Nickel Plating FAQ's
Q… What is Nickel Electroplating?
A... Nickel Plating has been successfully carried out since the 1800’s to provide a protective coat of nickel to cover and protect various metals. Besides providing protection to the metal surface it is also attractive in appearance and can be buffed to a high lustre. In a lot of cases, it has taken the place of chrome as it is user-friendly and chemical mixes can be employed that do not require the addition of cyanide. Nickel provides excellent corrosion protection to the plated surface especially if it is polished occasionally with metal polish. Jane Kits Nickel electroplating will produce an extremely desirable bright lustrous nickel plating finish, straight out of the plating bath.
Q… What is the difference between Nickel and Zinc Electroplating?
A... Nickel is a strong, lustrous silver metal, which creates a desirable barrier layer type of coating. It protects steel by enveloping it and keeping the environment away. However, Nickel is not sacrificial to steel; in fact, the opposite is the case. So, if there is any breach in the plating, from damage, there will be accelerated corrosion at the breach as the nickel plating forces the steel to corrode in order to protect it. Just like a painted finish on motor vehicles, ss long as the nickel coating coverage remains intact, the protection of the parent metal will remain indefinitely.
Zinc, on the other hand, is a sacrificial type of white silver plating and does its job not just by coating the steel but by corroding in lieu of the steel corroding. That makes zinc plating ideal for many applications because it cathodically protects the steel even if the coating is scratched, just as a zinc anode can galvanically protect the steel hull of a ship. However, zinc has no acid resistance at all and little alkali resistance. To assist in combating this, applying a coat of chromate over the zinc can prolong its life significantly.
Q… Is it true that Nickel Electroplating is better done over the top of a Copper plated surface?
A... Any form of electroplated finish is only as good as the surface it is plating onto. If the surface is chemically cleaned but has imperfections in the surface of the steel (i.e. scratches, pit marks ect), the Nickel coating will still apply to the bare steel and look bright and desirable, however, all of the imperfections will still be present. If this is not concerning for you then there is no need to apply a copper coating. However, if you do want the surface to be improved, electroplating Copper onto the surface will enable you to repair and improve the metal surface prior to applying the Nickel. Copper plating under Nickel is definitely not compulsory, but if you do choose to add this step into the plating process it will definitely improve the overall finish of the Nickel. Jane Kits package together DUAL and TRIPLE Plating Kits, that combine more than one type of plating option together in a bundled Kit. Check them out by clicking on the links above.
Q… What is Nickel brightener (NIMAC)?
A... The Nickel brightener is known as Nimac. Jane Kits Nickel brightener is a unique blend of carriers, buffers and brighteners, specifically designed for Jane Kits Nickel electroplating chemical mixes. It is mixed to our Nickel chemical during initial makeup and then added periodically when required. The Nimac brightener depletes after you have done a day or two of plating.
Q… Can I use the Nimac (nickel brightener) for a different version of Nickel plating chemical, one I either made up myself or purchased from another supplier?
A... Generally, no. The Jane Kits Nimac, nickel brightener is a unique blend of carriers, buffers and brighteners, specifically designed for Jane Kits Nickel electroplating chemical mixes. It is designed to work with our nickel electrolyte and therefore is unlikely to be an accurate addition for other random nickel mixes.
Q… Why do I need the nickel anodes?
A... The type of nickel anode required is critical to the type of nickel chemical used. The nickel anodes used in the Jane Kits nickel bath are known as nickel R rounds. These rounds are pellets of first-grade nickel supplied to be located inside a nickel anode basket, which is positioned inside the nickel bath. The nickel anode basket mesh is in the shape of a V and the nickel anodes are positioned along the inside of the V. Generally, 5 individual Nickel anodes are placed evenly along each anode basket. Minute ions of the nickel are removed from the anodes (R rounds) hanging in the bath and transferred to the plating work (cathodes) during the nickel plating process.
Q… Can I do barrel plating, rather than rack plating?
A... Jane Kits plating setups are all designed around the rack plating method. This is where you have bars or racks located on top of the plating chemical (electrolyte). Generally, 3 bars are located which are used for hanging the anodes and your plating work. These bars are in turn connected to the relative positive or negative power delivery. Barrel plating is where a larger stainless steel (or similar) barrel (think washing machine) is connected to the relative power and your parts are tumbled around inside the barrel. Whilst barrel plating is still common in the commercial plating world, it is not designed for smaller plating setups. Most commercial barrel plating machinery is designed for a bath setup for several hundreds of litres.
