
    Nickel plate for 1 1/2 hours.

    Of course I could have filled in the pits with solder, however, I have found that it is safer to just apply more copper and sand it down.
    Too much heat when soldering will "pop" the plating, delaminating it (you will actually here it "pop") and then you are hosed.......start all over again.

    Also, if you apply solder as a filler, you have to nickel plate over it prior to coppering.

    As far as the "dull" plating:
    Could be any of the following.

    1. Well, just not enough time in the solutions. 15 minutes just is not enough time (Ok if just nickel striking a perfect looking steel part).
    2. Are your anodes as long as your part? They must be for good results.
    3. Running to high a voltage or current rate.
    4. Anodes too close to the part.
    5. Ends of kickstand acting a "cheaters" (how was the kickstand hung in the solution?)
    If it was horizontal (like a pencil laying on a table) and the anodes were "seeing" just the ends of the kickstand...DOH! wrong way to plate.
    Hang it vertical so the anodes are the same distance from the entire part (like holding the eraser end of the pencil with the point facing down with the anodes on either side).


    Construct a long tank, put (2) anodes on both sides of the tank and then you could plate it horizontally.
    6. No agitation. Use LARGE air bubble aeration (no airstone, just an open ended hose in the tank).

    Hope this helps.

    George W.


    • #3
      thanx for the time to repley i think that it was to close because I had it laying at an angle

      Thanx again Eric


      • #4
        I"d like to echo George's point about how time consuming this work is. We are doing restoration work on worn, rusted, or corroded items, not plating new work. Time and again I have approached professional platers with requests to do the restoration work I do. Either they want to grind out the pits, or just tell me it can't be done due to the amount of time it would take. One guy even wanted to "braze up" the pits. I guess this would work very well on auto bumpers, but would destroy my delicate parts.

        The point is, the reason many of us are doing this work is because the "pros" are not willing to do it or not capable of it. We should take great pride in what we are accomplishing. Having said that, many of us also do this work because it is enjoyable and rewarding--once you get the hang of it!!

        Kind regards,


        • #5
          so with some more time i should beable to get profesional results ?

          I polish a lot of aluminum and it is very time consuming but equally rewarding

          I i could get some help on posting pics i could put my work up

          Thanx agin Eric


          • #6
            "so with some more time i should be able to get professional results ?"

            You got it!

            Just remember....... the final plating will only look as good as the part your putting into the final plating solution. It must be "jewel like".

            Of course you don't have to get it "jewel like".
            For some jobs a fine bead blasted finish would also work.
            It is just that the part will not reflect light like a mirror finish would.
            Depends on your application.

            I make/plate parts for my place of employment and depending on the application, they can be either way (beadblasted or highly polished).

            For example, a sheet metal electronics enclosure box does not have to look like a piece of "show chrome" so it gets a fine bead blasted finish.

            Tools and medical fittings get a high polish prior to being plated.

            George W.


            • #7
              Well, all I can do is echo the replies of the guys....If you stick with it and perservere, you WILL achieve proffesional results and better. Take your time, learn all you can, ask loads of questions and you will be surprised at how well you will be able to plate parts.
              Just keep at it!
              P.S. I have a whole pile of practice potmetal parts that look like somthing that came from the upper atmosphere.....but it was all part of learing!
              48 Buick


              • #8
                plating numbers

                I have been using my plating tanks quite a bit and have had various degrees of success. From great results to catastrophic failure. I have a 15 gallon set up of flash copper, acid copper as well as nickel. I make custom metal parts anything from lamps to furniture and prototypes. One of the projects I was working on failed terribly and I can not figure out why. I was wondering what numbers were being used when GSW3 gave the times for plating. For example 1 hour strike nickel 3 hours acid copper and so on. The number I am interested in is the amps per square inch. In the manual it has a very large range. Just wondering what others have found to work best? As for degreasing, what is the average life of the sp degreaser? I am wondering if that might have something to do with my problems. I do a water test and they appear to be clean. I spray rinse now after I realized that when I was dipping in a container of distilled water to rinse I was actually contaminating the other tanks down stream.


                • #9
                  Gabourie, below are the volts/amps per square inch that I use:

                  Acid Copper: 1.50V @ 85ma. per square inch.
                  Bright Nickel : 2.25V @ 85ma. per square inch.

                  I always ramp up the voltage during the first few minutes of plating to insure the metal plates quickly verse oxidizing in the solution.
                  (really important when nickel striking steel parts)

                  1st min. 3.0V
                  2nd min. 2.75V
                  3rd min. 2.50V
                  Then at the 4th min. mark it gets set at 2.25V

                  Acid Copper:
                  1st min. 2.0V
                  2nd min. 1.75V
                  Then at the 3 min. mark it gets set at 1.5V

                  I have a "Lab" type power supply (0-18Vdc, 0-10A) and using the settings above always gives me perfect results.

                  I have never buffed any of my nickel plated parts when they come out of the baths. They always look like a mirror.

                  OK, now this ought to shake everyone up.

                  All this worry about the "exact" amps per square inch.
                  I set my supply to the voltages listed above and let the part draw whatever it wants.
                  Always seems to draw right at 85ma. per square inch.
                  I have never set the current limit on the supply to match the part size, ever!

                  Another note: all my solutions are at least (3) years old.
                  I always filter them with plain old large paper coffee filters after about (10) hours of use.
                  I have never had to throw out or screw with the solutions, ever!

