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Home Zinc plating experiments


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I did try some home plating a lot of years back with Vinegar and Epsom salts with poor results. So I drop off all my parts to the platers.


Having read a few bit and bobs on the net I am now going to see what results i can get for little to no layout.


Yes I know you can get a plating kit but would like to try a few experiments with what I have already.


I used to use 1.5V AA batteries (HP7 in my day) a large margarine tub and solid copper wire, had some zinc plates of unknown purity. What I got was a few small bits covered with a dull grey zinc which polished up to a not so dull grey.


Now my plan is to

a: clean the parts with de-greaser then wire brush and polish to a near mirror finish.

b: use an acid to etch (pickle) the parts prior to placing into the plating solution.

c: correctly calculate current required for a specific area of the parts to plate

d: regulate the power in the circuit

e: keep the electrolyte solution warm (21-25 degrees C)

f: use air bubbles to mix the solution.

g: plate for no more than 10 minutes, remove rinse with water and light buff with wire wool then back in solution for another 10 minutes.


Today I got as far as to get a good power source.


From what I remember you only need around 1.5V, it's the current (amps) which need to be in a specific range.


When I was looking into putting some LED lights on my bike I wanted a good constant voltage for the LED's as when running the battery voltage varies from 13 to 14.5 V. I go a little bit of kit of ebay that would take an input voltage from 3-23V. You could then dial in the required output voltage, in my case 12V. This will give the LED's a nice stable voltage and hopefully not burn them out. I ended up not using this as the lights i fitted have stood up to 14.5 volt ok so far.


this is the unit

Unit.JPG.ff8a3584dbde3cd01b877676b66fbb45.JPG

 

Will use this as a good 1,5v supply. The battery of the Z500 is big enough to last for ages.


Wired to a 12V battery via an inline fuse (5A) and set in this case to 9.12V to just illuminate this small strip of LED's

1620203808_batterypsu.thumb.JPG.ab7224af6cac84b707d22d6ce9aa79c9.JPG

 

Now have to find the zinc plates for the anode and get some Vinegar and Epson salts to make up the electrolyte.


See next post


Rob B

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I did try some home plating a lot of years back with Vinegar and Epsom salts with poor results. So I drop off all my parts to the platers.


Having read a few bit and bobs on the net I am now going to see what results i can get for little to no layout.


Yes I know you can get a plating kit but would like to try a few experiments with what I have already.


I used to use 1.5V AA batteries (HP7 in my day) a large margarine tub and solid copper wire, had some zinc plates of unknown purity. What I got was a few small bits covered with a dull grey zinc which polished up to a not so dull grey.


Now my plan is to

a: clean the parts with de-greaser then wire brush and polish to a near mirror finish.

b: use an acid to etch (pickle) the parts prior to placing into the plating solution.

c: correctly calculate current required for a specific area of the parts to plate

d: regulate the power in the circuit

e: keep the electrolyte solution warm (21-25 degrees C)

f: use air bubbles to mix the solution.

g: plate for no more than 10 minutes, remove rinse with water and light buff with wire wool then back in solution for another 10 minutes.


Today I got as far as to get a good power source.


From what I remember you only need around 1.5V, it's the current (amps) which need to be in a specific range.


When I was looking into putting some LED lights on my bike I wanted a good constant voltage for the LED's as when running the battery voltage varies from 13 to 14.5 V. I go a little bit of kit of ebay that would take an input voltage from 3-23V. You could then dial in the required output voltage, in my case 12V. This will give the LED's a nice stable voltage and hopefully not burn them out. I ended up not using this as the lights i fitted have stood up to 14.5 volt ok so far.


this is the unit

Unit.JPG


Will use this as a good 1,5v supply. The battery of the Z500 is big enough to last for ages.


Wired to a 12V battery via an inline fuse (5A) and set in this case to 9.12V to just illuminate this small strip of LED's

battery psu.JPG


Now have to find the zinc plates for the anode and get some Vinegar and Epson salts to make up the electrolyte.


See next post


Rob B

 

These bits and bobs on the net , they didn't include Ichiban Moto by any chance ? If they did then it's only fair to inform you that this is a deliberate spoof channel . I hope this is not the case. On the other hand this site seems very helpful http://www.southsandia.com/forum/website/zincplating.html

wp_ss_20181111_0001.thumb.png.29756b47c21eb6d14a26d260d9c65c83.png

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I know that site very well ta, he is good entertainment Bob. That article by Tom on the Thunderbird forum is a good read, have thought sugar will do the slowing down of the zinc crystal formation. That Karo corn syrup is American only and have worked out it is almost pure glucose so will get down to the body building shop and get some.


