So, I fianlly recieved my chemicals from Alfa Aesar. I then went about mixing up the nickel plating solution based off the formula I gave in the previous post. After the addition of of deionized, distilled water, the solution had its characteristic green color and was crystal clear.
To this solution I placed my Nickel supply in the form of a rod. Nickel is an expensive element. If you have ever looked in the chemical catalogs for 99% Ni it can cost hundreds of dollars for a very small amount. For the small amount of plating that the average amateur electroplater will be using this is very impractical. However, there is a source of Nickel that everyone can get there hands on: Nickel welding rods. Nickel welding rods are commonly used to repair cast iron materials as a filler. They can be found at many local welding shops which sell them by the pound. In my case for 5 welding rods it cost about $20, a bargain compared to the $100 dollars I would have been forced to pay the chemical companies. Sometimes though, at least in my case, the only form of Nickel welding rods carried are the ones that are coated in a thick grey flux covering. Do not be discouraged! Theses will still work all that needs to be done is remove this coating. I experimented with many forms of removal: soaking, wire wheel, chipping. All of these methods worked to some degree, soaking softened the coating but did not remove it, the wire wheel worked but sprayed the dust everywhere and took forever, and chipping was just a pain. In the end however, I found sometimes the simples method works the best. Just crunch it off! I have a cheap radio shack wire crimper that looks like a big black pliers. All is did was bite down on the coating and it came right off. After this they were cleaned with soap and wiped with alcohol before being ready to go.
We now have our bath and a source of nickel. After some experimentation I found that having two rods of nickel one on either side of the part yielded a much better even coating which makes common sense. The amperage that one uses is dependent upon the surface area of the part to be plated. Every type of bath has its own specific plating current per square inch or sometimes foot. After selecting a sample part, prepping the surface and performing the necessary calculations it was immersed in the bath.
Here are some before and after shots of parts I have now plated:
As can be clearly seen there is a noticeable improvement in the quality of the bolts as the protective coating is applied. Over the course of my plating experience during the past few weeks I have learned a few tid-bits that could benefit some others.
- The amount of time is directly proportional to the thickness of the plating. Longer times = thicker = more rust resistance. On average my parts plate for one hour and they do not show signs of rust. Short times can start to surface rust
- If the plating is cloudy, this can be avoided by performing a hot entry. That is, with the current on lowing the parts into the solution.
- Brighteners are used up. When the parts become duller you need to add more brighteners but be careful you only need to re-add primary brighteners. Carrier brighteners are not used they just transport the ions where as primary are burned by the current to allow for the bright plating
- Agitation greatly reduces the amount of pitting due to hydrogen bubbles
- Use must filter you solution every so often to make sure it is clean and healthy. Small amounts of iron oxide will collect in the solution and settle to the bottom over time. These will contribute to a poor quality of plating. To filter all that is needed is a wide poor filter. Do not use charcoal. Some professionals will use it however in my experience all it does is collect my expensive brighteners. Coffee filters work fine or anything in that range. Don’t use to fine a filter paper or else you’ll be sitting there pouring the solution all day!
With this advise you should have a good idea on how to make your own plating solution. Next up is adding in other elements to form alloys allowing for better properties. Stay tuned!