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 ARCHIVED TOPIC: DIY Home Electroplating


Please note this is an archived topic, so it is locked and unable to be replied to. You may, however, start a new topic and refer to this topic with a link: http://www.banjohangout.org/archive/173409

lazyarcher - Posted - 03/14/2010:  17:29:10


I recently started to research and experiment with home electroplating. Its always been expensive and time consuming to get small parts plated by local platers or by sending them to out of area platers. A lot of the plating firms only do large runs, and even small platers often charge outrageous prices for small items..sometimes $25-50 minimum charge.

Gold plating has become outrageously pricey. Sonny Osborne is talking about suspending gold plating due to the cost of gold. I had suggested alternate "gold" substitutes like copper and brass because of the low costs involved, and the beautiful finishes you end up with.

I went online and looked at home setups. There are kits available, but are expensive and complicated. I've found a setup thats easy, low cost, and dosnt have a lot of dangerous chemicals involved. SAYING THAT, make sure that you research plating, and wear all of the proper protective clothing, eye protection, proper ventilation, gloves... take care with the power, etc etc.

Heres my setup...






The acid is vinegar, the power supply is a battery charger. The stainless steel rod is clipped to the -ve clip of your power, the +ve clip goes to the rod which is made of the metal you want to plate with...in this case brass. The stainless rod touches the item in the acid to be plated, the +ve rod is in the acid off to the side--don't touch the item with the +ve rod, or its spark city!! I turn the power to 5 volts..lots to electroplate with.

I used an old 70s tailpiece that I had on a Granada to show the results. I wanted to reproduce a vintage gold look with this one. I stripped whatever the finish was on the tailpiece--it was like a chrome coating..using a brush on a drill press. The tailpiece is cleaned by soaking in a vinegar/salt solution for 5 mins, then wiping with alcohol. The tailpiece goes into the acid sol'n touching the stainless steel -ve rod. Power is turned on and the process begins.

Heres the tailpiece in the solution being plated--the vinegar is blue/green because its used and turns colour. You can maybe see the bubbles coming that are off the tailpiece, showing electrolysis is happening.









I plate for about 5 mins, then turn off the power, remove with pliers, rinse in clean water. The tailpiece is very dark prior to cleaning...









I wipe off with a soft cloth, buff lightly with 0000-steel wool, then clean and replate. Numerous short plating sessions seem better than a couple of long ones.

After 5 or 6 sessions, depending on the colour you want, I clean, buff with the 0000steel wool, and buff with a soft buffing wheel on a bench grinder.

Heres what the 2 parts of the tailiece look like before final buffing, and after...the bottom is before, the top is after.....










Heres the final tailpiece, beside a yet to be plated bracket to compare the colours of finish...










To protect the finish from oxidizing, I might look at clear coar finishes...then again, maybe not.

I think this is a low-cost, viable alternative to gold plating small items at home. I don't know what it would be like to do a big item like a flange...but maybe next week....

I'll post the nickel finish whan its done.







uncle.fogey - Posted - 03/14/2010:  17:43:39


Good for you Lazyarcher! That looks great.

I have been trying to do nickel plating on tension hoops and bracket bands with a Caswell electroless nickel kit with spotty results. First of all, an 11 inch diameter required a very big plating vessel, and the only suitable thing I could find was a porcelain-enamel dishpan, secondly, the immersible heater I got from Caswell couldn't heat a bath that big, so I had to use an electric hot-plate. It wasn't easy at all.

Plating being the expense that it is, however, I'm still trying to lick this problem, so I'm very interested in what you're doing.

My nickel plating looked pretty good as a "vintage" part, but wouldn't pass as a new one.

lazyarcher - Posted - 03/14/2010:  17:50:28


I'm doing a vintage Grover clamshell over in nickle. The nickel has been more difficult because of the metal source is nickel welding rod...but its silver nickel. I'll post results when I finish it this week.

Big items like a tension hoop or a flange or a tonering...YIKES!!!

chickenpickin - Posted - 03/14/2010:  17:57:52


Wow!! Outstanding, Dave. That's some McGyvering if I've ever seen any. Now look at what you've started. Now I've got to try it.

I'm switching all my hardware over to nickle and now I think I could do my unplated Prucha presto tailpiece. I've already ordered all the hardware except tailpiece and armrest.

Did you have to clean every speck of old finish off?I would think that would be pretty important to do that and all the prep work in general prior to plating.

Nice work. I like the brass idea for gold. Also, where will you get your nickle from?

Tim

Blake507 - Posted - 03/14/2010:  18:24:27


This is great, I have always been interested in plating. Your simple idea is very creative. I wonder if a nickel source could be a Nickle? I don't know what alloys are in a coin, but this idea opens a lot of doors. Some of the questions I have are:

What temperature should the solution be? or does it make a difference?
How long is the short time in the solution and how frequent can you dip them?
Would a piece of gold scrap, like an old ring work for gold?
Can you do this with just any metal?

