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Chrome Plating of Car Headlights and Parts

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I want to share my experience with Electroplating parts with, Copper,Nickel, and Chrome.


If there's anyone interested out there, I will help out as good as I can.
Sorry about the lack of pictures and video from the buffing and polishing. I was so focused, that i completely forgot to use the camera :)

An IMPORTANT thing, is to check out with your country's regulations regarding these chemicals. And NEVER EVER dispose them out in the nature. Some of them are harmful to the environment, and poisonous to yourself.

The gases from the plating are odorless, but extremely corrosive. I was just slightly unaware a moment, and got some nose bleeding after this. NOT recommended..! Show respect for the chemicals, and always read the datasheet before start. Use goggles and gloves.

 
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Step 1: Before dismantling.

Picture of Before dismantling.
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Here you can see the old chrome of the headlamp. Its really worn out. And the door handles are in poor condition. Heavily infected with Zinc Pest. Had to clean out all the pitting with my dremel drill.
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static5 months ago

Far out to see some do this at their home shop, and document the process. I'm sure their ar way to either nuetraling plating fluids or otherwise safely disposing of them. Here in the US we a still able to change the engine oilYears ago My uncle and I where getting set up to do small scale " chrome" plating. We did metal polishing set up. I had a stroke at young and he had several health issues, and didn't get any further. My understanding the bright chrome plating is triple chrome plating, where other chrome plating isn't In bright chrome plating the metal is polished as smooth it can, Then copper plate is put on the help the nickel to adhere to t part as well fill imperfections in the metal. The copper is polished before the nickel is applied, and it the nickle that provides the silver color not the chrome color. My understanding is the chrome plate is nearly clear and is what give the part a bluish hue, also the main reasonfor the chrome is to protect the nickle layer. We read of metal parts being chrome plated but it's not the triple plating process.. The chrome is used on metal to provide wear resistance

tonywell7 months ago
Gateroes Plating won't send here, thats a blow
tonywell8 months ago
Magic, I was really concerned about taking some of my rare parts to the plater here, they regularly loose bits, you wait forever and they charge a fortune. I'm deffo going to do it. I'll start with other things and perfect it before i do the rare bits for my cars. I have two 1925 Austin 12/4's a Clifton and Windsor, two Austin Healey's a Froggy and a BJ8, and five Jaguars to do all the plating for so I'm sure I'm going to save a bundle. The Early Austin’s were all Nickel plated but it wasn’t shinny finish, it was a bright finish though.
kjegelan (author)  tonywell8 months ago

Hello...! Wow...you are really in to old classics..I would loved to have a tour in your garage..! I can absolutely recommend the nickel and copper plating for your cars. But you have to know that it is something you have to do over and over again to get the hang of it. The plating is actually easy compared to the blasting,welding,machining,cleaning, and buffing of the various parts. But as soon you get the hang of it ,it`s all worth it. Especially for all the parts that DONT have to have a mirror finish. The satisfaction that you actually done this yourself, and that the result is a part that will last forever. And you never know what kind of people handles your precious and one of a kind parts. In my opinion, the old Austin`s should not have a mirror like finish like you say, but have a bright finish that mirrors the tools and equipment for that time in history. I think that there is something odd with a 1936 car with most of the visual parts brand new..!
I can recommend that you contact Dan at Gateroes Plating, and order a starter kit from him. Do not do like I did, and start straight with the headlight..! It went well, but was a scary thing to do..! Start with a copper kit and a neutral nickel kit. The difference between the neutral nickel kit and the bright nickel kit, is the finish straight away. (This is my opinion/experience) The headlights on my Austin were plated with neutral nickel. Witch I buffed to the shiny finish. The neutral nickel finish is also more coarse, so it is a good surface for POT metal for example before copper plate. And you need the neutral nickel to even think of plating POT metal.
The Bright nickel kit, I would recommend for parts that are hard to buff, but that you still want a shiny surface to. It can be buffed to a mirror like surface, but also looks good untouched.
The other KIT I would recommend for you is the nickel/zink combination. This is a really easy easy way to get a really corrosion resistant and good looking surface at the same time. I use it often just on rusted and unprotected bolts and nuts I use. After a proper rust removal of course. AND... get yourself use to rustremoval using electrolysis. This is much easier than you think, and give great results.

