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Zinc Plating DIY

So far Iím very pleased with my first attempts at DIY zinc plating! I read several on-line tutorials and thought this gentleman did a particularly fine job. Hereís the link:

Zinc Plating with Common Materials



So far Iíve found the process rather easy; although it does take a little fiddling to adjust the current levels for the part or parts youíre plating. Initially, I made the mistake of using too much juice.

I also expected too much too quickly. The first time I put some parts through the process, I thought theyíd come out thick-coated and shiny. They werenít. Iíve learned to put the parts through the soup several times to build up a the zinc layer.

Pro-platers call each run through the soup, Ďa strike.í In plating, unlike baseball, the more strikes the better! :-) With my setup, I find two strikes is a minimum, three is better, and I canít tell you the results of four strikes Ė yet -- because Iím finishing #3 as I write this!

Not surprisingly, the quality of the finish depends on how much care you put in. And, of course, prep is everything! After bead-blasting, de-greasing and acid-etchining I plop the parts in a bucket of denatured alcohol (as described in the tutorial).

Once the chemistry and electricity is set up, itís a leisurely process. I hang two or three Norma clamps in the bucket and pour another cup of coffee. Ten minutes later, pull the parts out, clean my cathodes; and hang some more parts. While those are bubbling, I use Ďscotch-briteí to polish the parts that just came out of the bath. When all the parts have been Ďstriked,í Ďstruckí Ė I start again.

As the zinc builds up with each strike, the finish looks better and better. So I just keep at it while I do other things around the house.

I also bought yelllow zinc chromate, which turns the zinc yellow and offers additional protection. I havenít tried it because, well... I havenít finished enough strikes with white zinc yet!

In the midst of completing that third strike on my first ever batch of parts; Iím certainly unqualified to give advice on zinc plating. Iíve posted this just to share how very Ďdo-ableí this is. Iím sure a pro-plater would produce a better result. But my plater is an hour away and I donít need that on this set of parts.

I bought a cover for the plastic bath-bucket; in which Iíll store the chemicals, power supply, zincs, etc. Since I often have small parts that need rust protection, I think my homemade kit will get some use.

Robert









Old 03-09-2019, 09:11 AM
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Yup, done this too and it works like a charm! Prep and patience are the key.
Old 03-09-2019, 11:44 AM
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Yea, I also have a similar setup. My struggle is getting a good luster.
Here is some of my work.
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Old 03-09-2019, 11:50 AM
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I got the kit from Caswell. I have been sending out a couple large batches. but after that will try the caswell kit for a few misc items. here is a pic of one batch.
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Old 03-09-2019, 12:30 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by piscator View Post
So far Iím very pleased with my first attempts at DIY zinc plating! I read several on-line tutorials and thought this gentleman did a particularly fine job. Hereís the link:

Zinc Plating with Common Materials



So far Iíve found the process rather easy; although it does take a little fiddling to adjust the current levels for the part or parts youíre plating. Initially, I made the mistake of using too much juice.

I also expected too much too quickly. The first time I put some parts through the process, I thought theyíd come out thick-coated and shiny. They werenít. Iíve learned to put the parts through the soup several times to build up a the zinc layer.

Pro-platers call each run through the soup, Ďa strike.í In plating, unlike baseball, the more strikes the better! :-) With my setup, I find two strikes is a minimum, three is better, and I canít tell you the results of four strikes Ė yet -- because Iím finishing #3 as I write this!

Not surprisingly, the quality of the finish depends on how much care you put in. And, of course, prep is everything! After bead-blasting, de-greasing and acid-etchining I plop the parts in a bucket of denatured alcohol (as described in the tutorial).

Once the chemistry and electricity is set up, itís a leisurely process. I hang two or three Norma clamps in the bucket and pour another cup of coffee. Ten minutes later, pull the parts out, clean my cathodes; and hang some more parts. While those are bubbling, I use Ďscotch-briteí to polish the parts that just came out of the bath. When all the parts have been Ďstriked,í Ďstruckí Ė I start again.

As the zinc builds up with each strike, the finish looks better and better. So I just keep at it while I do other things around the house.

I also bought yelllow zinc chromate, which turns the zinc yellow and offers additional protection. I havenít tried it because, well... I havenít finished enough strikes with white zinc yet!