Thanks for the idea, I can see plating my picks gold.

Slingerland - Posted - 03/14/2010:  18:40:57


Looks great, wonderful idea.

The Old Timer - Posted - 03/14/2010:  18:57:53


Ah, American ingenuity!!! No wait, that's an ONTARIO license plate on the car in the photo!!!! Maybe he's using the Sudbury ON nickel mine as a cathode?

Since brass is an alloy of copper and tin, what do you supposed it "plating" that tailpiece? I would think the copper and tin ions would separate in the electrolysis wouldn't they? That was "brass plating" wasn't it? Not gold?

Earls 5 - Posted - 03/14/2010:  19:10:56


I wonder what copper over a brass item would look like? Also - the one picture looks alot like black chrome. Hmmm....

gary schattl - Posted - 03/14/2010:  19:27:11


I am in the process of restoring a vega artist banjo and need a tubaphone tone ring gold plated.Could I gold plate the spunover shield using this method?

lazyarcher - Posted - 03/14/2010:  21:22:49


I knew this would spark interest in the DIY banjo tinkerers of the world!!!!

Tim..
Did you have to clean every speck of old finish off?

Absolutely...surface prep including cleaning is everything. Plating will not hide anything..scratches, sanding marks...just like painting a car!

Where will you get your nickle from?

Thats the tough one..its hard to get pure nickel. I used nickel/silver welding rods, and they seem to work..OK, but I'm having some adherance issues. You can make a nickel acetate solution with nickel oxide powder--but I can't find any for sale locally. I may try to order some.


Blake..
What temperature should the solution be? or does it make a difference?

I believe its supposed to be warm. I saw a video where the guy used the bottom of a coffee maker to heat his solution. The warmer sol'n cuts down on the time for the nickel ions to transfer.

How long is the short time in the solution and how frequent can you dip them?

I leave mine in for about 5 mins...and you can keep dipping..you just get more plating. My solution isn't very concentrated as I'm using a solid piece of the plating metal as an anode..so the electrolysis process has to rob material from the solid metal anode then transfer to the item being plated. If you use a solution with the metal already dissolved, there is more free molecules to transfer. Apparently, its much faster.

Would a piece of gold scrap, like an old ring work for gold?

I'm encouraging everyone to send me their old gold to experiment with!!

I don't know, unless the ring is solid gold, and even then, I think it depends on the carate of the gold. It would be an expensive use of the ring I would think. You can get gold plating solutions, but I havnt tried any gold plating. My experimenting was to try to find a cheap alternative to gold plate. There are lots of YouTube videos on gold plating to check out.

Can you do this with just any metal?

Good question. I would think so as far as transfer of ions--whether the metal being plated will bond with all metals, i dont know.


The Old Timer
What do you supposed is "plating" that tailpiece?

I think its the copper, based on the colour anyways. Maybe both metals transfer and rebond as brass?? Hmmmmmm...but yes, I'm using a brass rod as a cathode.

Earls 5
I wonder what copper over a brass item would look like?

Copper is a little redder in colour. I'm wondering about copper plating everything 1st as the prewar gold was applied over copper. The black look is the reside from the electrolysis--it wipes off.

gary schattl
Again, I dont know about gold. Its so expensive, I'd hate to screw it up. I think you use the same method though..just with a gold solution.


Gold plated Beaver Bridges may be next...so look out wifes jewelry!!!

Oh, this is fun....


Edited by - lazyarcher on 03/14/2010 21:24:10

mike gregory - Posted - 03/15/2010:  05:28:57


Smells like vinegar, looks like genius!

dickinnorwich - Posted - 03/15/2010:  06:21:47


Dave:
This this is fabulous.
I wonder how muriatic acid would work? I know I have used it numerous times in the past to remove chrome plating from the base nickle plating.
If the base metal of the piece is brass/bronze (tone ring, tension hoop, tailpiece, etc. ), shouldn't there be a relatively easy way to reverse the process and strip the nickle plating, leaving the brass?

Helix - Posted - 03/15/2010:  06:25:44


I thought it smelled like genius.

I'm glad to see this, it helps people, everyone's really curious about this due to the mention in Scrugg's book. Thanks for working out the details, perfect kitchen project.

lazyarcher - Posted - 03/15/2010:  07:50:48


quote:
Originally posted by dickinnorwich

Dave:
This this is fabulous.
I wonder how muriatic acid would work? I know I have used it numerous times in the past to remove chrome plating from the base nickle plating.
If the base metal of the piece is brass/bronze (tone ring, tension hoop, tailpiece, etc. ), shouldn't there be a relatively easy way to reverse the process and strip the nickle plating, leaving the brass?



I found this on a plating site....