Q… Do I need to purchase the power supply, or can I just use the one I already have at home?
A... The power delivery is extremely important when it comes to Electroplating. The type of power supply, the amount of current required and the way in which you control and deliver the power to the plating bath are all critical to ensuring quality results. Understanding power (i.e. Volts, Ampere, Watts etc) can be very confusing. To simplify it, for the purpose of understanding what is important when electroplating, what we need to control and adjust is ampere (commonly referred to as Amps or Current). The actual number of amps required during electroplating is relative to the surface area of the object or objects in the plating bath. Therefore, you need to be able to visually see the number of amps dialled up (LED readout on the power supply) and also be able to adjust the amps to suit the relative surface area. Some power supplies available are either pre-set on a certain output for amps (these are useless for electroplating) or are only Volt adjustable (problematic for electroplating). The power supplies we include in our Plating Kits are quality Dual controllable and digital LED readout units, perfect for electroplating. If you don’t think you have the correct power unit, purchase the one included in our Kits to ensure you have the correct tools.
Q…Why should I purchase a complete Nickel Plating Kit and not just the items I think I need?
A…The reason we create complete plating kits is to ensure you have the correct products to get first-class results. Many customers, in an attempt to save some money, have decided to replace some of our generic Kit contents. They all experience issues. For example; even our copper wire is a special order non-shielded copper wire. Any reclaimed copper wire you source will have a clear shielding attached to it and this will render it useless when attempting electroplating. Our Kits are fantastic value, don’t be a scrooge, purchase a complete Kit and ensure you have all the correct products.
Q…Is Nickel Electroplating too difficult, should I just take it to a plating shop?
A…No, all of our procedures are simplified. Anyone with little to no knowledge can use our products and carry out our procedures successfully. Our Nickel Electroplating Kits include a comprehensive Plating Manual, that will explain, in layman’s terms, all you need to know how to do the procedure. The key to success is to ensure you have your items prepared properly and to follow the directions in our Plating Manual. If you do this, you will get as good and in most cases better results than you would from a professional plating shop.
Q…What size Nickel Electroplating Kit should I purchase?
A…To answer this question, you will need to work a little in reverse…. i.e. establish what the biggest sized object you wish to plate is and that will determine how large the bath size / Kit you will require. For example, if you are restoring a bike and you wish to plate all of the nuts, bolts and smaller brackets etc, then you would most likely get away with a 10 litre Kit size.
If you also want to plate, say an axle, you would most likely need to step up to a 20 litre Kit size.
Q…How many items will I be able to plate out of a Nickel Electroplating kit?
A…The simple answer to this question is “A lot”. All of our Plating Kits and treatment procedures will enable you to coat numerous items. The actual amount of surface area that you will be able to cover out of one of a Nickel Kit is almost impossible to predict. There are numerous variables at play when carrying out the procedure that will influence this. These include; bath temperature, plating efficiency, current density, shape of the object, bath layout, bath movement etc. Although the most influence is the length of time something is actually plated for. Whereas, every minute an item is left in the plating bath, the more will plate onto it.
Even with these variations at play, the amount of actual coating you will achieve out of any of our Nickel Kits is exceptional.
Q…Do you use the Nickel Kit once and then have to throw it away?
A…No. All of our Plating Kits and treatment procedures are used more than once. In fact, some Kits may last for years. The amount of time the plating chemical will last is relative. The more plating you do, the quicker you will deplete the actual metal chemical component. To ensure longevity, after you finish plating for the day, store your plating chemical in an airtight container and then set it up again when you wish to continue. This could be the next day or in some cases, the next year.
Q…Can I purchase consumables for my Nickel Electroplating kit?
A…Yes. Everything that is included in any of our plating kits can be purchased individually throughout our web site, usually in multiple sizes. Although, if you purchase a complete plating kit, you will need to have plated a large number of items before you will require any consumables. The initial kit contents are very generous and will allow you to plate a lot of items before requiring any more investment.
Q…If I purchase a smaller Nickel Kit, say 10 litre size, can I add to this and make it a larger size down the track?