Ok... Do not hesitate to ask if you need help with the start of the art of home plating..! I can guarantee that you will have fun doing it.
tonywell kjegelan8 months ago
These are better images of the finish on the radiator surround
Windsor.jpg$(KGrHqZHJDYFFSJfZJOWBRZosTPuGQ~~60_12.jpg
tonywell kjegelan8 months ago
Thank you I will, yes the Early Austin’s had no shinny bits, they were the British VW of the day. The head lamps were painted and the plating they did have was all matt type of finish. The Jags and Healey were on the other hand full of shinny bits
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andrea biffi8 months ago
Well done Kjetil, in addition that's a beautiful car!!
kjegelan (author)  andrea biffi8 months ago


Hello again Andrea, and thank you...;)

I was lucky to get my hands on this car to "care" for.,, It have had most of its time in Belgium i believe. It is small enough to have inside my workshop. I would like to get some more space, but that will be in 2014. I need space for all my future projects.

Do you have any coming projects Andrea..? I follow you in here, but have spend most of the summer at work, or trekking in the Norwegian mountains. So now it is time to work inside again. I am lucky to have a job offshore that I can combine my interest for electronics, hydraulics, and mechanics. And, we have a LOT of waiting, and fast internet connection...!

i made myself a bad copy of your pcb drill stand. I bought myself a laser printer, and started to produce some pcb`s. It worked fine, but I need a better motor with a regulated powersupply, or just a cheap dremel like drill to fit to it.

My ongoing project now is to make myself a sort of visual wave generator. The one with clear acrylic glass, blue coloured water, and clear mineral oil.

The other ongoing projects is :

A laser cutter/CNC drill/ router/ engraver

Plate and practice on more metals. And expand/ adapt to plate longer and odd parts.

A remote/wifi controlled rover car with live view transfer.

Make a small cutter for acrylic plates.

Make a pan/tilt camera stand for my sony camcorder from a cheap pan/tilt camera.

Explore the RGB leds, and make a RGB led cube.

Explore the new powerful led`s, and be able to focus the beam.

Make myself a Pixie tube clock.

Combine my acrylic paintings with arduino and fiber optics.

And MANY more..... Most of them just to learn how they work... For many of them, I will use Arduino I think. I got myself a bunch of cards, and enjoy to explore their potentials.


Ok...have to pressure test my acrylic tube ;)

Have a nice day...!

Regards,

Kjetil

lklunder1 year ago
Hello again Kjegelan
I have several parts of zamak in bad conditions, these parts needed be filled with solder, but I am confused, I understand that the first step is clean the metal with sandblast, what type of abrasive you use to get out the chrome ?.
Then the part is ready to first bath and here is my doubt between the following options:
a) The first bath is dipped in the Acid Picle solution and then in to the neutral nickel strike bath and then nickel and cupper or
b) The first bath is nickel to seal the pot metal and then the cupper bath to apply the solder ?.

After the solder what is the next bath to apply ??
Could you tell me exactly the steps I should follow ?
Thanks in a advance
black581 year ago
Looks fantastic. Well done.
kjegelan (author)  black581 year ago
Thank you :)
clazman1 year ago
Nice for the you but what if many others take this up?

What did you do with the remaining solutions? You didn't dump them down the sewer!

It's bad enough that a business does this, but that case, the waste can be localized, rather than in everyones garage, and disposed of in an ecological way (hopefully).

But we don't want any more government control. We want to do what we want. Pollute how we want...

Yes, as a kid, it bothered me when my dad, as an auto mechanic, would dump waste materials on the ground right outside our garage and close to the house.

The car is cool though and your work looks good.
kjegelan (author)  clazman1 year ago
I`m sorry if you feel that way. I tried to emphasize this in the beginning,of the importance to handle these chemical the right way. These solutions mainly contains relatively mild hazardous chemicals, but could harm the environment if spilled in nature. In my area, and in my country of Norway ,we got strict rules about this. And is by law forced to deliver all of the spills to the local waste company. And I,myself know that these chemicals do get the right treatment/destruction. I earlier had a job there myself, and have collected all imaginable waste materials and chemicals from both industry, hospital, and private households. Even radioactive waste..!
Another thing. If you keep doing this plating, there will never be any waste. You will mainly just add chemicals like salts, acids, and alkaline solutions. The "spills" will be the drops from when you dip the parts from a bath to another. Most of the chemicals will therefore neutralize themselves.
I live in a very clean country, and would like to keep it that way. It is all our responsibility to keep it like this. But I cant control what everybody else is doing. I would like to think that everybody cares about this planet after all. And I will continue to experiment with both plating, and other chemicals.
I will encourage you to see the possibilities with this techniques, and not the so called negative sides with it. But I see your point, and I agree in some of it.

