Nickel Plating

Many thanks to Darrell Clarke & Ron Schmuck for these articles

Do it yourself plating:

G'day all, I am a restorer of tube radios and early technology, as well as Mechanical Musical Instruments, and the need to deal with old nickel plating often arises.

For very small jobs (screws etc.) or anything that cannot be dismantled and immersed in a plating bath, there is a handy kit available in the U.S. for brush plating, using a metal paste. This is true electroplating and can be powered from dry cells or a small DC power pack (3-8v at about 1 amp).

It is also available for copper, brass, gold and silver plating, but the paste jars are only 2 ounce, so it is not economical for bigger jobs. I have also used it successfully for replating old bath fittings in situ.

The nickel kit costs about USD 10.00 from Antique Electronic Supply, 6221 South Maple Avenue, Tempe, AZ 85283. The maker is Texas Platers Supply Co., 2453 W. Five-Mile Pkwy., Dallas, Texas 75233, but I don't know if they deal with the general public.

Darrell Clarke from Australia

Electroless Nickel Plating:

Hello Everyone, Here is a way we have used for years to nickel plate parts that will not be subject to hard use.

1. In plating everything must be absolutely clean, so a good bath in a solution of hot washing soda is done first. If the part is really dirty we first clean the parts by annealing, which is to heat the part over a Bunsen burner until it turns dull red, then slide it quickly into a pickling solution (avoiding splashing). The pickling solution will anneal (by quickly cooling it) and clean the metal at the same time.

For the pickling solution for copper and alloys mix 1 part of concentrated sulfuric acid with 9 parts water. Caution: always pour the acid into the water, and remember it's very caustic, so use extreme care with skin, eyes, lungs, clothing, etc.

2. The part may only require pickling to clean, which simply means to put the part into the pickling solution for 5 to 10 minutes.

3. For iron and other base metals make your pickling solution .5 part acid to 9.5 parts water.

"Plating without electric current"

Thin films of nickel or silver can readily be plated on copper, brass, etc., simply by local chemical action. These films are not as durable as those made by regular electro-plating, but they may serve well on objects that will not be subjected to hard use, which is just about everything except the piano pedals.

Nickel ammonium sulfate 60 parts powdered chalk 35 parts powdered magnesium metal 4 parts. Note; Zinc dust may be substituted for the magnesium powder if a little tartaric acid is added to the mixture. Silver plating without electricity; silver nitrate 1 part, salt (not iodized) 1 part, potassium bitartrate (cream of tartar) 14 parts. mix these ingredients thoroughly in a glass or ceramic vessel. Apply to the cleaned metal with a damp cloth pad. Keep the powder dry until immediately before use, as moisture causes it to decompose in the presence of light, (Caution silver nitrate is poisonous and corrosive and produces an indelible stain on the skin. Always wear rubber gloves. Here is another for silver Salt (not iodized) 12 parts, potassium bitartrate (cream of tartar) 7 parts, Powdered chalk 10 parts, silver nitrate 4 parts. same instructions as formula 1 silver, store the mixture in well stoppered bottles. formula 3 silver (my favorite) silver nitrate 15 parts, potassium hydroxide 15 parts, water 50 parts. Dissolve the silver nitrate in half the water and the potassium hydroxide in the other half. Use glass vessels for mixing and do not spatter either solution on yourself or your surroundings, as both are poisonous and caustic, Until ready to use, keep both solutions in opaque glass or plastic bottles with corrosion resistant stoppers. (do not use rubber stopper on the silver nitrate bottle) when ready to use, mix the solutions in equal quantity in a glass or plastic container and immerse the well cleaned object to be plated in the mixture for several minutes. Then remove, wash, dry and buff lightly. You can repeat the process to build up plating but a little trial and error can be expected.

4. Plating with Nickel

When moistened with water, the following mixture will cause a plating of nickel to be formed on copper or brass;

Nickel ammonium sulfate 60 parts Powdered chalk 35 parts Powdered magnesium metal 4 parts

Mix the powders thoroughly, and apply to the previously cleaned metal with a cloth pad kept wet with water. I also have a few mixtures for silver plating; if anyone wants them let me know.

Ron Schmuck from Canada

Below I have included some images of some nickle plating I have had done proffesionally only recently. I'm not sure how this compares with the processes Darrell and Ron speak of, but I sure would be interested in seeing the difference. Would like to know how much it costs to do your own in comparison.

It cost me $60 to have this lot done at the local electroplaters

All have to do now is get around to putting it all together.

This came up real nice as it is made of brass, it's the feed tube for the wind motor in the 88 note pushup I am currently re-building, it's shown also in the first image.

By the way these images have been taken on a Casio Digital Camera. (not bad huh!)

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