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Author Topic: Home nickel plating  (Read 83 times)

RhysN

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Home nickel plating
« on: 25 February 2021, 04:58:20 pm »
Below is a guide I pinched from the Historic Kart group. I am about to do this with some of my Morgan bits and for the "other thing" in Grumpy's Workshop.
I have spoken with the person who wrote this and he says it really does work.
As with the electrolytic rust removal I have posted, worth a go.
Home Electroplating –
A cheap and simple technique to restore kart parts
Jamie Smith
Our thanks to Jamie for the article, it is written in good faith but remember to take care wear protective
clothing and no one endorses the products or suppliers.
The intention is to outline and explain in simple terms a very useful and effective technique for those of us
interested and / or engaging in the restoration of classic karts, indeed anything that requires small metal parts to
be brought back to life. It’s not only useful, but very cheap and really satisfying to complete at home using a
few easily available bits and pieces. I’m sure anyone even slightly mechanically minded knows that most bolts
we buy are zinc plated so I will not bore you explaining what electroplating is, save to say that its widely used
for providing corrosion resistance to small metal fixings and parts.
I first started to electroplate parts at home for a car I am currently rebuilding from scratch and initially used the
process to revive some high tensile bolts that I bought new to fix brake callipers to uprights…..we’ve probably
all come across those black self-coloured bolts that rust very quickly (only surface rust admittedly) and look
shabby in no time Well to solve this problem, I started to search around the internet for a local firm who might
be able to plate these small parts for me but it quickly became evident that this job could be done at home and
the more I researched it, it was clear that I didn’t need to fork out for an expensive kit either.
3
I watched a few YouTube videos, bought a few supplies and gave it a go…….I must admit I was surprised by
the results, the parts looked superb and it was a doddle (easy) to complete. I’ve since plated loads of bits and
pieces, saving a fortune in powder coating or painting and ended up with brilliant looking parts that are
corrosion protected with a very hard-wearing finish – perfect for a myriad (load) of kart parts in fact.
So, how it is done. First thing is to watch this You Tube video as it explains the technique in very simple
steps. There are loads of ‘how to’ videos on home electroplating but this is the one I used to learn the process. It
is well worth watching. The address is https://youtu.be/G-PtnwtOR24.
The equipment required to electroplate parts at home is
surprisingly little, here is a shopping list:
Some plating material to use as anodes (I suggest
Nickel)
Medium to create the electrolyte – Home Bargains sell
distilled vinegar that is ideal, get a couple of bottles.
A decent jar or tub to hold the metal electrolyte bath
A power source – either an old phone charger or a few
standard batteries.
Some copper wire. Strip some old electrical wire core
initially or buy some bare copper wire. O.6mm is ideal
and make sure its ‘bare’ or uncoated or it will not
conduct properly.
Common table salt
Something to hang parts into the jar – a pencil is ideal.
A couple of small crocodile clips. My home electroplating kit
As far as the actual supplies required for the plating, that’s it! You will however need something to clean up the
rusted parts prior to plating and a good old fashioned wire stripping wheel is best, a decent rust remover
solution (optional) followed by some hydrochloric acid to etch the parts (more about that shortly).
If you’ve watched the video I mentioned, you’ll see that you can plate your parts with a few different metals but
I recommend using Nickel as it gives really good results and I’ve found it the easiest to use. I also use zinc but
prefer Nickel and I seem to get a great finish and lasting protection with it.
If you’re like me and have a garage or workshop full of old bits and pieces, you’ll likely have a few of the
supplies hanging around already, your local DIY and the well known auction sites will get the rest. A quick
word on obtaining the Nickel metal you’ll need – get it from ebay and a small piece 4-6” square will be ample.
I put together all the supplies to nickel plate the parts for less than £20 so you can see it is certainly cheap!
Last thing before explaining the process is to state that I only use this technique to restore small parts as doing it
on a large scale is probably more difficult at home. To put this in to context, I’m currently building up a Zip
981 and have nickel plated the brake calliper clips, bolts, nuts plus the master cylinder piston rod, lever arm
and fulcrum pins etc……..its an ideal technique for those type of small parts that are difficult to paint or would
get scratched up if powder coated etc.
Step-By-Step Guide
Step 1. Before we plate some parts, we need to create an electrolyte solution of our favoured plating
material (in this case nickel).
Its very simple……….get a decent size clean jar (something like a medium / large picked onion jar is perfect)
and pour in the distilled vinegar to about an inch from the top. Next, add the table salt and stir in until it is
dissolved. Two generous, heaped tablespoons in the jar in the pictures and you’ll have the amount about right.
The salt is to help the conductivity of the solution.
Take your square of nickel, break out the snips or the angle grinder and cut two strips about 1” wide to form the
anodes that will make your electrolyte. Bend these over at the top so that they ‘hang’ over the edge of the jar
into the vinegar / salt solution……best to position them as far apart as you can on opposite sides of the jar.
Now for the interesting bit. Take your old phone charger – any small output charger putting out less than 1 amp
