If it doesn't work, it's all Jim's fault!

Downeaster

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Trying nickel electroplating. Got some corner trim from the popcorn machine that was seriously scruffy and by the time I cleaned the baked on grease, verdigris and flaking nickel from it, mostly what was left was the copper substrate:

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Pickled the solution as per instructions and have a piece cooking now. I daisy-chained four strips together to A) provide plenty of material for plating and B) allow plating from both sides simultaneously.

We shall see...
 

Downeaster

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First piece after an hour in the soup. Not a lot of difference, but if you look closely there's less bare copper showing. I expect the process to take several hours per piece due to the make-shift electrolyte, relatively large piece and extensive pitting.
 

DogBunny

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IMHO, your solution looks too weak.
https://www.xs650.com/threads/heavy-metal-rust-removal-and-plating.56382/page-6
I did a lot of experimenting, and in the end I got half-decent results. Here's my most salient observation, copied from a post I made in Jim's thread above:

Here are my Deep Thoughts regarding DIY plating. If you go back to post #2 in this thread, and watch the video, that guy is plating in a vinegar solution. Vinegar is acetic acid, and like all acids (with the possible exception of phosphoric acid), it etches steel. Think about it, your part is in a vinegar solution which is removing material, while you are simultaneously trying to deposit nickel on that material. Logic tells me that something has to give.

I got poor results when I followed the video instructions to a tee. He uses a weak nickel solution and a low electric current. I concluded that you need to really hit the part hard, getting a layer of plate on it as quickly as possible, before the ascetic acid can remove much material.

So, that's what I did. I made a very dark green nickel solution, and I used a more powerful power supply. I also went to a much smaller container, to "concentrate" the voltage, so to speak. And, I started getting much better results.
If your voltage is too high, the plating will flake. I tried beginning the plating with a high voltage to quickly "cover" the bare metal and prevent etching, and then I'd switch to a lower power supply to build up the nickel thickness. This seemed to work pretty well.

My results are okay, but I wish they were perfect. Others seem to be getting better results, either that or they're lying, and I'd like to know what they're doing that I'm not.

I spent a lot of time researching commercial plating, trying to find out if they are plating in acid solutions. I never found my answer, but I suspect not. I also looked at the Caswell nickel plating kit instructions. They use distilled water, but I don't really know what the chemistry of their process is.
I'd like to be plating in a non-acid solution, if that's possible.
(END)
In my final experiments, I was getting complete coverage in about a half hour. I'd keep on plating for another 90 minutes in order to increase the thickness of the nickel. If you plate too much, things can get squirrely, and the plating can begin to peel.
 

Downeaster

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Before - 99% bare copper substrate

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After - Better, but not what I was hoping for.

Changes: Re-oriented work piece in relation to anodes. Pretty much horizontal rather than vertical. Replaced anodes with fresh nickel. Bumped the current to ~750ma. Electrolyte much denser, based on the color.

Overall, a big improvement over the first piece, suspect the issues with the discoloration and what appears to be incomplete coverage are due to impurities in the workpiece and/or insufficient cleaning, plus it's REALLY rough.

I'm going to redo the first piece after buffing it as smooth as I can and cleaning it more thoroughly.
 

Downeaster

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NOW we're talking! Buffed it up, cleaned it thoroughly with lacquer thinner and put it back in the soup!

Also found that suspending it from copper wire was causing some issues so just dumped it in the tank and hooked the power directly to it.

Still got what appear to be impurity issues, but I don't think there's much I can do about that.
 

Downeaster

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Final result. When I buffed up the first two in preparation for re-plating, 90% of the discoloration buffed out and they shined up much better than I expected. I figured the plating was so thin that buffing would take it back down to base metal (which in retrospect is probably brass rather than copper as previously stated) but it didn't.

Plenty good enough for the girls I go with.
 

DogBunny

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Buffed it up, cleaned it thoroughly with lacquer thinner and put it back in the soup!
Good job.
You didn't mention acid-etching after your cleaning.
https://www.xs650.com/threads/heavy-metal-rust-removal-and-plating.56382/
In the video in post #2 of Jim's thread, the part is acid-etched after buffing and cleaning. I think this is a critical step. I'm pretty sure that all of the commercial platers do it too. My steps were to buff and/or wire-wheel and/or polish, and clean. Then acid-tech, followed by a quick rinse -- I tried both tap and distilled water for the final rinse, didn't seem to make any difference. Then immediately put into the nickel solution and turn the power on before flash rust can form.
 

Downeaster

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You may have a point DB. I didn't bother because the surface was pretty rough after sandblasting, but perhaps the acid would also help clean things. The base metal appears to be brass, so rusting wouldn't be an issue.

I need to pick up a small container of muriatic acid.
 

DogBunny

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Yeah, my impression is that the acid "roughens" (and cleans) the surface on a molecular scale (not sure about the terminology, I'm not a chemist), something that mechanical cleaning can't achieve.
 

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I didn't watch the video yet. Is the solution when electricity is connected when it's getting plated vinigar? If so that's a good point made about opposing forces, can it be plated in water or maybe the acidity is needed to get nickel into solution?
 
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