Nickel Plating

Host   Gene Nieghoff

March 25th 2006

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Members in Attendance

Neil Butterfield

 Larry Carter 

Tim Coppage

Tom Davis 

David Rabenius

Richard King


Doug Endrud 

Russ Huffman

Owen Jeffers 

Chuck LaRue 

Rick Sparber

Bob Sanders 

John Lea 

David Littleton 

Gene Lucas 

Glen Lynch

Gene Niegoff 

Guest, Sean King D. Mayeron visiting from Berkley, Ca.

We had our electroless nickel plating demo Saturday March 25 at Gene Niegoff shop.



We have 26 paid members right now.  Dues are $15 per year.  The money covers our web page costs plus some misc meeting expenses.  We currently have $855.98 in the bank.  We discussed having a special catered meeting including our spouses. We need to get this better defined and scheduled. The group thought it was a good idea. Gene will check the availability and viability of the pavilion in his sub-division.  Glen Lynch mentioned the Train Club has a room with AC at the train park.  This may be available for a nominal fee

We discussed coolants. Valcool is the coolant Neil Butterfield uses for everything. The trouble is it comes in concentrate that's cut 17 to 1 and the 5 gallon container at big bucks makes several lifetimes of supply for a home shop guy. We are interested in a club purchase of a bulk supply and we each buy a portion sharing the cost and avoiding wasted material. Neil Butterfield volunteered to check into a bulk purchase for us to share. 


Bluing is a controlled rusting process with additives that close the pores of the metal . Hot bluing as we see on many things requires a caustic solution at 200 to 250 degrees. It has dangerous fumes, requires ventilation, and generates waste requiring special disposal. The tanks and heat source are cumbersome to set up and tear down. It's not something you would do for a one off part now and then. 

Conventional nickel plating also has significant set-up, and disposal issues.

The demo at this meeting is to show methods to achieve these 2 types of finish in a manner convenient for the home shop user.

Gene demonstrated a new product that is called electroless nickel plating. It is a chemical process that plates nickel on the part.  The deposition rate is .0001" in 10 minutes. The normal nickel layer thickness required to give the part proper appearance, protection, and wear resistance is .00025" thick The plating system used starts with a kit 

Caswell Inc.,  7696 Route 31, Lyons, N. Y. 14489   315-946-1213   

Price approx $75 Contains enough chemicals to completely plate 5 semi automatic pistol part sets This kit contains the 2 chemicals used to establish and maintain the baths required for the process. It also includes a tank heater for the plating bath and a full set of instructions. You must supply your own containers. Gene uses plastic steam table inserts with covers that he found on Ebay.  Gene also used a small ultrasonic cleaner for pre-cleaning the parts. This is an option he had because he uses the cleaner in other work he does. It is not a required element of this process per the directions. 

The process steps are:

1. Mount the part to be plated on a steel suspension wire firmly attached

2. insure the part is mechanically cleaned of surface rust, paint, etc

3. Wash the part in hot 190 degree distilled water

4. final prep the part with a denatured alcohol wash  Be sure not to touch the part with your hands after cleaning

5. Insure the plating bath is 195 degrees.   Maintain this temperature during the plating cycle

6. Suspend the part in the plating bath   Keep the part in the plating bath for the time required to achieve the thickness desired,   The bubbling action in the bath actually promoted the plating operation  The steel suspension wire is a key element in getting the plating operation started  Note: Agitation of the part during plating is not required

7. Remove the plated part and rinse with distilled water

8. Dry the part with a soft towel

9. As an optional finishing step. Heat the plated part in an oven at 400 degrees for 1 hour. This drives hydrogen out of the plated layer and makes it harder.

Remember the finished part will be as fine a surface as the original piece. Any smoothing, polishing, etc must be done before starting the plating process. Pay special attention to removing any and all polishing compounds before starting the process. Rouge used in polishing contains waxes that will mess up the plating if they are not removed

This process can be used on most metals including iron, steel, aluminum, copper, brass, etc.

Caution when plating threaded parts. A .0001" thick layer of plating on threads changes the fit of the thread by .0003" per side. This is because the layer is measured perpendicular to the plated surface, but the thread measurement is perpendicular to the part axis. Plating threads can cause interference in class of fit on threaded parts.

The chemicals are stored away from light and covered to prevent contamination between uses. The kit comes in a nice sealed plastic pail.

Disposal of the chemicals when they are depleted is simple. The kit contains a neutralizer that is poured into the bath. Then the bath can be disposed of in a common household drain. 

If you have any concerns about pre cleaning being good enough, use TSP (tri-sodium phosphate) solution in an initial cleaning step.  TSP is available at Home Depot, Ace Hardware, or even the grocery store.

Gene demonstrated a new cold bluing kit, Blue Wonder by Novum Solutions Inc  Houston, Texas,  Approx $25  Also, Sportsman's Warehouse (3 locations in the valley)

The process:

1. Insure the part is mechanically clean

2. Clean with 190 degree distilled water

3. Dry part with a clean rag Gene uses the packaged toweling rolls

4. Cover the surface to be blued with Blue Wonder cleaner

5. Wipe the part with a clean rag

6. Wipe on the Blue Wonder Gun Blue Use a clean rag.  Always wipe in the same direction  Keep the container of Blue Wonder Gun Blue agitated

7. Wipe on Blue Wonder Developer. If touch-up is required, restart with the cleaning step Bluing is a surface finish that is in the metal, It does not build on the surface like plating.  The Blue Wonder finish is not removed by solvents. Oils and waxes actually improve the luster of the finish.

These demos raised the question of how to remove the gunk from metal parts without taking off the paint. Steam and TSP will take it all off except the paint.

And Then The BBQ

We had a terrific BBQ after the meeting. Gene supplied his great Brats and his wife's chocolate cookies. We had lots of food and great interaction. Thanks to everyone for a great time.

Updated 4/04/06