In the midst of completing that third strike on my first ever batch of parts; Iím certainly unqualified to give advice on zinc plating. Iíve posted this just to share how very Ďdo-ableí this is. Iím sure a pro-plater would produce a better result. But my plater is an hour away and I donít need that on this set of parts.

I bought a cover for the plastic bath-bucket; in which Iíll store the chemicals, power supply, zincs, etc. Since I often have small parts that need rust protection, I think my homemade kit will get some use.

Robert









Thanks for sharing the link and your work. I'm going to check it out. I can't resist DIY!
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Old 03-09-2019, 12:43 PM
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Another dyed-in-the-wool DIYer...

I like to be able to plate hardware as I go, instead of sending batches out. After two summers of doing this, I wish I had someone close to do it for me.. Ha!
My biggest problem is keeping the plating solution clean..
Have fun with it!
Old 03-09-2019, 12:46 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by piscator View Post
So far Iím very pleased with my first attempts at DIY zinc plating! I read several on-line tutorials and thought this gentleman did a particularly fine job. Hereís the link:

Zinc Plating with Common Materials
That was an interesting and informative article that you linked, and your parts turned out nicely. A couple more safety notes for folks to consider would be wear a respirator when dealing with the muriatic acid. The vapors are also caustic and too much inhalation isn't good for the ol' mucous lined membranes in the respiratory tract and eyeball corneas. Also don't understate the acid/water precaution. As my old chemistry teacher used to say, "Do as you oughter, add acid to water!".
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Old 03-09-2019, 12:54 PM
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My tweak on the referenced web page was to use an old PC power supply and a DC "voltage converter" that came from Amazon or ebay. I can't remember where, and someone with more knowledge should be able to tell you the correct name for the convertor.
Works without the Karo Syrup and the insects aren't attracted to your solution when you store it. I've used my setup to plate brake calipers. Below is a sample from the fresh air system with a yellow chromate wash.





Old 03-09-2019, 05:12 PM
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well done!

Good job! I suspect many of us go through this and it's good you posted your experience as not everyone does. I also tried this at home, with pretty good results (not quite as good as yours). My 0.02$ are to plunge the parts in a dilute nitric acid solution for 30s just before plating (once they are on the hooks) to remove the surface oxidation. Also, always wear clean gloves when touching the parts (surface contamination is a real killer).

Lastly, be aware that everything around your plating setup will RUST! The acid is just dissolved in the water, and the released gasses will carry it around.

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Old 03-10-2019, 01:51 AM
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Thanks for your contributions gents!

Trackrash & Clarkd, How do you get such nice results with the yellow zinc chromate? I followed the instructions to the letter, the color of my solution is exactly the same as the photo you posted. My freshly zinced parts are pristine when I dunk them. But instead of the nice yellowing that you guys get, my parts come out a mottled orange, like a diseased pumpkin! Any ideas?

Donagain, Florio, Good tips, thanks!

Here’s a coil bracket that came out nicely after five ‘strikes’ through the process. I won’t even try to yellow it. Actually, I’m starting to like the non-yellowed, gun-metal gray of the plain zinc.

Robert




Last edited by piscator; 03-10-2019 at 06:31 AM..
Old 03-10-2019, 06:28 AM
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Your wasting your time trying to plate bright zinc with home brew electrolyte solutions. Yes you can do it but the parts will come out dull due to lack of brighteners. Go to google patents and look what goes into making a bright zinc plating electrolyte it's not 5 th grade chemistry
You can go to caswell buy some degreaser, brighteners and solution for around a $100, a DC power supply off amazon for $50 and your in business. $5 of sodium dichromate off eBay et.
Old 03-10-2019, 06:30 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by piscator View Post
Thanks for your contributions gents!

Trackrash & Clarkd, How do you get such nice results with the yellow zinc chromate? I followed the instructions to the letter, the color of my solution is exactly the same as the photo you posted. My freshly zinced parts are pristine when I dunk them. But instead of the nice yellowing that you guys get, my parts come out a mottled orange, like a diseased pumpkin! Any ideas?

Donagain, Florio, Good tips, thanks!

Hereís a coil bracket that came out nicely after five Ďstrikesí through the process. I wonít even try to yellow it. Actually, Iím starting to like the non-yellowed, gun-metal gray of the plain zinc.

