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 :)

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!

Step 1: Materials

Nearly all of the supplies can be found at your local supermarket.  Finding a pure source of nickel is a little trickier, but should not cost more than a couple dollars. To keep from draining your battery in later steps, I very highly suggest finding an AC/DC power supply around the house.

Materials you can find at your local supermarket:
>Distilled Vinegar - 5% acidity or higher  (grocery)
>Salt  (grocery)
>Mason jar (canning)
>6V Lantern Battery (camping)
>Alligator Leads (electrical)
>Nitrile gloves (pharmacy or DIY)
>Paper towels (paper products)
>Cameo Stainless Steel and Aluminum Cleaner (cleaning supplies)

Materials you will likely need to buy online, at a good hardware/welding supply store, or a music shop.
Pure Nickel - You can get this a few different ways. I bought my nickel in the form of two 4oz plates on eBay for ~$5.  A good hardware store should carry nickel welding rods. Most music shops will carry Ernie Ball "Pure Nickel" guitar strings.

You can also try to remove the nickel windings from old guitar strings if you are strapped for cash. It takes a bit of time, wire cutters, and pliers, but it can be done. Note that most nickel-wound strings contain a steel core that will pollute your electrolyte later on (Ernie Ball "Pure Nickel" strings should be pure nickel).

You can also try to use solid nickel door knobs and the like.  I would warn you to be careful when trying this because a good chunk of "nickel" decorative items are plated themselves.

Optional, but highly recommended materials (also at the supermarket or a local electronics store):
A higher voltage, DC power supply - I am using an old 13.5V laptop charger. You can use "wall warts" (the ugly black AC/DC power supplies that come with some consumer electronics) or an old ATX (computer) power supply. Just make sure that it does in fact output DC.
A fuse holder
A fuse that is rated slightly less than the max current rating on your power supply.


