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 Electro-less Nickel Plating

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pete s
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PostSubject: Electro-less Nickel Plating   Fri 24 Oct 2014, 6:30 am

Now that the computer is back and running, it is time to put out my Electro-less Cobalt Nickel Plating tutorial.

I have used this kit several times now, and have found the results to be stunning, and about as close to chrome plating as you can get, and in my humble opinion, more realistic looking. The kit can plate metals such as steel and brass, but can only do aluminum with a special coating applied beforehand. I have not done aluminum, but have brass.

The kit came from Caswell Plating (www.caswellplating.com). They make many different types of plating kits, but this one is the electro-less cobalt nickel kit. It does not need electricity for the plating process, which simplifies things greatly.

Here is what you get in the complete kit (not shown is the extensive plating instruction book):



The basic process is to mix a set of chemicals together, heat them to 195 degrees F (just below boil), and then immerse the items to be plated for a time dependent on the coating thickness you desire. 15 minutes of plating time gets a coating of 0.00025 inches, which is what I used, and looks great. The surface of the item to be plated must be clean and polished brightly, the better the polishing, the smoother and shinier the plated part is. Brass items must be in touch with steel to get the process started, and when working properly, the parts give off bubbles in the solution, making it easy to see that it is working.

The bath consists of certain ratios of several chemicals supplied, mixed with distilled water. The whole process is based upon an item called "credits". The initial bath you mix up has a certain amount of credits. You cannot get the bath below about 80% of this credit limit, or it crashes, and is no good. You need to determine the credits you will use up by determining the surface area to be plated (in square inches), and multiply this by the time (minutes) you plan to use. This determines the "credits" you will use. The bath is replenished after the plating is done. All of this is explained clearly in the instruction book, and they also include charts for you to track your bath, as it is re-usable. I just keep it in the pot, and cover it with plastic wrap after it cools.

So what I do with the brass parts, is to hang them from steel wire. Here is the hanging fixture I made for the race truck exhaust pipe:



Here is a picture of them hanging in the pot. Note that I bent the steel wire so that the part does not touch the bottom, but is just above it:



And here it is on the stove (do this while your better half is away). Some people buy an inexpensive hot plate for this. The plastic balls in the solution are to help keep heat in and prevent evaporation.



So you heat it up to a stable 195 degrees, put your parts in, and set the timer for 15 minutes. To stop the process, all you do is take it out and rinse the part off. Here is what you get:



When cooled, it can be polished with a cloth to a nice shine. Here is the final photo of the painted part (top) and the plated part (bottom). You can see a much nicer and brighter finish. And it looks very realistic!!



So there you have it. There are the usual cautions with the chemicals involved, but the process is easy, and the results fantastic. Here is another reason to work in metal!! I find myself looking for ways to make parts out of brass, so they can be plated. Let me know if you have any questions.
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wisdonm
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PostSubject: Re: Electro-less Nickel Plating   Fri 24 Oct 2014, 1:41 pm

Thanks for sharing and the fine pixs. I have know about this process for years, but never knew anyone that had tried it.
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Skid
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PostSubject: Re: Electro-less Nickel Plating   Fri 24 Oct 2014, 2:54 pm

I too have known about the Caswell systems for a number of years.

Pete, you only make ref. to coating metal. Will it also coat styrene/resin or does one need a different system for that.

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pete s
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PostSubject: Re: Electro-less Nickel Plating   Fri 24 Oct 2014, 4:43 pm

Al, this system only works on metals, and then only on some metals directly. Aluminum must be treated with a zincate bath first. It goes on directly to steel, copper or brass (copper based alloy).

Not sure about a kit for plastic or resin. I know I would like to have a kit this easy to use for those two materials also!!
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Zbuckster
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PostSubject: Re: Electro-less Nickel Plating   Fri 24 Oct 2014, 5:59 pm

Great Tutorial, very informative. Thanks Pete.
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Skid
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PostSubject: Re: Electro-less Nickel Plating   Fri 24 Oct 2014, 6:35 pm

Thanks for that Pete.

I know they do plating kits for styrene but I liked the idea of being electro-less.

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itsonlyakit
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PostSubject: Re: Electro-less Nickel Plating   Sat 25 Oct 2014, 9:41 am

I think styrene plastic would not survive 195 degrees F. heat. I have a dehydrator for drying painted models and 110 degrees F. has warped WW1 Airfix bus railings (but that's Airfix LOL) everything else has come out OK.
Cheers Eh!
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Dave from Pleasanton
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PostSubject: Re: Electro-less Nickel Plating   Sat 25 Oct 2014, 11:12 pm

Thanks for the info Pete. I have so many unfinished efforts that I need to complete I figure I better not add this to my list.
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