Robert



The zinc layer must be shiny contain brighteners and then rinsed straight out of the electrolyte in a mild solution of hydrochloric acid and distilled water 5% then put in the sodium dichromate 10oz per gallon distilled water with 2 oz sulphuric acid.then rinsed in water hung to dry.
Old 03-10-2019, 06:38 AM
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Thanks DP, add sulphuric acid to the yellow bath and rinse the part in hydrochloric and distilled water just after it comes out of the electrolyte and before letting it swim in the yellow. I hope I restated that correctly.

I'm not interested in producing gloriously shiny parts, just parts that are clean and protected against rust. How much does the yellow zinc contribute to that? For my utilitarian purposes, I'm wondering if the yellowing step is worth the trouble.

Robert
Old 03-10-2019, 06:59 AM
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Quote:
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Thanks DP, add sulphuric acid to the yellow bath and rinse the part in hydrochloric and distilled water just after it comes out of the electrolyte and before letting it swim in the yellow. I hope I restated that correctly.

I'm not interested in producing gloriously shiny parts, just parts that are clean and protected against rust. How much does the yellow zinc contribute to that? For my utilitarian purposes, I'm wondering if the yellowing step is worth the trouble.

Robert
Robert if your going to take the time to do parts why not do it right? Sodium dichromate adds corrosion protection but it won't stick to dull zinc plating. I'm not sure of the exact salt spray hours I'm sure it depends on several variables there's ton of information just google it. To answer your question
1. 10oz per gallon distilled water of sodium dichromate and 2 oz battery acid sulphuric.
2. You also make blue chromate with sodium dichromate but use nitric acid instead along with different ratios I would have to look in my notes.
This is how I do it I'm sure there's probably different ways.
3. Pull part from electrolyte bath rinse with a 5% hydrochloric acid/ distilled water solution. When a bubbles appears take out.
4. Place in sodium dichromate for 5 to seconds 10 depending on size et
5. Rinse in distilled water hang to dry.
I spent hours going through patents, reading et and wasted time and money thinking I could make a good electrolyte solution it never happened for bright zinc.
Once you look at some of the patents you'll realize it's not as easy as vinegar, salts et.
The key to zinc is the brighteners.
Caswell is the only game in town for the hobbyist, other companies will only sell with minimums that don't make sense for the home plating guy.
For $78 dollars you can buy replenishment packs and for $20 to $65 a bottle brighteners. An 8/10 plating anode off amazon and your good,

Spending a $150 to do it right makes sense to me.
Old 03-10-2019, 07:46 AM
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Also let me add after doing a ton of plating that the straight zinc stuff doesn't last very long in some environments if its too thin or dull to start with. It's sacrificial in nature and corrodes fast if done too thin.
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Old 03-10-2019, 08:15 AM
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Thanks Catorce,

Thanks DP, I'll head over to the Caswell website and see if I can find something on brighteners. I bought my yellow chromate from Caswell and their service was excellent. I have no trouble spending money on chemistry, I just need to know what to buy.

I understand and appreciate the procedures you're sharing, but I'm not 100% clear on the chemicals. The brightener gets added to the electrolyte, yes? Is it this?

https://www.caswellplating.com/copy-cadr-zinc-brightener-4-oz.html

I'm not clear on what the $78 'replenishment pack' refers to. Is this a chemical used to make the electrolyte? That is, in place of the water, vinegar, epsom salts mix? Is it this?

https://www.caswellplating.com/review/product/list/id/1980/category/6/

I'll see if I can find what you're describing at the Caswell site. I'm also going to download their e-book. Lot's to learn! Thanks!

Robert

Last edited by piscator; 03-10-2019 at 10:58 AM..
Old 03-10-2019, 10:29 AM
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Robert yes that is it $71it will make 1 1/2 gallons of electrolyte perfect for a 2 gallon bucket. Then you'll need some zinc brightener. Shoot me a pm and ill give you my number to explain the rest.
Old 03-10-2019, 12:30 PM
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Concerning the chromic solution, remember that the yellow chromate is a gel that needs to dry out before it gets hard. If you buff it right out of the bath, it will not come out nice.
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Old 03-10-2019, 02:52 PM
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Couple of videos on plating 911 parts, from youtube

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hTupOgImpWo

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SBQDZI5xz4w
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Old 03-16-2019, 06:50 PM
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You guys are better than me. I tried my hand at zinc plating. All I accomplished was to remind myself why I hated chemistry so much in high school.
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Old 03-16-2019, 11:06 PM
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