Anyhoo will have to estimate the surface area of my bolts and give it a go.


Rob B

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I found this:

 

B607EAD4-496F-4759-ACB7-737C8746553D.thumb.png.19c656c3e1b5ff0b9f1e19d9e0e77baf.png

 

I wasn’t clever enough to understand that the rate of plating ( or amps ) was very important.

Also I only gave the parts a polish and cleaned with panel wipe without and etching.


I used an old slot car transformer that gives 14v ( although it says 12v) I need to check the amps.


I created the mixture as described and switched on for about 5 mins


This is what I got:

 

AF4865F6-6C38-4969-9284-50C5F15189DD.thumb.jpeg.cf59128530043a9c99f1c21c00666019.jpegD9E68D2D-A735-425D-A969-BB5D693E181C.thumb.jpeg.6ab52740245ee0dd51a03985a4d497cf.jpeg

 

The coating wiped off and didn’t seem to give a permanent finish.

I tried giving 2 x 1minute busts, cleaning with a brass brush in between - seemed to stick better but can’t be sure it’s worked.


I’m really interested in seeing your results.

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Mickly, looks like to great an amperage there and the part had "burned" also 14V is too great. Have read that post


What other power sources have you, a old mobile phone charger should be a good starter. Put your multimeter in series with it in current mode and see what current the part draws. From what I can gather 80mA per square inch to 140mA per square inch is correct current draw. I used some AA bats in the past but never bothered to measure the current and got dull grey deposit.


Watch this space.

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Don’t know what ‘burned’ means, but the item I was trying to plate was structurally unaffected. The grey fur just wiped off.

Just tested the transformer- 2.4 amps .. whoops !!

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Finally got the test tank together.


Yesterday found and cleaned an old washing up bowl, cut up some zinc into strips. 4 for around the tank (20 mm x 100 mm) and one in bits to soak in the 200 ml of white vinegar to get some Zinc ions going. Soldered and cleaned the 4 zinc strips to copper wire tails. Could use Titanium wire if I wanted to totally immerse the Anodes but will just loop the copper tails over the edge and have the zinc in the electrolyte. Ran a wire round the bowl and soldered on the tails.


Put the 25 W aquarium heater in the bottom of the bowl and put just plain tap water to 20 mm below the wire tails together with the business end of the small temp gauge. Set the thermostat to 24 C. Within 10 mins it was steady at around 25 C with occasional stirring. I do not have an air pump as yet so will have to use manual agitation.


Today made up some electrolyte in the bowl:

6 litres of water (Filtered via coffee filter from the rain barrel)

200ml Distilled White Vinegar.

150 Grams of Epson Salts.


Turned on the heater and stirred gently, the PH of the solution is between 3 and 4, was aiming for 5 so a bit to acid but here goes.

 

302956590_LitmusPH3.thumb.JPG.ec1b88c3decb0e913e425c42cd9c5916.JPG

 

Selected a test bolt, scrubbed it up on a drill mounted wire brush, cleaned it off in Acetone and wrapped a copper wire round it to hang off the Stainless Steel bar over the tank. Rough guess total area about a square inch so aiming for around 100 Ma of current. In it goes and adjusted voltage to get said current (0.78 v) Water had now gone up to 30 C but did settle a bit later.

1085855499_TestBoltsettings.thumb.JPG.a0624ad6482960c6c357e4bc860925da.JPG

1025497585_Testboltall.thumb.JPG.f5ad7ec1afd1e7a41787b2aa58c8225b.JPG

 

started to fizz nicely so gave the tank a stir.

1062814888_Agitatetank.thumb.JPG.0b0a7c12f41b9f084fc7e3188eaf166e.JPG

 

81608542_Testbolt-crop.JPG.570d4b207c9bb7cda0d1543bf2a83366.JPG

 

Good so far, cuppa I think.


OK now for a real bolt, a spare crankcase bolt shined up a few weeks ago.

