Author Topic: Electroless Nickel Plating  (Read 10698 times)

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Offline alwyn

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Electroless Nickel Plating
« on: 06 Apr 2008 at 14:29 »
David Hall has sent in this account of his experience of electroless plating...

ELECTROLESS NICKEL PLATING, Chemistry or Alchemy?

After picking up the Mk1 from the vintage swap shop in Wangaratta and looking at the collection of rusted and corroded small parts that once had chrome or nickel plate and were now not much more that scrap, I had a dilemma; I could replace them with NOS or reproduction parts, the easy way out. But it goes against the grain to me as when I restore something I like to use as much of the original as possible, even if the parts are not the original for that machine. Itís about the history and story of the piece; in some small way this old bike is a part of Australian history. I like to keep that if I can. I could take these parts to professional plating shop. I tried a couple, the answers arenít repeatable here, save to say they did not want the work. Finally I decided to have a go myself which is what I have done.

I spent a evening on the web looking for a chrome plate kit - no luck there - came across several electroplate kits and then this magic system, electroless nickel, just clean polish and heat?  So I parted with some money for a Jane Plating electroless kit. (Jane Plating kits are in Highfields NSW. John the owner is very helpful you can phone or email for advice. His web page if full of information and worth a look, www.janekits.com.au.

This is what arrived a few days later. A bag of green stuff that had to be mixed with distilled water, a bottle of clear liquid called Jane clean and a bottle of blue liquid a very strong detergent.



There was also an instruction book that is easy to read and quite helpful; the two big issues are that the parts not only have to be polished to a shiny or rubbed/blasted matt finish but have also to be chemically clean. Thatís were the Jane clean comes into the system.



After rubbing all the old plating and rust off of the items with emery cloth and scotch bright pads, I would buff them on this evil device to a nice shiny finish. Full body armour is probably the safest thing to wear, or at least a full face shield. The thing has a bad habit of grabbing whatever is being polished and launching it at high speed back toward you as I found out to my cost. I was buffing the headlight bezel. It grabbed it and through it back in my face, blooding my nose and knocking both lenses out of my safety glasses. The bezel, not being happy with just knocking me for six, then flew out the shed hitting Nette on the b---side - Nette thinking I was throwing things at her stormed into the shed ready to kill me or at least divorce me. Luckily, seeing me wearing empty spectacle frames and nursing my nose turned her anger to laughter. We both had a laugh later but it could have been very serious. I have seen buffs like this at most plating and sheet metal shops and I donít think there is any practical way of guarding them but I am open to suggestions.





At the end of the buffing process the parts look something like this, now they need to be washed in the Jane clean and Parts wash to remove all traces of wax, Oil and other surface contaminants. to quote from the instructions when the rinse water (must be distilled or rain) forms a thin surface film with out beading or running off in rivulets they are chemically clean and ready for the hot chemical bath.



Washing the parts in Jane clean. I have know idea what is in the solution however it does turn the metal a dull colour, which doesnít seem to effect the end result  from this point donít touch the parts or you will leave finger prints in the nickel. I use the same solution to clean brass parts and it will leave a nice dull red layer in the brass ready from the plating process. Some brass will not plate using this process. Anything with a lead content will not work; you can pick it because the Jane clean will not clean it to that nice red colour. The Amal advance leaver pictured earlier will not plate no matter how long it is in the bath.



I use an old slow cooker as a hot bath it works OK but as the name implies it takes a long time to get up to temperature. The green stuff needs to be at least 80c to plate. I donít put the parts in until my bath is about 90c. The Process takes about 45 mins to plate and if you leave it longer the thicker the plating will be.

Here are some parts cooking away in the green solution suspended by copper wire. The chemical are not hazardous according to the supplier but I still like plenty of ventilation.



The finished product.



These didnít need it but sometimes when there has been rust marks the nickel forms gray and rough. A quick rub with metal polish (auto sol) will shine up the area.

The brass / bronze advance leaver top cooked for over 45mins and never even changed colour. So I guess my advance leaver will be polished brass not nickel. I think that if I set up an electric bath that it would probably plate OK, after all it was nickel plated before I buffed it all off.




If you like tinkering then I reckon you should have a go at plating, the results can be very pleasing and a bit of fun.

Cheers
David H
« Last Edit: 14 Apr 2008 at 23:50 by Dave »
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Offline davebarkshire

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Re: Electroless Nickel Plating
« Reply #1 on: 06 Apr 2008 at 18:10 »
Thanks David. I've been wondering about trying some plating but have always expected the results to be a disaster. My main goal would be to be able to make really nice looking petrol and oil pipes with a silk nickel finish.

I was thinking about the parts that wouldn't plate... a few years ago I wanted to copper plate something so just as a schoolboy experiment mixed up some copper sulphate and used copper pipe as the electrode and a battery charger to shift the electrons. It did work but there was far too much power coming from the charger but maybe a resistor (or a light bulb even) would have dampened this down. Anyway, I was wondering if you could plate your lever with the thinnest layer of copper and then nickel plate that?

Offline David H

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Re: Electroless Nickel Plating
« Reply #2 on: 07 Apr 2008 at 10:05 »
Hi
I think that a flash coat of copper would work but by the time I set up a copper bath I might as well set up a Nickel bath. I asked John from Jane Kits he seemed to think the only answer was to electroplate the brass with a Nickel kit. If funds are good at the end of th month I will get an electro kit and give it a go.

Cheers
David H

Offline Boxer

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Re: Electroless Nickel Plating
« Reply #3 on: 24 Apr 2008 at 22:30 »
Hi,
here in Europe you can get a similar kit called Nibor (http://www.nibor.ath.cx/index.html). You can easily oder this from switzerland via mail.

I used it several time and had always a perfect nickelplating of my parts :lol:. For plating copper and brass parts there is a little trick :idea: described in the Nibor handbook: you had start the plating by applaying DC current (3v by battery, - your part, + a nickel or iron spender) for a short moment. Then you have a basic nickel plating,  :arrow: the rest is as usual only by the tempered bathing (only 60 C for Nibor)for about 1h.
Regards Rudolf 

Offline David H

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Re: Electroless Nickel Plating
« Reply #4 on: 29 Apr 2008 at 09:39 »
Hi,
here in Europe you can get a similar kit called Nibor (http://www.nibor.ath.cx/index.html). You can easily oder this from switzerland via mail. Regards Rudolf 

Hi Rudolf
Thanks for the tip I will give it a go on the week end hope, it works. Went to the NIBOR website, But unfortunately my German is not good enough to make much out of it. Will post the results after the week end

Cheers

David H

Edit 29/04/2008: Quote tags adjusted.
« Last Edit: 29 Apr 2008 at 10:47 by alwyn »

 

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