"Nickel strips easily. It is nowhere as resistant as platinum, etc. and readily forms chlorides, sulfates and nitrates. Unfortunately, the solution will also attack the brass. I have often stripped nickel from copper and brass. A thin layer will come off quickly in dilute hydrochloric acid. A common methode of stripping thicker layers is a solution of 3 parts sulfuric acid to 2 parts water by volume. Apply a positive DC voltage to the part and use a lead cathode. About 6 volts should work. The solution can be at room temperature, but have good ventilation or work outside because it will generate gases. I do it in a fume hood. Adding water will speed the process, but it will also increase pitting of the brass. Adding 30 grams/liter of copper sulfate or glycerine will reduce pitting. "

Seems like stripping nickel is a lot tougher than plating it. The above method looks easy--maybe try it with Muriatic acid. Brownells also has a nickel stripping system for guns, but only for steel parts. Caswell plating is also a good resourse, although it starts to get expensive with their kits and solutions. I've tried to keep this home based and cheap.

The other thing I've read is, based on the acids you're using and the metals involved, you have to be REALLY careful with what gases you produce. You can easily produce Chlorine gas, Cyanide gas, etc which we all know arnt good to inhale!!

lazyarcher - Posted - 03/15/2010:  07:55:41


quote:
Originally posted by Helix

I thought it smelled like genius.

I'm glad to see this, it helps people, everyone's really curious about this due to the mention in Scrugg's book. Thanks for working out the details, perfect kitchen project.



As long as you're careful with the components, it meets the criteria for a great home project..cheap, done with components most people have at home, and you can do banjo parts!! The real beauty of home plating is you can experiment with different metal finishes outside of the norm of gold, nickel, chrome...copper and brass replace gold at 3% of the cost and look as beautiful as anything on their own.
....similiar to experimenting with different woods for rims eh???

The Old Timer - Posted - 03/15/2010:  09:05:01


Muriatic acid is an old name for hydrochloric acid, so be VERY careful about ventilation in case chlorine gas is given off!!!!

Sulfuric acid will burn you quicker than you can blink at high strength. Also might give off sulfurous fumes, which at least can be very irritating if not deadly if you breathe it long enough (SO2, H2S, depending on chemical conditions).

Vinegar is a form of acetic acid and doesn't have any chlorine in it. It's fairly difficult to hurt yourself with this. I'd be VERY WARY of using any electrolytes stronger than this for home hobbying, DIY, or "newbie" stuff. I'm not an electroplating expert, but I am a paper industry engineer college trained in chemical engineering and have had lots of experience with safety around industrial chlorine and sulfur gases. Beyond your own safety, think of your family too! Please be careful.

The Old Timer - Posted - 03/15/2010:  09:05:33


Muriatic acid is an old name for hydrochloric acid, so be VERY careful about ventilation in case chlorine gas is given off!!!!

Sulfuric acid will burn you quicker than you can blink at high strength. Also might give off sulfurous fumes, which at least can be very irritating if not deadly if you breathe it long enough (SO2, H2S, depending on chemical conditions).

Vinegar is a form of acetic acid and doesn't have any chlorine in it. It's fairly difficult to hurt yourself with this. I'd be VERY WARY of using any electrolytes stronger than this for home hobbying, DIY, or "newbie" stuff. I'm not an electroplating expert, but I am a paper industry engineer college trained in chemical engineering and have had lots of experience with safety around industrial chlorine and sulfur gases. Beyond your own safety, think of your family too! Please be careful.

Brian T - Posted - 03/15/2010:  09:49:38


Dave: you did a great job. Your excellent photos reveal a couple more imporant items to add to your list.

1. Hydrochloric and sulfuric acids can decompose, releasing toxic(?) gases. Vinegar/acetic acid is an organic acid. The key feature is that as an organic compound it is "used up" but it doesn't decompose like mineral acids. BEST CHOICE.
2. Long periods of electroplating will create a rough, uneven surface. Short times with cleaning/polishing intervals will make a smoother, shiny surface.
3. It is the AMPS which assist the plating process, not the volts. The battery charger is just fine as a rugged, dependable, economical power supply.

I visited a smelter and walked through the zinc recovery room. Electrolysis from an acetic acid solution. . . ultra stinky/sour. We walked across the open tops of the electrolysis cells. Afterwards, we were told that we had been walking on the solid copper power bars (big as a sidewalk).
Voltage was only 1.50 DC.

Brian T - Posted - 03/15/2010:  12:24:33


I give up.
The TV show "American Chopper" (Orange County Choppers/Teutl Family) built a motorcycle which was totally finished in polished, electroplated copper.
I'd like to know what was used as an anti-tarnish protective coating. Looks to me like some transparent coatings are far better than others.
Can't find the show listing. Yes, the bike was just as wild-looking as you can possibly imagine.

lazyarcher - Posted - 03/15/2010:  17:23:55


Brian and OT'r...great input. This is what I'm looking for...people that know what they're doing!!

Lets try and keep this going. Home rims and bridges and finishes and inlays have always got lots of press, but home plating??? There are so many cool metal finishes other than the standards...and with gold at $1000++/oz, we need alternatives.

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