1637053656_1-Boltcleanedreadytoplatenotpickled.JPG.a14c3594e52443e38e6c3a1ed1fab9f9.JPG

A quick clean in acetone and in. Set the voltage to 1.59 Volts to get my guesstimated current of 700-800 mA

705441738_2a-Boltintankall-2.thumb.JPG.d53087f6b5dbd8a7ee58b5fa28860dbc.JPG

 

Gave it 10 mins and then a rinse in water .

 

508423494_3-After1ststrike.thumb.JPG.f6f24d154c5d23627b9407dddcc72e62.JPG

 

buff with brass brush

 

827575428_4-Buffedafter1ststrike.JPG.acdcd23c0205fd2d472d8e734059e9ec.JPG

 

Acetone cleaned and another 10 minutes

 

1446306298_5-Boltintankfizz2.thumb.JPG.a343fdff3835f6ad669b9989488ab614.JPG

1039243579_7-Boltfinalcurrent.thumb.JPG.22a6da03039b6034813daa7895ded812.JPG

 

out and cleaned, second strike

1216000807_6-After2ndstrike.JPG.b747916e56a12691182e7fe2cb15c956.JPG

 

buffed after the 2nd strike

 

368782069_9-Buffedafter2ndstrike-2.JPG.c9ba25bc4fda8e68c02321bffe0ef310.JPG

 

Success I think. Total outlay so far : £18.00, inc Heater, DC-DC psu, Vinegar (500 ml), Epson salts (1 Kg), 100 mm x 100 mm zinc plates (x 5) Already had the bowl, battery, wire, clips, degreaser, acetone, and brass brush.


I will try to use a "Brightener" when I get some glucose but even without any there is a good sheen when buffed. Also will get some acid to "pickle" the part just before plating to etch the surface.


Tomorrow will try more time, more strikes with a new solution with less Vinegar to get a higher PH of 5. and try a bigger part, the rear brake arm of the GS125 will be a good test. It is used all year round so see how the plating lasts.


Until tomorrow here are some links for the bits


DC-DC psu, Ebay

https://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/DC-DC-step-down-power-supply-adjustable-push-button-module-with-LCD-display-UK/152225073457?var=451414338126


Zinc strips, Ebay

https://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/1-5pcs-99-9-High-Purity-Pure-Zinc-Zn-Sheet-Plate-Metal-Foil-for-Science-Lab-New/192521374711?hash=item2cd32b0bf7:m:mjx_sBYMkAc8ylC07ewHaNg:rk:6:pf:0


Heater, Ebay

https://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/Hidom-Submersible-Tropical-Fish-Tank-Aquarium-Heater-Thermostat-Thermometer/351871461484?hash=item51ed2c686c:m:mR42ukIfPnqD91R_nkqnlVQ:rk:6:pf:0


Rob B

435524867_2-Boltintankall.thumb.JPG.9d9f144249e568f1fef64f3051a4d447.JPG

1606421140_8-Buffedafter2ndstrike.JPG.595e29e08f394292fb577ba36445d415.JPG

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Sweet experiment.

 

That looks really good!


Will you electrolytically de-rustify the torque arm before you plate it up?

 

It's the brake actuating arm today just a buzz with the wire wheel. but will do a few nasty bits like this soon.


nearly done for today will post tonight, just remembered i forgot to do the spring. :oops:


Thanks to all

rob

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The final result looks very like the original polished version, a lot like my own experiment - how do you know it’s worked and you haven’t just buffed off the zinc coating?


This isn’t a smart arse question, I’m truly interested.

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Another question, I understand that zinc is highly toxic . What safety precautions do you take especially during the buffing and polishing stages ? I believe Ed China wore a respirator to drill a zinc plated chassis on a Morgan .

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The final result looks very like the original polished version, a lot like my own experiment - how do you know it’s worked and you haven’t just buffed off the zinc coating?


This isn’t a smart arse question, I’m truly interested.

 

Actually it is a very good question, I did think that a buff with wire wool of even a brass wire brush would remove some material. So. I buffed the copper wires with my brass (real brass not just brass coated steel) brush and it shone the zinc plating up on the copper wires, i had to really be brutal with a green scotchbrite to make any impression on even the first strike.


am putting together today's pics

here is a pic before of the rear brake arm on the GS125 been through 5 winters since major cleanup.