                  More shocking news: :

                  After washing large parts with "Dawn" dishwashing soap (you know...the blue stuff in the squirt bottle) or ultrasonic cleaning the smaller parts (using "Sunlite" automatic dishwasher detergent in the ultrasonic) and a tap water rinse, all parts (steel, copper, nickel, brass...does not matter) get a (1) minute dip in "Nickel Pickle" (battery acid diluted as per Caswell's instructions) then into a tap water rinse tank for (30) seconds and go "Hot" (electrically connected) right into the baths for a minimum (1) hour plate.

                  Ok, everyone can get up off of the floor...Yes I did say (and use) plain old Florida tap water for rinsing.

                  I use my roto-plater setup (rotates the parts in the bath) and use LARGE air bubble agitation and always (2) anodes on either side of the tank.
                  All my anodes are 4" x 6" (or 2 x 12 for horizontal plating, no rotation, air and pump circulation) and are always at least 2" or more (more is better) away from the part. Of course the rotation insures the parts do not "see" the anodes on any high spot for too long (rotates at 24rpm).

                  Use 2 gallon tanks (I only do smaller stuff)

                  George W.


                  • #10
                    Congratulations on the great results you're getting George. It really demonstrates how different methods can achieve excellent results.

                    I like your voltage method since it's very likely that the plating solution against any object being plated will have a consistent resistance per square inch. Based on your observation, it may be that using a voltage monitor equivalent to the "four wire method" placing a meter right at the anode and hanger wire would yield very consistent results. Is this the way you sense the voltage?

                    I'd be cautions about the water, which will vary geographically. Here in Texas the water is very hard--meaning it is loaded with lime (a bedrock of limestone abounds). I'm not sure I would want to transfer limestone dust into my plating tanks.

                    My flash copper loses its potency after about 6 months of heavy use. By heavy use, I mean a dozen large parts a week, each with perhaps 5 coats of copper. But I can usually tell it's about to misbehave because the solution eventually becomes a very dark blue. When it misbehaves, the copper gets rougher and darker--but it still plates.

                    I've tried filtering. While it hasn't made my solutions last longer, it makes them plate consistently well (no voids or pin holes) while they last. Some folks use filter pumps to scrub the solutions on a regular basis. Maybe that's the ticket?

                    Kind regards,


                    • #11

                      I also have noticed that my acid copper solution (in the tank) is quite a bit darker then my new, never used, solution, however, I have not noticed any real differences in the plating.

                      I guess I have just been lucky using the tap water for the rinse.
                      No ill effects at all.
                      Would be safer (like you say) to use distilled water if unsure.
                      Spray rinsing with distilled water (with a pump type applicator) would be real safe as you would never contaminate any of the solutions.

                      As far as where I read the voltage at, my leads from my power supply to the anodes and the item being plated are very short (2 ft) and I read the voltage right off the power supplies digital meters.

                      When plating nickel over steel, my nickel solution develops a yellow sediment and as long as I keep it filtered it is fine.

                      The copper solution develops a sediment (that looks like copper powder) in the solution after heavy use and again, just filtering it keeps it going with no problems.

                      Perhaps the key to all this is filtering the solutions.

                      George W.


                      • #12

                        Yes, perhaps you're right about the filtering, and I think Caswells sells some new gadgets to recirculate and filter. If the tanks are large enough to accommodate them, it would be worth a try, I guess.



                        • #13
                          What are you using for this "roto-plater" set-up, and where could I get one? It sounds like it would be great for helping eliminate the shadows I get with just hanging the parts. Also, how large of a part are you doing with the no adjustment technique? I've also got a pro lab power supply (a KEPCO adjustable from 0-15V and 0-50A ) and I've found that even it seems to fall short on parts over about 40+ square inches surface area.


                          • #14
                            I made the roto-plater myself.

                            Basically a 24rpm 12Vdc gearhead motor suspended over the tanks.
                            I put a resistor in series with it to lower the speed to about 16rpm.

                            I made a machined nose piece that fastens to the output shaft of the gearhead motor and a spring wiper spring makes contact (Negative DC from power supply) with the nose piece.
                            A 1/16" hole is in the end of the nose piece and the cathode hanging wire fastens in it with a allen head screw.

                            Always get perfect plating coverage (I also use (2) anodes and large air bubble agitation) and you don't have to stand over the solutions to turn/rotate the parts by hand.

                            The only expensive part is the Pittman gearhead motor.
                            Retail about $125.00 however, I have been getting them used, in good shape for $15.00 at a local surplus place.
                            Picked up the last one they had in stock on Friday.

                            They got a new shipment of a different brand (and have about 100 of them) new, for $12.50.
                            Not as well built (duh...$125 verses $12.50, but should last a year or so)

                            an ideal place for the maker, hobbyists, model builders, audiophiles, artists, and the do-it-yourself electronic enthusiast. We feature electronic parts, electrical supplies, hardware, wire and cable, test equipment, and thousands of hard to find items.

                            It is the 6-12Vdc gearhead motor on that web page.
                            It turns about 6rpm at 12Vdc.

                            I could send you some .pdf.s of my plans.
                            You would have to adapt the plans a little to fit the above motor however.
                            e-mail me if you want me to sent them.

                            About the largest parts I plate are about 50 sq inches because of my small tank size (2 gal tanks).
                            Because I plate mainly copper and nickel I usually do not exceed 5 to 6 amps.

                            George W.


                            • #15
                              part rotator

                              I am very interest in the part rotator. How is the motor isolated from the current? I am also very interested in the ramping up of the current. I will try that. So in the manual when it states to use 1 amp per 16sq " how does that related to your values? Are you not using constant current mode? The power supplies I have are 30 volt 20 amp. I need to run a resistor in series to get the unit to "start", a little frustrating at the higher currents. So this kinda messes with the voltage. Can too many volts cause poor adhesion?