Instructables

High Quality (and Safe) Nickel Plating

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Just like my very popular copper plating instructable, the aim of this is to do high quality, low cost, and safe electroplating.  We will also be making our own electrolyte from scratch instead of buying chemicals online.

If you've looked at my copper plating instructable, note that the process here is different. The nickel will not dissolve very well if at all in the vinegar without special help and adding hydrogen peroxide will destroy your electrolyte.

Nickel plating can be used for a variety of different things.
- It creates a corrosion resistant coating that will protect the base metal from oxidizing and rusting. It is frequently used in food processing to prevent contamination with iron.
- It can increase the hardness and thus the durability of mechanical parts and tools.
- It can allow you to solder to difficult metals.
- It can create a variety of beautiful decorative finishes that range from a chrome-like gleam, to brushed stainless steel color, to a metallic black. It just so happens that black nickel plating is used frequently in aerospace applications
- In thicker platings, it can make the object magnetic.


Note that to get different finishes and properties, you may need to add other chemicals and metals to your plating solution (see the Post Prep stage).  These chemicals will change the way the atoms arrange themselves and/or add other metals to your plating.  If you are looking for corrosion-resistance, do not add any other chemicals to your electrolyte as they may cause the end plating to stain or tarnish.

For a copper plated finish, be sure to check out my copper plating instructable :)
http://www.instructables.com/id/High-Quality-Copper-Plating/ 

On another note, I LOVE your questions!  I have noticed that a few folks are asking the same questions, so I've added a "Common Questions" step/slide/section/whatchamacallit at the end of this instructable.  Take a look there to get quick answers to most of the questions you might have. If you have a new one, comment below and I'll be happy to answer it and add it to my step/slide/section/whatchamacallit :D

A quick disclaimer - nickel acetate, the chemical we will be making, is poisonous. The title "High Quality (and Safe) Nickel Plating" is referring more to the fact that you don't need to play with insanely powerful acids that will burn your skin or ask you to open batteries. In the concentrations we will be working with, the process is fairly safe.  However, do NOT drink the solution and be sure to wash your hands after plating and properly wipe down any surfaces that come near or into contact with your plating solution. Always supervise kids. That said, enjoy!
 
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longwinters8 months ago
Thanks for posting,,, for those persons looking for low cost power supply's the "wall wart" ( love that term) transformers are readily available at virtually all second hand stores, usually in a balled up mess, the phone chargers have a pretty clean current and it's well regulated.
A_Steingrube (author)  longwinters8 months ago
One note to this - the larger the voltage (to a degree), the faster you can dissolve your nickel. I would recommend somewhere between 10 and 15 volts. The output voltage should be listed on the power supply (ie wall wart).

If you want to use your DC power supply for plating, look for lower voltages (the phone chargers would work great for this).
A_Steingrube (author)  A_Steingrube8 months ago
I'm not entirely sure how this comment made its way here....I usually respond to comments using the comments tab on my "You" page....
astral_mage8 months ago
ok ppeople 4 those who want thier metals try this company out. http://www.mcmaster.com/# . they should have every thing u may want / need . or dont want / need
andrea biffi8 months ago
I like the "For Science!" label on the vinegar :-D
sjfloat8 days ago

Have you ever done black nickel using this method?

dlhanna12 days ago

I would like to use nickel pellets or pure nickel Canadian 5 cent coins to make my electrolyte. How can I suspend these objects in the vinegar solution? Can I use a fabric bag of some kind. Also how to make electrical contact with objects without polluting the solution.

I made nickel acetate successfully using nickel plate and the alligator clip as suggested but I am having difficulty finding nickel plate source.

Thanks for the excellent instructions.

Dave a retired EE.

A_Steingrube (author)  dlhanna12 days ago
I would avoid small bits of nickel as your sacrificial metal source because most metals will react with the vinegar and polute your electrolyte. I would find some sort of nickel wire, strap, pipe, bars, ect. on Ebay. With the canadian coins, you can try to use aligator clips as long as the clips don't touch the solution.
Thanks for the quick response. I will try to find some nickel sheets or rods. Very good instructions for nickel plating. Thanks for making them available.