197969840_Brakearmbefore.thumb.JPG.e9b5fb185f0bc48fe524a4ec7afca05f.JPG

 

rob

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Another question, I understand that zinc is highly toxic . What safety precautions do you take especially during the buffing and polishing stages ? I believe Ed China wore a respirator to drill a zinc plated chassis on a Morgan .

 

B'limy made a rod for own back here:


Good Point Bob, I use nitril gloves and eye protection throughout and did not use my mask. I dried / buffed outside today but now you have put a thought into my mind I will get the mask on tomorrow. Even outside the mask is a must and the old decorators one piece suit too when using the polishing mops.


Rob

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I ran out of time last night to post.


Yesterday I completed the re-plating of the GS125's rear brake arm.

 

499262068_01-Brakearmbefore.thumb.JPG.b4d20170c889832512fa5a5557942b42.JPG

 

To clean

 

1071286856_02-partsremoved.thumb.JPG.73851a6abaaa2bbe4381278e560b2b72.JPG

 

Brake arm de-greased then cleaned with Brass coated steel wire brush.

 

2088917913_03-Brakearmwirewheeled.thumb.JPG.88f819fceeb209c0c1a97ef58255c9a6.JPG

 

In the tank and plated for 15 minutes

 

152158961_04-Brakearm1ststrike15mins.thumb.JPG.53bc59767a288e8f5f983218225d39bb.JPG

 

With these settings

 

1810054243_05-Brakearmsetting.thumb.JPG.74640ea1facfde0db0b810f6503d13a4.JPG

 

Not plated well, you can see the missed bits. I calculated (rough) 5 Square inches of surface area @100 mA per Square inch for 15 mins a strike.

 

75410117_06-Brakearm1ststrike15minscloseup.JPG.ecdab60dcda5112fbc0c20fb8ca43ed7.JPG

 

Did 3 more strikes for 20 mins each at the previous settings to get a better coat, rinsed and buffed between coats.

 

1128328542_11-Brakearm4thstrike20mins.thumb.JPG.66b4f9e47efbcc1881865ea6072bc726.JPG

 

you can see in the picture below where the zinc has not adhered to the metal in the hard to reach places, a media blast would get in there OK but I do not have access to blasting.

 

763919208_12-Brakearm4thstrikehardtoreachplacesobvious.JPG.80e0703815288df05cb9465ba564ed6b.JPG

 

The part now had nearly an hour in the tank with 4 strikes. At this point the colour and texture of the surface were the same after the last 3 strikes, colour light-ish grey and smooth to the touch. I dried it with a heat gun and buffed with a soft brass wire brush. Time to raid the cupboard and add some "brightener" to the electrolyte. "Karo" Corn syrup gets a lot of thumbs up in the states but not available over here, so, from what I can gather it is pure Glucose - Dextrose type stuff and these are available via body building suppliers on Ebay. Only thing in the cupboard today is caster sugar, ah well it will have to do. The PH of my electrolyte is still on the low side (acid) at 4 via litmus paper so will have to make a new batch soon, having nothing to loose I added 100 grams of castor sugar, some recipes say same or more sugar as Epson Salt but I just want to try a little sugar for now just to see what happens.

 

1286959797_13-Brakearm6thstrike25minswithsugar.thumb.JPG.5f083ced6fb7524438bb3d6a740a5381.JPG

 

Gave it 25 minutes, so longer than before but with less current, there was noticeably less bubbling with the lower current and a slightly shinny-er finish.

 

1863488128_14-Brakearm6thstrike25minswithsugarsettings.thumb.JPG.f385863c53804124e7ec6a31f921ec0c.JPG

 

Rinsed, dried with hot air gun and buffed with soft brass brush and a light going over with Solvol. Shinny!!!!

 

1669925505_15-Brakearmdonebuffedgoodside.thumb.JPG.d1672cf52198817beab9567c50b7b371.JPG

 

Now for the small bits


Even with ACF50, GT85 and cold water rinsing the bike has a lot of corrosion on most of it's fasteners, I have found Stainless Steel Brake adjusters with spring on Ebay but Before I get the crow bar out to open my wallet I want to see if I can get some more winters out of what i have.


Here is the nut De-Rusted, It is full of pit marks.

 

416710745_17-Adjustingnutwirewheeled.thumb.JPG.64b128d8ef2a1457a401e47e0ad419c8.JPG

 

5 mins later on the fine grinder and 600 wet and dry

 

373970939_19-Adjusternutdressed-2.thumb.JPG.d23acc14f66b815cf0b58afb348713ff.JPG

 

That bar by the way is a M6 x 150 mm Stainless steel coach bolt.