A…Yes. As long as you have not contaminated the original 10 litre Nickel chemical mix, you can purchase more Nickel plating chemicals and add it to the original mix to create a larger bath size. Be mindful, as your bath size increases so does the requirement of more anodes. So, if you add more chemical to your original Nickel Kit, you will also have to source the correct number of additional Nickel anodes and baskets to ensure you have the balance of anode to chemical ratio.
Q…I have a larger item I wish to plate, how do work out how big the plating bath should be?
A…You will need to purchase a plating bath that is a suitable size to be able to successfully plate the item. If you end up sourcing a bath that will accommodate the item in question that you wish to plate, then you will need to work out how many litres it will require to be the right depth etc to enable you to successfully plate it. Remember, if your bath is overcrowded or the item is too big for the bath, your results will be terrible.
Q…What sort of material should the plating container be?
A…Most of the plating and or treatments can be done in a plastic container. Electroplating is best done in a rectangular-shaped container. Most decent quality PVC, polyethene or polypropylene plastic containers will be suitable. The Nickel Plating electrolyte or chemicals ideal temperature is 50 to 60 degrees Celsius, however, successful plating can be achieved as low as 40 degrees Celsius. This means you will need to heat your Nickel Plating chemical. Whilst you can externally heat up your chemical in a stainless container to nickel plate, it is always advised to avoid using metal containers if possible. Plating in plastic containers ensures you will avoid reactions with the chemicals and the metal which will often contaminate your mix. If you have a smaller Kit, you could use a crockpot or most popular method is a plastic plating container standing in hot water (bain-marie). If using stainless steel, ensure the grade of stainless is type 316 and has a thickened base.
Q…What temperature does the Nickel plating chemical need to be at and how do I heat the chemicals?
A… Nickel Plating chemical, can be successfully plated at a temperature as low as 40 degrees C. However, some of the crystals that you will receive in the chemical mix will not dissolve at this low temperature. To achieve this is it advised to heat and dissolve all of your Nickel chemicals initially in a container that is able to be heated to above 50 degrees C initially. Once all of the chemical crystals are dissolved, you can transfer your mix into the desired set up and attempt to plate at the lower 40 degrees C temperature. Maintaining your chemical at a temperature range that does not drop below 40 degrees C is essential. You will need to monitor this periodically during the plating procedure.
If you choose to carry out your plating inside a suitable stainless steel container, then heating this type of material is easily achieved on any type of heat source. However, do not store any chemicals inside metal containers. If you plate inside a metal container, as soon as the solution is cooled down, pour it into an airtight plastic container for storage.
We recommend plating or treating in suitable plastic containers where possible. To heat a plastic container there are two methods;
- Heating the plating solution inside the plastic container by standing the plating container inside another container (referred to as Bain-Marie) that is either;
a. Made from plastic and filled with hot water, (periodically maintaining the temperature of the water would be necessary)
b. Made out of metal, filled with water and is on a heat source.
- Installing a suitable submersible heater. Most ceramic submersible heaters can be installed inside the plating bath to assist with reaching the desired temperature. However, generally the maximum temperature these types of heaters are able to achieve is 40 degrees C.
Remember, if you choose to attempt to plate in a plastic container with a submersible heater at a temperature of around 40 degrees C, first you will need to ensure all of the chemicals dissolve and this will only take place at temperatures above 50 degrees C
Q…Are the Nickel plating chemicals harmful?
A…The Nickel Electroplating chemicals are only mildly acidic and are generally less hazardous than most household cleaning agents that most people would find stored in their kitchen or bathroom cupboards. A commonsense approach is recommended when using, storing and disposing of any chemicals. Label the plating electrolytes and put them out of the way of children. Store them in suitable plastic containers. Dispose of the chemicals in reference to local council regulations. Most councils will provide hazardous goods collection depot for fuels, oils, paints etc.
Note; Care should be taken by the bath operator no matter what type of bath is being used. Avoid allowing chemicals to remain on your skin for long periods. Safety glasses and clothing that covers arms and legs should also be worn. A well-ventilated room is necessary and avoid inhaling fumes that are present during the plating or mixing processes. A suitable respirator and chemical resistant gloves are recommended. Wear gloves made from rubber, neoprene, nitrile, polyethylene to prevent skin contact.
Q…Can I Nickel electroplate alloys?