Have a nice evening , and thanks for the input :)

Kjetil
I'm sorry for being too strong with my comments. I didn't mean to attack you personally. I do, however feel we need to control our waste products, whatever they may be.

I do fear that if too many people try this and are not as environmentally cautious as you that would indeed be a bad situation.

Again, I am sorry for attacking you personally.
kjegelan (author)  clazman1 year ago
That is OK my friend. I understands your concern, and I agree with you in the Environment issue. Many of these chemicals are "just" concentrated salts witch is found naturally in the nature. Like Natrium Chloride.(NaCl) This is just normal salt used in food. But, like I cant made clear enough : Despite that the quantities of these chemicals are low, It is still hazardous to the enviroment and to yourself.!
Said that, I am more concerned about other projects in here, that often make use of electronic equipment that contains far more hazardous chemicals and heavy metals..! These components are often sealed to make sure that nobody can come in contact with them.
I do not want to make a joke about this, but I will also say that all the Bacon and cupcake projects also have a bad effect on the human body..!

lklunder1 year ago
Hello again, and thanks for your answers !!
I see that you use a 12V battery to process but in some pictures I see a some like a rheostat ( half reed with winding wire ); is this to limit the current in some baths and how to do this part ???
Thank's in advance
kjegelan (author)  lklunder1 year ago
Hello....!

The current control is made by a spiralling wire provided in thew kits. This is ok to use, but if you want a more controlled current, you must use a adjustable power supply. I use now a self made thing that uses a series of 12Volt /10 watt halogen bulbs. 10 of them makes about 10 ohms. Same as the provided current controller. I will try to show this in a video soon. Feel free to ask questions :)
lklunder1 year ago
Hello again, and thanks for your answers !!
I see that you use a 12V battery to process but in some pictures I see a some like a rheostat ( half reed with winding wire ); is this to limit the current in some baths and how to do this part ???
Thank's in advance
How much would you say this cost you?
kjegelan (author)  justin.jackson1 year ago

Hello...!

It is hard to say how much it cost me. But I think it is around 400 british pounds. You can see the prices at http://www.gaterosplating.co.uk/Home.php
I have considered to get the chemicals myself from other places. But it is far more simple and cheaper to just buy a ready Kit. It will not be easy to get hold of all the chemicals for "normal" people either.
And another thing is that these Kits will last for years probably. There will be little spill from it, and the fluid that disappear, is mostly water evaporation.
lklunder1 year ago
Thanks for you answer.
I have a doubt about the weld type.
What's type of welding you used to refill the holes on the handles, do you use silver or other type ???
Thanks in advance
kjegelan (author)  lklunder1 year ago
Hello...!

I used a normal 60/40 soldering tin. 60% tin and 40% lead.

After the first layer of nickel, I put on a layer of copper. And then it is ready to be filled with solder. Just cover the whole surface with flux , and start heating. When hot enough on the thickest part, you can start filling. Just make sure that it fills all the holes up above the surface. The tin will cover a large area of the surface. That i ok. Its better to put on to much than to little. After this you have a major job to sand down the handle to a smooth surface, with all the access tin removed. I hope that this was helpful :) I will make a detailed youtube instruction of this in some days. And publish here.
moking1 year ago
Considering all the pitfalls associated with metal plating, and Chrome is one of the most difficault metals to plate, the quality of your final result is excellent. You seem to have cottoned on to the most important aspects of chrome plating, which is to clean to the molecular level, as the new metal you plate with does bond at the molecular level and as such the cleaning at all stages needs to be thorough. I hope the thicknesses lain down are within the required perameters, as I know all about the UK acid rain having spent 60 years there before departing to the sunnier climes of Spain.
kjegelan (author)  moking1 year ago

Hello..!

Yes, it is quite difficult to get it all right. It takes days and weeks of training. The replica Chrome, is not actually chrome, but Nickel with the use of cobalt salt in the electrolyte. This makes it more brighter like chrome, but without the use of Chrome acid solutions. But it does not madder. The finish of this, is very mirror like, and the nickel itself is fairly resistant against acid rain.
But...I am NOT an expert in this field. I started with this just 5 weeks ago. So I am still in the trying/failing phase. But It is really fun and a rewarding hobby...! I have a background from the Aircraft industry. Otherwise I would not have started this. Now I work offshore in the North Sea, so I am quite eager to get home to provide some more instructions and videos to the Instructable here. The plan is to take a part, and follow the process straight to the last finish. The easiest job is the plating, and the hardest part is the buffing and cleaning. On the door handles, the most difficult, is the soldering of cracks and pits. I would say that 1 doorhandle is more work than the 2 headlights together..!