Dave
andvari721 days ago

Intriguing. Is this nickel plating food safe? If so, what's to stop me from doing this with a cast iron skillet?

A_Steingrube (author)  andvari717 days ago
I would avoid doing this on food surfaces for a couple different reasons: 1) If no one sells nickel plated cookware, it is probably for good reason. 2) If any nickel accidentally flakes off into your food, you may inadvertently feed someone sharp metal pieces that have the potential to damage stomach and intestinal linings which may lead to hospitalization or death....not good.
A_Steingrube (author) 28 days ago
It is hard to say how long your acetate will last. If you use a nickel electrode while nickel plating, it is possible that you could use the same acetate solution indefinitely.
supertroopa868 months ago
Would using a power supply plugged into a GFI outlet remove the need of the fuse?
A_Steingrube (author)  supertroopa8628 days ago

i've been meaning to comment on this for a while - a GFCI outlet only protects against ground faults, not over-current. That is to say, if there is ANY difference in the amount of current going out of your "hot" wire (black) versus the current coming back into your neutral wire (white), it will trip. That imbalance of current comes from current leaking into the ground wire due to improper wiring OR, more importantly, when someone drops an electrical appliance into water with a grounded drain. Your fuse/breaker box is the only thing protecting you against over current if you don't use your own fuse....which means you may start a fire long before then.

A_Steingrube (author)  supertroopa868 months ago
No. The power supply is a step-down transformer. The current coming out of the power supply does not equal the current coming in (though the power will be the same). For example, if you had a 12 volt DC power supply connected to a 120V AC wall outlet and you were drawing 1 amp from your power supply, the power supply would be drawing 0.1 amps from the wall.

The reason to have the fuse is to protect the power supply and prevent a possible fire should you accidentally short your circuit. It is much easier and cheaper to swap out a burnt fuse than it is to hire a fire restoration company.
right which is exactly what a GFI outlet does, but it trips much like a circuit breaker does. I only ask because i would rather trust a UL rated device as apposed to something i rigged up myself
A GFI is not a circuit breaker. A Ground-Fault Interrupter (GFI) looks for even a tiny voltage between the 'hot' and the ground on a three pin socket, and interrupts the AC voltage if there is one. This is to protect (for instance) water getting into an appliance (or vice-versa) and hurting you, Hence their required use in bathrooms, kitchens and the like. Most wall warts don't even have a ground pin, which means practically nothing they do will trip a GFI. A fuse, or breaker, does not care about Ground, it simply stops an excess current from flowing. A fuse is usually not much more than a low melting point wire that can conduct less current than the wire/power supply it's hooked up to, it melts before your wire can.
mikerew CoreyCoop8 months ago
Nice instructable, but I have to disagree with you about the GFI. Actually, A GFI looks for a difference between the current supplied on the "hot" side and the current returning on the neutral...any difference (ie flowing through you) will trip the circuit. These will work with just a two prong plug.
CoreyCoop mikerew8 months ago
OK, my mistake (I'll look it up later), but the point is, it is not a substitute for a fuse.
A_Steingrube (author)  mikerew8 months ago
Working in industrial robotics, I've learned that you can't really have too much safety. I've also learned that circuit breakers (by any name) can fail due to contact welding and other issues. It costs only two or three dollars to install a fuse holder and fuse and fuses will only fail safely.
I agree with you 100% on that.....GFI. devices are not a substitute for proper fusing....GFIs are only for detecting current leakage and not for overload conditions.
kenash1 month ago

Will this work to change my "gold" cabinet knobs to nickel? I'm sure they are already plated with something, but have no idea what material it would be.

A_Steingrube (author)  kenash1 month ago
There is likely a clear varnish you will need to remove first, but yes, this would work.

Thanks for the tip to remove the varnish. Would there be a limit to the number of knobs I could plate before needing to make more acetate? I plan to do both copper and nickel. (Coating the copper with clear coat to prevent tarnishing).

Thanks so much for posting this!

Made a batch of Nickel Acetate yesterday, and just gave plating a penny a shot. My results were less than desirable. The penny corroded and, despite not having an optimal setup, I at least expected some of it to have worked. Perhaps you could help me...