Wiped with acetone and in the tank for 15 minutes 1 Volt 300 mA, must be 3 Sq-ins there? Came out a bit underdone.

 

1436922141_20-Smallparts1ststrike15minsnotenoughtime.thumb.JPG.ef1f8fcb327a94ea8a50945557791464.JPG

 

So in for another few strikes 45 mins in total.

 

1405056070_23-Smallparts3rdstrike-dry-2.thumb.JPG.0736b9d7677de251f89ebd43df92e0a6.JPG

 

Not bad, after dying and a buff up.

 

501554700_24-Smallparts3rdstrikebuffed.thumb.JPG.e89669625293b59360bb10c881323937.JPG

 

Getting near Tea Time now. Realised as I was putting it all back together forgot to take the blooming spring off.


Quick de-grease and wire brush, acetone wipe and in for 15 minutes.

 

2094882555_26-Springsettings.thumb.JPG.19a0e9f39d0ff5474aabd7e1f9ad7f4c.JPG

 

Out

 

825638354_27-Spring1ststrike-dry.thumb.JPG.d6bbe0b0b31d2a271b479f8c5e2f7902.JPG

 

Dried and polished with my well used Autosol cloth

 

640943684_28-Spring1ststrike-buffed.thumb.JPG.f998a1c750e26208628ee85801719039.JPG

 

Gave it a total of 3 strikes, and all done


here is a before and after as a reward for reading all the way to the bottom of this.

1014714545_BeforeandAfter.thumb.jpg.3d99c6f78eaf715efcf7838b2d0bc920.jpg

 


Conclusions so far:


To vary the current in my setup I am adjusting the voltage (Ohm's Law)


Basic solution works well

6 litres of water (Filtered via coffee filter from the rain barrel)

200 ml Distilled White Vinegar.

150 Grams of Epson Salts

100 Grams Castor Sugar (used as "brightener" does make a small improvement in appearance to the freshly plated item.)

@24-27 C


Container

The washing up bowl is a good size for my heater but makes the distance between the Anodes and the work a bit to great, will try a higher current per square inch and - or longer strikes. Can see a depletion of the Zinc strips used for the anodes even after plating these small-ish parts.


Preparation

de-grease (strong solution of all purpose cleaner @60 C)

wire brush de-rust

de-grease again

acetone or alcohol wipe

The above steps steps together with using different gloves for each step keep the work contaminant free and result in a good zinc adhesion.


Lustre

Buff with soft brass wire brush after rinse and drying followed by light polishing gives a good shine comparable to bare polished steel.


Improvements and further steps.

Media blast parts.

Acid dip parts prior to 1st strike to remove any rust particles and etch the surface.

Glucose as a "brightener" and more of it.

Increase PH of solution to max PH 5 by using a lot less vinegar.

Aquarium air pump to constantly mix electrolyte.

Increase current per square inch to 140 mA

More accurate calculation on surface area of part and possible alteration of technique depending on the shape of part.

More Tea


Now the rest of the bike end is letting it down.


Will monitor these parts this winter


More soon, may have to buy (Aghhhh!!!) some pasivate chemicals to get that bright Zinc look


rob b

Edited by linuxrob
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toxic or not , the result is simply amazing, i already tried similar methods for aluminium anodisation but zinc plating... :mrgreen: :mrgreen: :mrgreen:. For people that are interessed into anodisation process, click autocollants bmw (but in french, dont hesitate to use a translator guys ;) )

Edited by BmwMeister5978
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  • 3 weeks later...

toxic or not , the result is simply amazing, i already tried similar methods for aluminium anodisation but zinc plating... :mrgreen: :mrgreen: :mrgreen:. For people that are interessed into anodisation process, click here (but in french, dont hesitate to use a translator guys ;) )

 

Good link to a interesting article, have some time this week to try more experiments with the plating.


rob B

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Interesting stuff!


I'm currently refurbishing an old clarinet for my son and have a load of dull and tarnished keywork to renovate. I had read a bit (admittedly not much) about DIY silver and nickel plating, but the consensus seemed to be that the finish was thin and wore off quite easily. I stopped my researches at that point, but after reading this I might have another look!

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