or so will do the trick – cut off the actual charger input plug and fit your two small crocodile clips to the two
wires. Now clip these to the two nickel anodes hanging in the jar and plug the charger in.
4
You can use a standard battery for the power source as the power required is very low, but I find it easier to use
a mains charger.
Switch the unit on at the mains and you will notice that one of the anodes will immediately start to produce a
mass of bubbles – this indicates it as the negative anode, this is important. Mark your wires up as positive and
negative if they aren’t differently coloured at this point.
You are now making the nickel electrolyte essential to the plating process and the solution will start to turn a
distinct green colour almost immediately. Give this about 2-2.5 hours for the sort of jar size mentioned and then
switch off. You now have your electrolyte solution ready to plate parts, exciting times!
Electrolyte being made with two anodes and a battery. You require
two heaped tea spoons of salt for this size of jar.
Step 2.
Before diving in we need to clean the parts you want to
restore and electroplate. As with painting the better your
prep, the better the end result so it is very important you
thoroughly clean parts of all oil, grease, loose material and
rust. I use a rust removing product called Bilt Hamber
Deox C to remove heavy rust from components and it’s an
absolute wonder product, if you have heavily rusted parts
I highly recommend you bathe the parts in a solution of
this stuff first followed by a session on a bench mounted
wire wheel to remove all corrosion.
Once you’ve cleaned the parts in this way, it is then best
to give them a “quick dunk” (clean) in some hydrochloric
acid to give them a final clean and etch. Small parts like
calliper clips, bolts etc only need a minute or so in the
acid to give a good etch. Rinse off the acid with clean
water and dry thoroughly and you are ready to plate. As
far as getting hold of hydrochloric acid is concerned,
simple alloy wheel cleaner or brick cleaning acid from
screwfix etc is ideal. I can’t stress the importance of the prep stage enough.
Alloy wheel cleaner is
perfect for etching parts.
Calliper bolt pre prep. Calliper bolt after prep and etching –
 they need to be this clean!
Step 3. The interesting part, actually metal plating bits and bobs!
You will have previously marked which wires were positive and negative which is important because, after
making your plating solution, you now remove your negative anode and replace it with the part to be plated.
To do this, take some of the copper wire – roughly 6-7” is about right – and wrap the centre around the pencil a
couple of times. To one end of the wire attach the part to be plated by wrapping the wire around the thread for a
bolt or by making a loop to hang parts on, its obviously not that important how you hang the part, just make
5
sure there is a direct connection between the part and the wire. Now, using the high tech, pencil hanging
method, dangle the part in the solution ensuring that its hanging freely and completely immersed in the
electrolyte……ideally as far from the positive anode as you can get (opposite side of the jar anyway).
To the other end of the copper wire outside of the jar attach the negative crocodile clip and you’re ready to go.
Switch on the power and you’ll see the bubbles pouring from the part immersed in the solution, you are now
electroplating!
Hopefully, the picture below shows the set up if my
explanation is unclear.
Step 4.
I’d recommend leaving small parts, bolts etc for about 25
minutes to ensure a good protective coating is achieved
and larger brackets etc for up to about 40- 50 minutes.
Give the parts a “waggle” (shake) every now and again to
ensure an even coating and that’s all there is to it.
Turn the power off, rinse the solution off with clean water
and admire your handy work. You should have a nice
bright finish and its instantly tough and usable straight
away.
The solution is infinitely usable so screw the lid on and put
it away until you need it again, it doesn’t go off and
actually I’ve found it to get a bit stronger as time goes on
so you don’t need as long after its been used a few times.
The anodes corrode over time as part of the process so they
will need replacing every now and again, but I’ve had my
original 4” piece for ages so they last for a good while.
Conclusion
I hope this explains the technique well enough for some of you to try it. It’s all very amateur of course and I
only plate one part at a time but the results are really very good and professional looking provided you prep
well. Once you’ve made up the solution it is surprising how quickly you can plate a batch of parts for any
projects you have.
It really is that simple and is such an effective way to smarten up and protect those fiddly little parts on karts.
To sign off here’s a KP master cylinder and brake calliper rebuilt using the above technique to plate the small
metal bits……..much better than rusty old parts I’m sure you’ll agree, I wish I’d taken some ‘before’ pictures
as these components were very rusty!
KP calliper lever arm after nickel
plating.
KP master cylinder rebuilt with nickel plated
components
KP calliper rebuilt with ni

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StefanN

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Re: Home nickel plating
« Reply #1 on: 26 February 2021, 07:41:55 am »
I’ve tried a little nickel plating and the results have been pretty reasonable.   As he says, surface prep and cleanliness  make all the difference.   I’ve only done small bits so far.   Will try to find some photos.

The surface finish of the base steel determines the plating finish.   So if you want a polished finish, start with polished steel.

Looking forward to seeing how you get on Rhys.

« Last Edit: 26 February 2021, 07:49:40 am by StefanN »

StefanN

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