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.
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). <br> <br>If you want to use your DC power supply for plating, look for lower voltages (the phone chargers would work great for this).
<p>From an experienced plater, the higher the voltage the faster it will plate yes but the adhesion will be weaker. If you are looking for a fast plating job the high voltage works but it may flake off in time. If you want something that is durable or needs wear resistance the half a volt should be used over a longer period of time. </p><p>A good way to test the adhesion is to use a strong masking tape after it is dry. Press the tape on to the plating the pull it off quickly and the look at the tape, if you see plating on the tape it didn't adhere properly. </p><p>Now you know:-D</p>
<p>Great ! @lstdrgn</p>
<p>Is the low voltage needed for optimum adhesion during the whole plating process, or could you increase the voltage to speed things up once an initial layer has been applied?</p>
<p>Is there an amperage we should shoot for? Or is that not an issue?</p>
I'm not entirely sure how this comment made its way here....I usually respond to comments using the comments tab on my &quot;You&quot; 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 &quot;For Science!&quot; label on the vinegar :-D
<p>Hi, could anyone tell me the ingredients of CAMEO or tell me about an alternative available in south america? Thanks</p>
A Steingrube, thanks a lot for this wonderful tutorial!<br><br>I tested it and it worked great!<br><br>However, some people and myself pointed out a little mistake regarding electrocleaning polarity: the part to be cleaned has to be on the positive, as it is the side were &quot;the electroboys&quot; remove material.<br><br>It could be very nice to correct it, as if people wrongly wire it, it can destroy their preparation work by plating unwanted metal depending the anode they choose.<br><br>I also have a question regarding adding tin to the bath.<br><br>The only source I have is 97% Sn solder, the other 3% being copper.<br><br>As your try with mixed copper nickel bath shown a black result instead of shiny, I am worried that the few copper contained in the solder ruin my bath.<br><br>Do you have an idea about it?
Thanks for the catch on my mistake, I fixed the mistake.<br><br>As per the tin, tin is a bit harder to do with our vinegar method. The reason being is that tin acetate (the chemical you will be trying to make) decomposes fairly quickly in water. What I've heard of folks doing is using hydrochloric acid to eat away the tin and make tin chloride. If you do this, it is VERY important to keep a low pH (ie &quot;extra&quot; HCl). If you consume your hydrochloric acid and are left with a tin chloride solution in water and your water gets too warm, the tin chloride will decompose into chlorine gas (yikes!) and tin precipitate.<br><br>Conversely, if you have extra HCl in your solution and the solution gets too hot, the tin precipitate will react with the surrounding HCl to make more tin chloride and the hydrogen atom released from that reaction can rebond to the chlorine to form another HCl molecule. Granted, this doesn't hold as true if you are plating with super high currents or in a very warm bath (gases don't dissolve easily into warm liquids), but it can alleviate things.<br><br>
thanks a lot ! I will try this next time !
So, after a little bit of experimentation, here are my results: by trying to dissolve tin in an already working nickel solution, I saw that the giving part seems to oxidizer, as it turn black and flakes off. I then try to plate a copper sample, but forgot to change the giver, letting the tin one.<br><br>the result was a non adhesive layer of this &quot;oxyde&quot; (pic 1)<br><br>I then replaced the giver by a titanium electrode. this time it plated the sample, but the result is rather grayish and not so shiny as pure nickel (pic2)<br><br>So I prefer to let my 38l of nickel sulfate solution alone ;-)<br><br>Of course this is a very crude experience, without any control regarding the quantity of tin injected in the solution, neither the ratio between it and the nickel, the salt, and the acid.<br><br>But definitely enough to dissuade me to try it on a +200 h of work copper piece!
mmmmmhhh.. Regarding cleaning polarity, after looking everywhere, all derusting tutorial ask to wire the piece to clean to the negative, which sounds not logical... witch means that I probably did not understood what's going on in this reaction... I will investigate on the theory, and if I was wrong, all my apologies to the author
<p>What if you need to plate a handful or really tine parts that cannot be clipped to a alligator clip?</p>
<p>maybe a stainless steel basket will work. recommend you shake it up from time to time to be sure all sides are plated and the parts don't stick together </p>
Looks like some people already went this route, and found out the hard way that yes, stainless steel WILL dissolve in the bath, giving dull results. To avoid any contamination I would try a conductive, yet non metallic media. Graphite?
<p>Many types of stainless steel contain a large percentage of nickel.</p>
<p>yeah, the more I thought about it, the more I realized it would take a gold, silver or palladium wire basket. </p>
Yes, and for that a muscled wallet! :-D<br><br>I thinked about it and here is my El cheapo solution: make a receiver out of wood or a &quot;basketry&quot;, and cook it (no direct flame) in order to have your own &quot;charcoal basket&quot;.<br><br>However, that is pure theory, and you will maybe check the conductivity of a piece of charcoal first to avoid useless work :-)
<p>check conductivity yes, as well as structural integrity. you wouldn't want the bottom to drop out. really tiny parts as originally targeted here might not weigh enough to be a problem but they would also only require a very tiny basket. one might try a basket formed of silver foil. 25 3-3/8&quot; square sheets from amazon, under $16. hang it from nickel guitar strings. can't find a thickness specified though. probably would need multiple sheets for strength.</p>
As I am currently experimenting to try to solve my own question (adding tin), I am using this titanium anode. <br><br>It may also be a solution.<br><br><br>...And the more I think the more I doubt about my first assumption. <br><br>Actually the commenter that has problems with stainless steel suspended both anode and cathode with stainless steel. <br><br>So maybe if only the receiving side (negative) has stainless steel or any other metal, it should in the worse case be itself also plated, maybe badly with as a consequence nickel flakes in the bath, and in the best case be completely incompatible with nickel, so not be plated at all.<br><br>if this statement verifies, the solution will be much simpler!
forgot the pic ;-)
<p>I bought an old erector set that has rusty parts. Do you think this would work on this type of steel without copper plating first? Im not sure what it's made of specifically.</p>