Have a nice day ;)

Regards, Kjetil
cnludwig1 year ago
Great instructible! Thanks for all the awesome pictures!!
lklunder1 year ago
Hello, excellent instructable !!!, I have two questions. How do you make to strip off the layer old chrome from zamac ??.
The holes on zamac that you made was refilled with tin solder after the cupper layer ????
Thanks in advance
kjegelan (author)  lklunder1 year ago
Thank you, and Good morning..;) The handles is best sandblasted. You can not use chrome stripper like you use on other metals. Othervice you have to sand it down by hand. The old chrome have to be completely removed. Remember to use gloves to not contaminate the part with oil/grease. Then, the part is dipped in the Acid Picle solution for about 20 seconds. The part will now appear to be boiling! Then in to the Neutral Nickel Strike bath. The low acidity makes the nickel bind to the POT metal. When a dull even light gray surface is achieved, the part is rinsed and goes in to the copper bath. After a uniform build up by copper, the part is rinsed and dried. Then you cover the part with soldering flux. Be extremely consentrated while soldering to prevent disaster..! The temperature range between the solder and the parts melting point is quite narrow. Start with the thickest part first, and work the solder towards the thinnest part.
skwoorl1 year ago
I have worked with frp and epoxies in winter and have used everything from water bed heaters, electric blankets and therapeutic heating pads from the pharmacy to pre heat my resins. Would something like these work? If heat regulation could be achieved.
kjegelan (author)  skwoorl1 year ago
Hi there...! I also worked with composites during my work with the B737, and we used heat mats and vakuum for the molds. In this case I just use the tank heater that is included in the kit. It has a thermostat, and heats the tank to right temperature within 30-45 minutes. I just throw this heater in the tank before plating, and remove it during plating. You do not need constant heating. The bath stays warm enough for a long time. But for the copper,witch need a longer plating time, I think it would be enough to just wrap some kind of insulation around the tank. It is not that critical. Have a nice day, and do not hesitate to ask if there is something else :)
danzo3211 year ago
What means "replica chrome"? Is it real chrome?
Looking at the list of ingredients, I don't see any chromium at all. Therefore, it is most likely a higher gloss nickel plate that looks just like chrome.
kjegelan (author)  mecoman1 year ago
Hi... I just copy and past the answer I gave to "danzo321" : "Hello...! I recon that they call it replica chrome ,because of the simplified operation of it. Normal chrome is a two stage operation, with Chromium trioxide witch is highly toxic. Not sure about the metal used, but i suppose it is chrome. It looks similar to Nickel, but is definitely different after plating. Much brighter and easier to buff and polish. But that's my experience with it. "
kjegelan (author)  danzo3211 year ago
Hello...! I recon that they call it replica chrome ,because of the simplified operation of it. Normal chrome is a two stage operation, with Chromium trioxide witch is highly toxic. Not sure about the metal used, but i suppose it is chrome. It looks similar to Nickel, but is definitely different after plating. Much brighter and easier to buff and polish. But that's my experience with it.
I am very impressed, not only with the professional instructable, but with your awesome car! Did you restore it yourself? Is that an Anglia? The paint is like a mirror, and the interior would look at home in a Rolls Royce! If that were my car, my face would always be hurting because of the wide grin I would continually have! Again, congratulations both on the instructable and on the car.
Nice job!
The country I live in is the world's biggest exporter of Chromium.
Exceptional work!! Should I just leave my address here for delivery? Ha ha. The work made a very nice car over and above!! And not wondering if I can put some of this well written information to work on my antique clocks that aren't for restoration or conservation, but so far gone I just want to see what I can do with them so they look amazingly cool. And I definitely commend anyone and everyone who opts for conservation as a 1st choice.
kjegelan (author)  barefootbohemian1 year ago
Thanks ..;) Often ,the parts look much worse than they are.. So with some caution, its mostly easy to get good results. Not sure about your clocks, but it might be a brush plating job..? With my car, I dont stress to get a perfect result. The car is almost 80 years old, and shall have a "old" look. It would be strange if your 85 year grandfather suddenly got a pair of Hollywood teeth...hehe.. You work with glass..? I want to try that out for myself... but now its only this plating and acrylic/oil painting. Kjetil
Iam totally with you about keeping all possible parts original and I do my best to use the original techniques the makers used in the time period. I really like it that way. Besides always giving me new things to learn, I often get to learn a skill that has been obscured by modern technology and substance that might come in handy later in life :)).
Having said that I guess the need to money to support my habit (doing a little of everything and selling little of anything) so I can keep on doing what I like doing without going to far in the hole financially lol. I'm known for underpricing when I even set a price. The reward of sharing something really cool is just so worth it!

