DIY Electroplating - Zinc and Nickel

  1. Hi;

    I have been cleaning up some auto parts for an engine upgrade, these include suspension parts as I need to upgrade the brakes.

    Some of the parts will be painted - but I would like to electroplate some of the parts. I have sourced a recommended electroplating company but had always thought about having a go myself (as with most things).

    I have looked at kits on the www, (Frost, Caswels and eBay), as well as Youtube videos, most of the kits come with a power supply but I'm sure I can make one up using a spare ATX PSU or Battery Charger?

    Anyone done this, could I do it cheaper than buying a kit or should I just get a plating company to do it?

    These are some of the parts before their final clean up:


    And theres also a few oil pipes and fuel overflow, along with loads of nuts and bolts:


    Also have a large timing plate.

    I'd like to do the pipes and timing plate in Nickel and the nuts and bolts in bright zinc. I'd also like to do some of the brackets and suspension parts in Yellow Zinc. Maybe the drive shafts in Blue or Black Chromate Zinc?

    Thoughts - ideas?
  2. hotponyshoes Member

    Somerset. Uk
    Not tried plating myself but done some anodizing.
    Check what type of power supply you need and how big as a battery charger might not do it.
    I ended up with a 200a constant current supply yo get through parts at a decent rate.
  3. atomant48

    atomant48 Member

    Salisbury, UK
    Where are you in the south west ? There’s a place in Southampton that does a great job. I’ve used the gateros kit and had mixed results. It was a lot of hassle. There’s a few threads run previously on here about it.
  4. I live up / down in North Devon. SMB plating is the closest. Also looked at Gateros, the 5L kit is £80. I have everything apart from the chemicals
  5. slim_boy_fat

    slim_boy_fat Forum Supporter

    @JonnyAlpha Have a search back through @The_Yellow_Ardvark' posts - he has used kit(s) and did a review/report on the work involved and the results.
  6. knighty Forum Supporter

    these guys did it recently....

    battery charger as a power supply too

    Nomad and slim_boy_fat like this.
  7. voipio Member

    Cambridge, UK
    Cleanliness is absolutely key to good plating. The nickel will need copper below it for good adhesion and corrosion resistance.
  8. The_Yellow_Ardvark

    The_Yellow_Ardvark Member


    The DIY kits are not bad, scan my history and you will see the posts.

    They are good for small and one off parts, if time is on your side and you have some to waste.

    There will be a plating place with in a reasonable distance. They are set up for one off customer loads and the amount you have got. The size will help with the price.
  9. I'd love to have a go but I am really struggling for space and time. It may end up that it would cost me as much for the materials as it would to get everything done professionally.
    atomant48 likes this.
  10. Ianb Member

    Lymington, UK
    Atomant48 - what is the nae of the plating place in Southampton? Do they do all the prep/cleaning and can you give an example of price? Thanks

    If home plating, does the item surface to be played need to be in line of sight like with electrolysis rust removal or will it plate all surfaces of the submerged part?
  11. atomant48

    atomant48 Member

    Salisbury, UK
    Hampshire electroplating in empress road. From memory it was about £100 for a big bin of nuts/bolts and hubs etc as well as suspension arms and fittings etc. Like the size of the bin Tesco orders get delivered in.

    And yes they did everything including cleaning degreasing etc. Top chaps down there.
    Ianb likes this.
  12. lchris21

    lchris21 Member

    South Wales
    :)I've been having a go myself and quite happy with the results. Theres a thread on here with my efforts
  13. Ianb Member

    Lymington, UK
  14. @The_Yellow_Ardvark @lchris21

    Gents - following up on this, some questions on Electroplating, to which I would value your experienced based opinions.

    Here is a pic of some of the items that I would like to Electroplate, I also have a couple of Chinese Takeaway Tubs of nuts, bolts and washers:

    BZ = Bright Zinc
    YZ = Yellow Zinc
    Ni = Nickel
    B Ni = Black Nickel


    I have had a quote from a local company (60 miles away) £100 - £120 to do the lot, with a few caveats - they don't do Black Nickel and they are not sure about the drive shafts due to the tolerances if plating the splines on the ends - i.e. would they still fit in the CV joints.

    I have been emailing Gateros Plating regarding thier kits - they have been pretty helpful.
    I have looked at YouPlate but a lot of the key products are now marked up as 'Professional Use Only!!'

