Instructables
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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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)  longwinters1 year 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_Steingrube1 year 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....
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
I like the "For Science!" label on the vinegar :-D
Can plate it with nickel sulfate , which one will have better coating. We are doing a mini project on electroplating of nickel on mild steel. What can do for high quality coating(pre treatment procedures)
Waiting for your answer , thanks in advance
A_Steingrube (author)  praveenraaj3 days ago
​I don't know if nickel sulfate will work or not. You'll have to try it and find out. The main requirement is simply that it dissolves in water. Unfortunately, I am an electrical engineer and not a chemist. I figured this instructable out by a lot of trial and error and a bit of research.

As far as the quality of the finish, I would think they would be the same. All you are doing is stripping the metal ion from the chemical salt and attaching it to a metal object. Where that ion comes from shouldn't matter unless the byproducts of stripping off that metal ion are highly corrosive.

As far as pretreatment, I cover that in my instructable.
I tried both the copper and the nickel homemade solutions. The copper plating only came out so-so but the nickel plating came out fantastic. So my conclusion is that copper plating is a little more difficult.
dawknick29 days ago

You list that you plated at 6 volts but how many amps did you use?

lanthanoi1 month ago

I know this may sound crazy, but what if a person wanted to put an inexpensive metal coating over an expensive metal. For example, nickel/copper over gold? Would this process work for gold as the base metal? Then how would one best remove that plating later with the least loss of the base metal?

Ok, now that I've studied the chart at the end, I understand it can be done, but there is a risk of corrosion due to Galvanic effect. So, let's skip to the second part... you said that gold is not affected by vinegar so is it possible to simply dissolve the nickle (or copper, or combination) off the gold with a vinegar bath?

nr0x1 month ago
Im grateful for this and your other plating lesson. This is something im juat getting into, and ive been struggling. But I wonder if you can help me. I need to plate aluminum qith sometuing I can solder to, and I havent had any luck with the methods you have provided. I know you said that aluminum just doesnt plate very well. Is there something to make it easier? Again, thank you for your lessons on here.
xchcui8 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?

splodgie xchcui6 months 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.

xchcui splodgie1 month ago

The little black particles were not magnetic,so i could not collect them out of the jar.It might be,as palombo5050 said,carbon particles from the nickel strip?

Anyway,it didn't disturb to the process.

splodgie xchcui1 month ago

Hi, When using the 99.9% % cent coins I do NOT get any problems in removing the little black particles as the are all 100% magnetic, I ordered some 99.9% Pure Nickel strips of EBay for Nickel plating and they give me the same problem as you have, in the particles NOT being magnetic, it's because they are NOT 99.9 pure as they claimed.

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

lxrubin1 month ago

I found some 99.96% 0.1x4x100mm nickel plates on ebay. Are these pure enough? thick enough?

fupersly2 months ago

Hi Thank you so much for the tutorials. They are really excellent and clear. I have one question: Durability of the finish. You indicated that you could rub it off easily. I often see an old door knob or faucet handle slowly loose it's plating over time but it can take a few years. Assuming you do everything correctly, will the strength of the finish be as durable? If not are there parameters to the setup you can tweak to get a tougher finish?

Thanks!

nutley2 months ago

I just plated a bit of steel. I notice that there are tiny spots in the plating that look like shadows of where bubbles formed. Will I be able to buff these out?

digitaus2 months ago

Hi A_Steingrube, Firstly, thank you for this instructable. I did notice a jewellery item in there that had been plated... just wanted to point out to people that Nickel is rarely used in jewellery as there are so many people who are allergic to it, and where it is against the skin it can do some gruesome things. That being said, what I would like to try is partially plating copper with tin or pewter. Besides the problem of the "partial" which I will have to experiment with tape or blue-tak or paint etc, will tin electroplate with this system? Tin adheres to copper quite easily but can it be used as the sacrificial metal?

My wife and I make mixed metal jewellery and when it comes to copper, it looks great but blackens or greens the skin, I am truing to find a way around that.

Anyone? anyone?...

anw16524 months ago

I made a power supply using the L200C variable voltage/current chip. There is a datasheet & a design guide, but you probably need a bit of electronics expertise. I needed a 3-channel variable power supply w/ current limit anyway for some other electronics projects, but I'm easily distracted, and the idea came from ferrous metal restoration at this link:

http://myweb.tiscali.co.uk/andyspatch/rust.htm

At this link, the author uses a set of fixed amperages with a switch over a resistance network, but if you look at the L200C data sheet, you'll find a app circuit that implements variable voltage and current with pots. I replicated the datasheet circuit in parallel on a single card so I have three independently adjustable voltage/ current sources.

I have it set up right now doing steel de-rusting (per the above link, and that's working very well), and have both a volt meter & ammeter in the circuit. As soon as that's done, I'm going to nickel plate, as a strike on the steel, then copper plate over that.

Note that with a bit of chemistry, you can compute the required amperage for a given plating rate and run it for an appropriate time to get the thickness you want. I'm going to try to put something like a .5 mil plate of nickel, then try a few copper thicknesses over that.

If there's any interest (I think there were a couple of
questions in this regard), I can post voltage/ current values and the
results.

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

What brand/part number welding rods did you get? I got 10 Hobart Ni 99 rods for ~$30; according to the MSDS sheet, they are manufactured by a company called Selectrode. I can't find the exact Hobart composition and the closest I could find indicated they may be 93.5% Nickel (under the flux, of course). I'm going to try them today, and worst case, I guess I'll practice cast iron welding.

macrumpton4 months ago

I am looking for a way to plate some non conductive things like paper, cardboard and cement. Is there some kind of coating I can use to make these materials platable?

gredd4 months ago

Tried this on brass and it worked great, but tried on some steel parts (bead blasted clean, then degreased) and it just makes these dark splotches all over the metal - not shiny at all. Any ideas what's going on?

A_Steingrube (author)  gredd4 months ago
Many steel alloys don't play nicely with copper. You may need to nickel plate your piece first (check my other plating instructable).
sjfloat5 months ago

Have you ever done black nickel using this method?

dlhanna5 months 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)  dlhanna5 months 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
andvari75 months 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)  andvari75 months 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) 5 months 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.
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