A…Yes and No. You can plate most metal surfaces; however, some alloys will not electroplate until they have had a strike plate applied initially. Jane Kits provide a product called ‘ULTRA STRIKE’ which is used to create a layer of copper metal plate onto what was originally a non-palatable surface. However, plating alloys is rather problematic, and some will always be difficult, at times impossible to plate. More information regarding this can be found in the Electroplating Kits category, click on Ultra Strike link above.
Q…Can one Nickel plate plastics or organic objects?
A…Yes, however first you will need to electroform a layer of copper onto the non-metallic object. Jane Kits have an Electroforming Copper Kit that will enable you to plate almost anything you desire. Electroforming opens a world of plating opportunities. With the correct preparation, almost anything can be Electroformed. Organic items such as leaves, cones, nuts, pods etc. can be transformed into decretive items for jewellery or trinkets. The list is endless; shells, rocks, gems, wax, plastic, rubber, fabric etc. etc. etc. can be transformed into a metal surface. More information regarding this can be found in the Electroplating Kits category, click on Electroforming Copper Kit link above.
Q...Are additional supplies of the Nickel kit contents available when required?
A...Yes…The only top-ups that you will ever need are a new electrolyte, new anodes and or more brightener, but not for a long time unless you do an exceptional amount of plating. Anything you received in the Nickel plating kit can be purchased individually (in many cases in multiple sizes) at any time. All of our products are listed on our website.
Q.…How long does it take to Nickel plate the items?
A…Nickel Electroplating will essentially apply more coating of the nickel-metal the more time it is in the bath. As a general rule, you are best to leave the items in for a minimum of 40 mins to a maximum of 60 mins. This time frame will apply a good amount of metal coverage. The amount of time is up to yourself, however, generally you need to ensure you don’t apply too thick a coating as it may affect the pitch on threads etc. Anything up to an hour should not cause issues with thread pitch etc.
Q.…Do I have to remove the original coating?
A… Yes. Any original coating, treatment or plate will need to be removed prior to re-plating in Nickel. Therefore, every item must be taken back to bare metal and be chemically cleaned prior to applying a new coating.
Q.…How do I remove the original coating?
A… Removing the original coating will depend on what sort of coating is currently present. To do this, will require you to become aware of what is on your parts. Unfortunately, we are not aware of what was plated or applied to every nut, bolt, bracket etc on every car and bike ever produced. Generally, if it is a silver-like appearance it will most likely be one of 3 options;
There is no one solution or procedure that fits all. Removing some surfaces is difficult with chemicals. To remove Nickel and Chrome it is best to not attempt these using chemicals. The easiest and safest way is to media blast it off using a suitable material, ensuring you don’t damage the parent metal. Some coats are easier to remove than others. For example, Zinc, Cad, Passivated Zinc Galvanising coatings can be removed easily with one of our preparation solutions called Jane Clean. More information can be discovered in the FAQ Cleaners and FAQ Preparation.
Q.…Will re-plating an object adversely affect the pitch on threads?
A…No, if an item you wish to re-plate has original plating still applied. Firstly, you will need to remove it. Therefore, re-plating an object is only putting a coating back on it that it originally had. A rough guide is that most electroplating procedures will plate a thou an hour (1 thousandth 0.001 of an inch an hour). Note; 0.001 inch = 0.00254 cms
Q…Can you plate Nickel directly onto bare metals?
A…Yes nickel is designed to plate directly to steel, brass, lead or copper.
Q…What type of metals or surfaces won’t accept Nickel plating?
A…Nickle will not plate directly onto stainless steel, zincated aluminium or die-cast zinc surfaces without a separate strike. Jane Kits provide a product called ‘ULTRA STRIKE’ which is used to create a layer of copper metal plate onto what was originally a non-palatable surface.
If you purchase a complete Nickel Electroplating Kit you will receive a comprehensive Plating Manual. This will provide detailed information regarding all of our products and explains the best method to use for benchtop plating and advice on how to avoid the pitfalls. These comprehensive instruction books can also be purchased separately on our web site.
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The Jane Kits story began when John, a vintage motorbike restorer realised that it would be much more convenient and economical if he was able to plate his own parts in the home workshop. So John decided to source and create his own plating kit and hence Jane Kits was born. John went on to receive numerous awards for his meticulously restored bikes with parts plated using his ingenious new kit.