    I will probably get the larger items plated by SMB Plating (the local company) however would like to have a go at doing some of the smaller items myself as it interests me greatly. Probably just Zinc to start with?

    1. In the kits there are items that I don't need (gloves / cable) and is it cheaper to obtain the items separately?
    2. I have read / seen that a Battery Charger is suitable however would I need to add say a DIY regulator to control the power?
    3. Do you or don't you need to Copper Plate before Nickel?
    4. Gateros have advised that before plating you need to make sure all previous plating is removed, this pre-cleaning phase is not included in the kit so they recommend some form of Brick Cleaner? They also suggest that I would need some De-ionised or Distilled Water.
    5. When looking at buying separately many of the key items on YouPlate are marked as 'Professional Use Only' and are therefore not available to the general public - me?

    I am trying to put together a comprehensive bill of materials

    Your advice would be most welcomed.
  15. Hopefuldave Intergalactic pot-mender

    The Shed of Danger, surrey, England
    If worried about spline tolerances, could you mask off just the splines before plating? Would the acid dip remove enough metal to allow for the plating? it's usually only a gnat's thick!

    Current limiting can be as simple as a headlamp bulb in series - e.g. with a 12v supply and a 60w bulb it *can't* go over about 5 amps even if you short the tank.
    I've always believed copper before nickel, but some of the electroless nickel plating kits don't do that - if sending out for "show quality" chroming, bike parts etc. are always "triple chromed" - copper, nickel, chrome.
    Brick cleaner should remove old plating, it takes zinc off in seconds, but do it outside, stay upwind, avoid the fumes (the fumes will rust anything nearby...)

    Professional use - well, you must have a profession...? I've never had any problems buying e.g. methylene chloride and other nasty chemicals, although the EPP regulations (Explosives, Poisons and Precursors) have made it difficult with some - you can obtain a EPP licence for about £40 which lasts 3 years, need a referee e.g. a local copper who knows you're a Sensible Person!
    This may be necessary for the yellow zinc, which (if I unforget unmistakenly) uses chromic acid?

    One warning, there's a thing called "hydrogen embrittlement" that affects alloy steels in plating, industrial practice is a bake-out at high temperature (but not high enough to remove the hardening / tempering) to remove the hydrogen that leaches into the material.

    Another warning - the final appearance is 99% down to the state of what you're plating, the smallest scratch or pit will show up even more when plated - but you already know that!

    Dave H. (the other one)
    gt6s likes this.
  16. lchris21

    lchris21 Member

    South Wales
    In answer to your questions, and please bear in mind im no expert....
    1: Im like you didnt need all the extras that came with the kits. Had all the other items I needed except clean container/kilner jars ect which I picked up cheap from Asda? Chemicals I just contacted the supplier (Youplate in my case and they advised and supplied what was needed)
    2: I had a adjustable power supply unit alredy so have not tried a charger?
    3: I've read/been advised that copper can be plated before nickle to give you something more substantial to polish out any blemishes, but Ive just gone straight to bare metal with good results? Dont know what the longevity is, but as has been said.......clean, clean, and clean again.........oh then clean it again !
    4: I was mistakenly using dilute suplhuric for pickling, but this is more suitable for brass? I was advised to use hydochoride based pickle for steel....I think the brick acid you refer to is the same? Demin is a must
    5: I think the "professional use only" is Rse covering marketing.....Ive dealt with Youplate and they have been very helpful. Answering very quickly any queries very quickly via messenger/Facebook?

    As for spline clearances, the home brew plating is only microns thick so I would not worry about it. You can also go down the rabbit hole of Hydrogen embrittlement if you have a few hours to spare. I avoid any safety critical fastners like brake caliper bolts etc, as Ive seen the "professionally plated" consequences of heads shearing off. Start talking hydrogen embrittlement to my local platers and he'd think you were taking some artificial stimulants, so they know nothing about it!! tuppence worth...hope it helps!!
    Im like you weighed up the whys and why nots and decied to take the plunge. I find it useful if your mid job and need a small bit of widget done....bit of faffing and its ready, otherwise its weeks of waiting, or posting stuff off, not knowing if you'll ever see it again. Id not attempt to re-plate a 50's American Automobile, but for small stuff, id say go for it....its very rewarding!!
    Good luck