Q… How important is preparation?
A... Speak to an expert in the plating, painting and coating industries and the common key mantra is, it is all about the preparation. Success and consistency when it comes to plating are all about ensuring you do each process accurately. Preparation is essentially the first step and if you decide to cut corners here, you are essentially wasting your time. Without a doubt, this is the most important stage when it comes to electroplating or surface treatment.
Q… What do I need to do ensure my parts are ready to plate?
A... With all Jane Kits products, the key to successful plating is in the preparation of the items to be plated. Parts must be in a chemically clean state prior to attempting any type of plating or treatment procedure. The actual process required to get your items in a chemically cleaned state may vary based on what it is you start with. Fundamentally, ground zero for any item is to have it back to bare metal, prior to running through other steps including chemically cleaning, surface preparation, final cleaning and or activation. Therefore, if you wish to plate or treat any item, first you must remove any and all traces of previous plate or coatings.
Q… How do I remove the existing plating or coatings?
A... To work out this answer you need to find out two things.
- What sort of parent metal do I have?
- What sort of plating or coating do I need to remove from this parent metal?
The reason we need to answer these two questions is because the procedures required to remove certain coatings will vary. Some coatings will remove easier than others. Other factors include the consideration of the parent metal and whether the desired removal options will be too aggressive for the type of parent metal. Generally, there are three common ways to remove coatings
- Chemical removed (acid pickling etc).
- Abrasive media blasting (sand, garnet, soda etc blasting).
- Reverse plating.
Q… What options do I have when removing coatings?
A... Some coatings will remove easier than others. Most of the common coatings will include zinc, passivated zinc, cadmium, zinc galvanised, chrome, nickel, electroless nickel, copper, blackening etc. Some of these common coatings can be successfully removed by;
- Chemical removal; zinc, passivated zinc, cadmium and zinc galvanising can be successfully removed from steel items by using an acid pickle. Jane Plating Kits sell Jane Clean which is labelled a Rust & Scale Remover. It is a blend of acid-based solutions Jane Plating Kits have created to assist with aggressive stages of cleaning and preparation. It is excellent at removing rust and scale deposits. It will also successfully remove zinc, passivated zinc, cadmium and galvanizing coatings. Jane Clean is almost your best friend when it comes to preparation and plating. Blackened steel will require a different type of acid pickle. Jane Plating Kits sell a product called JPK Acid Strip. This is an acid salt blend that is mixed with water to create an acid pickle used to remove certain coatings, including blackened steel coatings.
Like any acid pickling, monitoring and limiting the exposure is essential in assuring you do not damage the parent metal by etching the surface and more importantly, ensuring you do not cause embrittlement. Hydrogen embrittlement is the effect of hydrogen absorption on some metals and alloys, which can be caused by exposure to aggressive acid pickles.
- Abrasive media blasting; chrome, nickel, electroless nickel and copper are problematic when trying to remove with chemicals. The main issue is, these types of surface coatings require very harsh, aggressive acid pickle baths that will essentially damage the parent metal during the stripping process. Therefore, the safest and more effective method is to remove these coatings with an abrasive process referred to as abrasive blasting. The actual type of media (a material used under the high-pressure force) used is determined by the type of coating to be removed and the type of parent metal.
- Reverse Plating; this method is not as common as the two previous methods and although it can be successful, it is also problematic. To remove coatings with this method requires a power supply and an acid pickle solution. You basically reverse the order of general electrolysis and make the item with the coating wishing to be removed the Anode and plate the coating off it to a scrap piece of metal. General damage to parent metal by extended exposure issues to aggressive acid pickles arise.
Q… Can exposing my metal parts to harsh chemicals cause issues?
A... Absolutely. Pickling offers an effective method for removal of certain coatings, an oxide layer or scale from a metal surface but as mentioned above, the effects of aggressive acid cleaning methods such as pickling must be used with extreme caution due to the corrosive nature of the acid. In certain types of metals and high-carbon steels, the hydrogen from the acid can react with the metal surface, resulting in hydrogen embrittlement.
Q… What is hydrogen embrittlement?
A... Hydrogen embrittlement is something we have been asked about for years. Jane Kits is aware of this phenomenon but has never been exposed to it during our own in-house plating or been made aware of this happening to any of our customers. Although this is something we have yet experienced, the very possibility of this happening could be very serious, especially if a major component on a vehicle failed. As far as we know:
Hydrogen embrittlement is the process by which various metals, most importantly high-strength steel, become brittle and fracture following exposure to hydrogen. It is often the result of unintentional introduction of hydrogen into susceptible metals during forming or finishing operations and increases cracking in the material. Despite a large number of efforts done to eliminate the damage caused by hydrogen embrittlement, the complete solution remains unknown. After extensive examination of how hydrogen is generated during zinc plating stage, it is found that most hydrogen are produced in the process of acid pickling. Acid pickling is used to chemically clean the surface of steel before electroplating. In order to reduce the amount of hydrogen, the time of acid pickling should be kept to the minimum.