<p>I really love this instructable. But, I think there's a typo in step 4: <br></p><p>&quot;You can further clean your object by reverse electroplating (ie <br>&quot;electrocleaning&quot;) it for a few seconds. Hook your object up to a <br>negative voltage, a wire to the positive voltage, and drop them both in a<br> vinegar salt solution for 10-30 seconds.&quot;</p><p>Shouldn't the object to be cleaned be connected to positive voltage? The object you want to <br>clean becomes the anode and the wire becomes the cathode.</p>
mmmmmhhh.. after looking everywhere, all derusting tutorial ask to wire the piece to clean to the negative, which sounds not logical... witch means that I probably did not understood what's going on in this reaction... I will investigate on the theory, and if I was wrong, all my apologies to the author
<p><a href="http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/221870151008" rel="nofollow">http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/221870151008</a></p><p>While this do with 19 V laptop power supply and a normal 1.2 V AA battery for the plating process?</p>
the nickel source should be OK, despite that some nickel coins will be more pure and cheaper by weight. Try searching &quot;1 franc la semeuse&quot; or &quot;pure nickel coin&quot;<br><br>As for the power supply, the (very little) experience I have shown me that the voltage give a big difference in the adhesion and texture of the plating, and I was never as high as 19v!<br><br>if you want to use it, you maybe can add to your shopping list a 7805 ic, that will limit the output to 5v, or other voltage limited ic, or a Big resistor (wasteful but at least efficient)
<p>I'm going to be doing a bunch of carburator linkages, they are mild steel.<br>Does the nickel bond better if I copper plate first?</p>
If you read the chart at the end of the instructable, you will see that both the bond between iron and copper and between copper and nickel are stronger than the bond between iron and nickel. So theorically copper plating first is the way to go. <br><br>However, if you dig in the numerous and very interesting comments down there, you will find that an other guy just directly plated steel without problem.<br><br>So now it's your turn to experiment :-)
<p>Do you use vinegar because it's easily accessible and relitively safe, or for chemical reasons? Would any %5 acid solution (such as HLC) work for your method?</p>
I had good results with water and sulfuric acid to a 2 or 3 Ph.
<p>You want to make nickel acetate, for that you need acetic acid - vinegar.</p>
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)<br>Waiting for your answer , thanks in advance
​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.<br><br>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.<br><br>As far as pretreatment, I cover that in my instructable.
I know this question is old, but as some people could have the same, I just tested making the solution by adding sulfuric acid to water, to a PH of 2 to 3 (did it because I plan to plate a rather big piece with as a consequence the need of a 38l bath, and did not want to use the same amount of vinegar).<br><br>It worked very well!<br><br>I assume the chemical made is nickel sulfate.
<p>I'm not sure what is happening I have checked voltage with meter (7.5 to 8.5) label on wall converter says 6 volts DC, so not too bad I guess. Vinegar and pinch of salt, only nickel objects in bath.</p><p>Positive side is bubbling and producing black crystalline appearing mass that falls off settles to bottom of plastic container. Negative side not too many bubbles but forms a white crusty coating and quite a bit of material below on the bottom of container.</p><p>Nickel source is an old English made horse bit it is stamped nickel and made in England and is at least 70 years old. The bath has a nice green colour. I tried plating a copper penny but it just turned black with same deposit on it.</p><p>Should I just get a better Nickel source? local Metals Supermarket is wanting $150 for 4 inch square 2mm Nickel sheet. That is about the same price as commercial plating bath.</p><p>Not sure where one should go with this, comments much appreciated.</p>
If you do not have the expected results, that certainly mean you do not have the expected ingredient!<br><br>as the result of the experience of the author with mixing copper and nickel acetate gave results similar to what you describe, I think that your coin has some copper in it.<br><br>I used old French coins without problems, but checked beforehand on numismatic websites that it was 100% nickel.<br><br>If you can still read the face of the coin, I would check on a numismatic site (or Google English nickel / value / composition), or search the coin on Wikipedia to check for its composition.
<p>Thank you for this instructable. I'm planning on using it for a project and I wonder if there is a way to mask something during plating? For instance if you had a pipe that you wanted to nickel plate but you didn't want the inside of the pipe to be plated? I can imagine trying to seal it up pretty well but what if electrolyte gets in?</p>
if electrolyte gets in it will plate any part it will touch!<br><br>So the only solution is to make a perfect seal. think wax, hot glue (on preheated part), or silicone, depending how safe you want it to be.. and how many harassment you are ready to stand to remove it after plating!<br><br>good, quick, easy. pick to of them ;-)
<p>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.</p><p>I made nickel acetate successfully using nickel plate and the alligator clip as suggested but I am having difficulty finding nickel plate source.</p><p>Thanks for the excellent instructions.</p><p>Dave a retired EE.</p>
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.<br><br>Dave<br>
I had the same problem as you, as my only source of nickel was French old money. however, I found out that with enough heat (butane/propane+oxygen torch) you can easily weld it or melt it without any flux or other &quot;linking material&quot;. So it's maybe the way to go with your pellets!
<p>Defacing American or Canadian coinage is a Federal offence. Why are you promoting this?</p>
<p>Not correct at all. Do a little research before posting next time.</p>
No one cares about the crown anymore. Get over it
<p>incorrect: </p><p>Section 331 of Title 18 of the United States code provides criminal <br>penalties for anyone who &ldquo;fraudulently alters, defaces, mutilates <br>impairs, diminishes, falsifies, scales, or lightens any of the coins <br>coined at the Mints of the United States.&rdquo; This statute means that you <br>may be violating the law if you change the appearance of the coin and <br>fraudulently represent it to be other than the altered coin that it is. <br>As a matter of policy, the U.S. Mint does not promote coloring, plating <br>or altering U.S. coinage: however, there are no sanctions against such <br>activity absent fraudulent intent. </p><p><br>Can I make jewelry from U.S. coins?Yes, but your business should be careful not to imply any <br>endorsement by or association with the United States Mint in its <br>advertising and marketing materials.</p><p>https://www.usmint.gov/consumer/?action=FAQ</p>

About This Instructable




Bio: I'm an Electrical Engineer who dabbles in just about everything. By trade, I'm a controls engineer and design machines for the largest manufacturing ... More »
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