Choosing an Electroplating Kit

There are several base metal or materials that may be plated with nickel as the finish. Once the base material has been decided on choosing the right electroplating kit for the project is the next step the home, hobbyist or small business plater must take.

A partial list of usable base metals include:

Aluminum
Brass, Copper, Bronze
Chrome
Iron or Steel
Pot Metal or Zinc Die Cast
Stainless Steel

When plated with nickel these metals sometimes require a few steps in order to prepare the material for a successful plating job. Once these preliminary steps are completed there are a few Nickel Plating Kit options available for sale for these smaller type projects. As with any plating project these are general tips, an instruction manual should always be consulted before starting any project.

As with any metal being plated, all surfaces should be properly cleaned, buffed and polished prior to plating. If the metal surface, especially pot metal or aluminum, contains a ding, dent or nick, a solder kit should be used for repairs.

Nickel Plating Kit Options

The Traditional Kit — uses a small tank or bucket and a power source.
The Electroless Kit — power source not required.
The Brush Kit — a Plug N‘ Plate kit using a power source and wand for small items.

Aluminum

When plating aluminum where aluminum is the base material metal and applying a nickel finish, the aluminum must first have a coat of zincate primer applied in order to keep the metal from forming a layer of oxide which will prevent the piece from being properly plated. The first step then is to zincate the aluminum, once this is done then the piece may be nickel plated with an appropriate kit.

The two best options for nickel plating aluminum are the Traditional Kit or the Electroless Nickel Kit.

Copper, Bronze or Brass

For these metals, one they are clean and free of nicks and grease, any of the above three kit options will work.

Chrome

Plating over chrome will not work, the chrome must first be stripped off of whatever base metal it has been applied to before the material can be plated with nickel. For this project, either strip the chrome layer using the proper chemical solution or buff or blast the chrome off. Once the chrome has been removed find out what the underneath metal is and apply the steps needed to nickel plate this discovered metal.

Steel or Iron

Nickel can be plated over Steel or Iron with any electroplating kit listed above.

Die Cast or Pot Metal

Zinc die cast and pot metal are both porous materials and can be diminished if exposed to solutions that are very acidic. A pH solution that is more neutral must be applied to the metal before plating can take place. Sometimes pot metal is very difficult to plate and at times, depending on the condition of the metal, may not be possible. In order to plate this material it has been determined that a special copper plate must precede plating with nickel. Caswell offers a system called Flash Copper Kit that can be used to prepare pot metal for plating. Once this copper kit is applied any of the three nickel plating kits may be used.

Stainless Steel

Stainless steel requires a pre-plate nickel activator prior to the final nickel finish. The activator will need to be applied with a power supply. Once this is done any nickel electroplating kit out of the above three will work.

This list of base metals is by no means an exhaustive one. Other metals that can be plated include: gold, pewter, tin and silver. Some metals that cannot be electroplated at all are: galvanized metal, carbide and zinc.