Q… Is there a process to diminish the effects of hydrogen embrittlement?
A... Steps that can be taken to avoid hydrogen embrittlement include reducing hydrogen exposure and baking after electroplating or other processes that lead to hydrogen absorption. Hydrogen embrittlement of electroplated components can be prevented by baking them at 190 to 220°C for 2 hours within 2 hours after the electroplating process. During baking, the hydrogen diffuses out of the metal. Heating relieves the stress in the metal caused by the invaded hydrogen. It is the stress which can cause fracture of the metal.
As hydrogen embrittlement is virtually impossible to detect Jane Kits accepts no responsibility if hydrogen embrittlement occurs whilst using any of our products including but limited to our plating and preparing products. If you think the possibility of hydrogen embrittlement may occur on a part or parts you wish to treat or plate, Jane Kits advises the part to be heat treated using the method above.
Steps that can be taken to avoid hydrogen embrittlement include reducing hydrogen exposure and baking after electroplating or other processes that lead to hydrogen absorption. Hydrogen embrittlement of electroplated components can be prevented by baking them at 375 to 430 °F (190 to 220°C) within a few hours after the electroplating process. During baking, the hydrogen diffuses out of the metal.
Q… What do I do after my part is back to bare metal?
A... The next step is surface preparation. This generally includes exposing the surface of the item to abrasive implements. These may include, scotchbrite wheels, wire wheels, fine grade sandpaper, linishers, cutting compounds etc. This stage is all about removing any further contaminates that the stripping process may have missed or caused or improving the appearance of the metal surface. Threads on bolts will benefit from wire brushing or scotchbrite wheels, damaged corners on metal objects may be improved by grinding or linishing etc. Fine scratches could be removed by fine grade sandpaper or cutting compounds etc. Remember even though the new electroplate will adhere to the surface of the metal object (as long as the item has been successfully chemically cleaned and prepared for the plating procedure), the imperfections will still show through the plated coating. If you want the final plated item to look perfect, you will need to ensure the surface is perfect prior to final plating.
Q… What options do I have if the metal surface needs to be improved prior to plating?
A... Jane Plating Kits sell a Copper Plating Kit, which is a process that uses acid copper. This process can be used for a decorative copper finish or is also used to assist in the improvement of the metal surface prior to final plating in zinc, nickel, electroless nickel etc. The copper is electroplated onto the item and can cut, buffed, sanded etc to fill scratches and repair the surface. A polished copper surface will provide a fantastic base to plate the final coating over.
Q… What do I do after I complete the surface preparation?
A... Once you are happy with the part and have completed any surface preparation, it is now time to move into the final cleaning process. With all Jane Kits products, the key to successful plating is in the preparation of the items to be plated. Parts must be in a chemically clean state prior to attempting any type of plating or treatment procedure. Jane Plating Kits sell a final cleaning solution called Parts Wash. It is a blend of alkaline solutions that used as a very strong cleaner which removes all traces of grease or film. Using this cleaner will assist in ensuring that the parts to be plated are spotlessly clean. Once you complete this step, your part must pass the water break test prior to entering the plating bath.
Q… What is a Water Break Test?
A... A Water Break Test is a test you should perform on any item prior to it being allowed to enter the plating bath. Once the item has been cleaned by completing the Parts Wash procedure, water rinse the part and hold it by the wire to inspect. Water must hang on the part in an unbroken sheen, no beading. Water will hang on perfectly clean parts in an unbroken film. If the water beads or separates rapidly, the item is not chemically cleaned so commence the Parts Wash procedure again prior to attempting the water break test. Once it successfully passes this test, do not touch it with your fingers and place into the plating bath.
Q… Do I need to activate my parts prior to entering the bath?
A... Generally speaking, once your part passes the Water Break Test and then cleaned water rinsed, it should be ready to enter the plating bath. However, a final activation step is often recommended. Jane Plating Kits sell a product called JPK Metal Activator. This is used to neutralize the alkaline wash and activate the metal surface.
Q… What cleaners do Jane Plating Kits sell?
A... As mentioned above, Jane Plating Kits sell Jane Clean and Parts Wash which are the two solutions we recommend purchasing from our CLEANERS category on our website. They are not included in any of our Kits. Both of these solutions are concentrated and should be diluted with water and are sold in numerous sizes.
Q… What acid strippers do Jane Plating Kits sell?
A... As mentioned above, Jane Plating Kits sell JPK Acid Strip which is a dry acid salt used to assist in the removal of certain coatings we recommend purchasing from our CLEANERS & ACID STRIPPER category on our website. This is not included in any of our Kits. It is dissolved in water and is sold in numerous sizes.
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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.