I have a feeling you would like doing glass work. Which type have you considered? I started in mostly leaded and stained glass panels and repair, but when the opportunity came to purchase a glass kiln at a good price, my little world of cutting and piecing spiraled into learning the art of melting, fusing and all the little things that aren't so little when it comes to how different glass types are made. I was naive enough to think window pane glass was boring, it is far from boring.

I keep up with the acrylic and oil part too, plus still go back to computer generator graphics on occasion. Guess the weather dictates a lot of what I do, since the summer here means stay inside for me, and winters pass too quickly to really get anything complete.

And I just type to much ha ha!! But I will say before I go I am totally jealous!! Norway?? That has got to be so incredible, makes me think of fiords and Edvard Grieg! And then you get to play with ROV controls? Not sure I would want to be looking around at offshore well sites, more would want to just explore the ocean depths where its so cold things have just froze in time or develop in such incredible ways to survive!

Guess you can't drive over and drop that nice looking ride off to me tho eh?
kjegelan (author)  barefootbohemian1 year ago
Agree with you..Feels good to preserve and keep the good old ways to do things. But I also like to explore new things in life. Thats what they did earlier also. Our ancestors had to adapt to survive. We are lucky to just do whatever we like without starving. Of course the majority of people in the world isn`t as lucky as a small percentage of us that have all we need. So you do a little painting? I also do some art when I feel like it. Made a gallery on my homepage. http://kjetilegeland.com/Galleri/index.html The glass melting and fusing must be explored when I get the space for it. I`ve started a Instructable now to describe a little of my techniques in painting and art projects. Just for fun.
And yes. I am very privilege to live in Norway. A fantastic country to live in, and is lucky to have a job that is also what I have as a hobby.
The ROV business here is not only about oil. There are many other projects we are involved in.
K
I do agree yet again with you. I think what I find so incredibly interesting is finding out the how to some of the ancient ways of doing things. Who ever though to eat the inside of a prickly barb of artichoke? We're that starving so that it was an accident to find the delectable inner heart, or did they see some animal consume it while spitting its way past the "choke" and they decided to try it as well. I think I had always thought about those things, but the first time I used shellac I really found myself wanting to dig further and learn more. Who ever was it some 2000 years ago even considered using beetle excrement to cover a priceless treasure and protect it. So many things that on the surface appear ludicrous for the uses and manner they ended up being.

Went and checked out your paintings. I definitely like your technique. Not so many artist willing to get that involved in the process and get their hands dirty. Art is sentient and feeling it through the body and soul should be part of the creation. A piece speaks much louder to others when it has the imprints of the creator I think. I unfortunately am not so free in thought and creation to be that way. I do a lot of landscapes from "back home" I think keeping the memories of the mountains fresh in my mind helps me tolerate the dry desolate area where I am at. Plus I have unfortunately had to resort to painting for the sake of what others will buy more than I would like to. Have to support my habit, and paints and pigments aren't cheap. I would love to create in such a way that my hands were covered in the pigments of creation. I do really like the eye picture. It reminds me of a photograph I had done of my daughters eye to study in preparation of an idea for an acrylic that I never got to. Did keep the eye photo tho and have worked it into a photoshop creation. The overlays of people are also very intriguing. You are quite talented! And it was nice seeing your daughter working by your side on the chrome parts. DNA can't be left to its own devices for forming young minds in creativity. Of course I think the United States had such a poor educational system that creativity is left far in the background and the lack of individual attention to each child's strengths and desires leaves too many behind.
Yes, although I have never even been to Norway, I have often thought it would be a wonderful place to live. I'm sure what my imagination pictures it as is not entirely correct, but it would be nice to see someday and find out just what it is like. I tried to upload a photo of a corner in the room relegated to storage so I could show you some of my work. It stayed trying for a few minutes and I don't think ipad and instructable programs always mesh. But if you go to pintrest you can find a few things I've dont I think. I am not onto the social network side of things, I don't like much of what shows who I am being broadcasts on the Internet. But I do post a limited amount of things especially enjoy posting instructsbles to share a little of what I have learned over time. I am "Barefoot Artist" on pintrest if you ever want to check it out. And yes I type far tooooo much ha ha
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