I have a 6v 1A wall wart with a 250v 1A fuse on the Negative lead. I made a little hook out of Steel Wire (what I had on hand) to hold the penny in the Acetate- could that have been the ruining factor? I plan on plating both steel and copper with this (though not at the same time), so I am wondering what the best way to go about these are.

It looks like you have too much volts and amperage. 6 volts 1amp is too much. I use 3.5 volts at about 300 miliamps / .3 amps.

I realized my first mistake when I had the leads switched, so I got it plating properly, but it still seems a little high. Do you suggest just throwing some resistors on the rig?

LED lights usually run on 3 volts and about 300 miliamps. That's for the super bright type. They sell Led drivers on ebay relatively cheap

Success! I used a Power Regulator to get the appropriate voltage, and plated a piece of copper tubing perfectly. I didn't even clean it much beforehand and it it turned out great! Going to try it again with a 3.5v battery setup. Thanks for the help. :)

Mine turned out pretty good too. I plated a religious medal. They are made with cheap material. I copper plated it first then nickel.

20140620_184245-1.jpg

I was able to get 99.99 percent pure nickel from the local welding supply store. I paid a little over 5 US dollars per stick. I cut it in 3 sections. I used a 4 amp battery charger for a car to make my solution. You have to chip off the flux with a hammer. Very easy process. I sanded it to get it really clean. The flux is non conductive.

20140620_185901.jpg
hughgoh made it!1 month ago

Wow it worked great, and now I have my ring looking better than before, and it will probably last longer also.

ring 004.jpg
xchcui3 months ago

I made the nickel plating on a copper object with nice results,i gived a good polish between the electroplating and now it is pretty shine.I used 99.7% battery weld strip for making the electrolyte.the solution turns light green but with alot of dark particles on the bottom.Before i dipped the object into the electrolye i made electro cleaning with a fresh vinegar+salt solution(as you recommended)while i connected my object to the positive voltage-12v.(and to the negative i connected the nickel strip)i did it for 30 seconds.The copper object turn white-grey.

In your article(step 4)you wrote to connect the object to be cleaning on the negative voltage so it make me confused.shouldn't it be write to be connected to the positive voltage?As you explained that the object should be dissolved a bit.and i understand that it should happens at the positive voltage?

And was it ok. to make the electro-cleaning on 12v or it should be on 6v?

The little black particles is the carbon added to the metal for strength.

splodgie xchcui1 month ago

Hi, I made my solution using Canadian 5 cent coins 99.9%, I had very small particles in the bottom as well, I got them out using a Magnet on the out side of the Jar as the were magnetic, just collected them all up ,pulled them up the side of the glass jar and onto the magnet, Now its 100% clear.

palombo50501 month ago

Items made with nickel.

Belt buckles, Bra hooks, Bracelets, Cigarette lighters, Costume jewelry, Earrings, Eye glass frames, Fasteners, Hair pins, Hand tools, Hand bag clutches, Heirloom jewelry, "Hypoallergenic" jewelry, Jean studs, Keys, Kitchen utensils, Lipstick holders, Metal buttons and snaps, Metal items at workMusical instruments (keys, mouthpieces) Necklaces"Nickel-Free" ScissorsSuspender clipsTunersWatches and bandsZippers

nzafar1 month ago

can i use acetic acid(vinegar) on wrought iron for cleaning rust,grece,oil etc?

siamonsez1 month ago

Any tips for plating large objects? If I use a plastic container for the bath does it have to be a specific plastic?

splodgie1 month ago

Hi, worked out great, getting the Nickel was the hard part for me (UK), Tried the Fender pure nickel guitar strings sold on eBay, even striped out the steel core as you said but it makes a brown colour mix that dose not work, so I used 5 cent coins from Canada 99.9% pure (( 1965/81) http://coldfusionnow.org/pure-nickel-coins/ ).
I did this project because I do a lot soldering work and for 50% of the price of a new bit for my iron I got all my plating items, and the re-plated bit works as good as a new one so very happy.
This may be of some help for labeling up your poison bottle. http://www.warninglabelgenerator.com/ Thanks for instructable project.

Now for the copper plating project.

Does steel require copper plating to plate in nickel? Also, what voltage do you suggest?

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