Saturday, February 13, 2016

The Big Show

I have been busy and spending money. The remainder of my CB750 sale money. I started making a pile of hardware and brackets and parts that I wanted nickel plated for the '62 and '55 Trumps, my wish list. When all was said and done, I was looking at over $2000 for nickel plating, which I didn't have, and, well, didn't want to spend.

I started with finding a nice used Harbor Freight blast cabinet for $80. I bought some medium soda to blast with. After figuring out the compressor needed to be running at 90 PSI, it started working great.

Then I picked up a Lyman 1200 Pro tumbler for $70 and some cutting media from Harbor Freight, and 2 bags of crushed walnut shells from Petco. I run the cutting media for 7-12 hours, and the walnut shells for 24-48 hours to polish. Shit in = shit out. Nickel will pick up every imperfection. You can continue to polish on a polishing wheel.

So now I had a good system to get parts to clean raw steel. I spent evening after evening doing research on home plating. I compiled a huge list of stuff I needed. The Caswell copper and nickel kits came out to just over $400, but there are tons of other things you need: power supply, acids, bucket heaters, controller, timer, gloves, goggles, etc etc.

This is my plating station. The left bucket is the Caswell degreaser bath, the right is the nickel bath. I also have muriatic acid (33% solution) to remove zinc plating before the final polish, and battery acid (33% sulphuric acid) to etch the parts right before the nickel bath. Everything mixed with distilled water, follow the directions!!! Not shown is the Flash copper bath (followed by a nickel plate) which I will use for brackets that I want to be mirror finish (a future post). There is also a tub with soda ash/carbonate soda to remove chrome/rust (depending on the polarity of the charger (also another post).

I'm using a 10amp power supply ($75) that will allow me to plate up to 144 square inches at a time. The aquarium temperature controller keeps the nickel bath at 110 degrees F. Everything plugs into GFCI outlet, you're using water here!

Step 1: After the part is completely clean and raw steel, you soak the part in the Caswell degreaser for about 30 minutes, or until water no longer beads up on the part. The degreaser is heated to 190 degrees with a larger bucket heater. I monitor the temp with an infrared temp gauge. If it gets too hot I just unplug it. The bucket heater also constantly trips my power strip, so I had to run it to its own outlet. Spray off with distilled water.

Step 2: Caswell doesn't mention doing this next step, but I read a lot of people dip their part in battery acid for 15 seconds to etch. So I did. Spray off with distilled water.

Step 3: The big show! This is the nickel bath. You have 2 nickel anodes hooked up to the + of the power supply, and the copper pipe which connects to your string of parts is the cathode. (you can deplate if you switch these). There is an aquarium agitator pump in the bath. I heat the whole bath to 110 degrees F with a small coffee cup heater (took 4 hours to go from 56 degrees to 110). I used the coffee heater to save some money as it was only $10. You can buy a much nicer heater with thermostate for $75+. I used a $20 aquarium temperature controller to keep it at 110. Nickel plates at .07 amps per square inch at 1.5-3 volts. I set my power supply to 2 volts, then set the current to .5-ish amps based on the surface area of these 2 bolts being around 7.5 sq". I soaked the parts for 90 minutes, rotating at 45 minutes. This should create a nickel thickness of about .001"


A very quick polish of white rouge yields a mirror finish.

I am VERY pleased with the results. I plan to plate all my hardware first, in just nickel. And then the bigger things (after being dechromed) will first get a layer or 2 or 3 of Flash copper to create a thickness you can polish to perfection before the final nickel plating layer.

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