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).
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>I am sure going to try this, my question is: can ordinary nickel coins be used as a source of nickel? </p>
<p>American nickels have only a small amout of nickel in them. Canadian nickels are also not pure enough to use.</p>
<p>Thanks, I tried the whole setup and it works great. I got a couple of nickel &quot;lumps&quot; for free from a local chrome plating shop. I plated a few small steel pieces on a motorcycle I am rebuilding. The plated pieces look good, not as shiny as cadmium plate but much better than raw steel, I would say the look is closer to stainless steel.</p>
<p>You say you plated raw steel. That is what I'm considering. Did you nickle plate the steel directly or did you need to plate it with copper or some other alloy first?</p>
<p>I Just nickel plateed right over the steel. For best results, the steel must be very very clean. The parts I plated were nuts and bolts so the plating had to be very thin, copper plating before would have been better I'm sure, but it would have changed the dimensions of the parts.</p>
From my understanding of the law this is illegal except for personal use and gifts. You can not sell or use these plated coins. And you are right that you can't melt them down to sell the metal.
<p>Hello sir, I am wanting to plate something kind of unusual, I want to nickle plate some Rifle Brass, id be using some that have never been fired and am trying to think how could i do it far them, i cant figure out how to hook them up for the process, any advice? or could you help me figure out and plan say a larger setup with a battery warmer? i have one that has a 2 Amp and another higher setting and a engine 75 Amp setting</p>
<p>What you are asking is not unusual since high quality ammo like Hornady TAP has a black nickel coating on each cartridge. And honestly, I would be vary careful plating brass cartridges that you plan to use because the added thickness could cause the weapon to jam or possibly fire out of battery if a round is not able to fully seat in the chamber. If this happens and the round doesn't fully seat, a portion of the cartridge will not be fully supported on all sides and could possibly blow out the side near the extractor groove is. Glock handguns have been known to do this with cheap reloads, and it's commonly referred to as a &quot;KB&quot; short for KABOOM, where the gun literally blows the slide off, completely ruining the gun. Shooters have been severely hurt due to this as well.</p><p>My advice... go buy some Hornady TAP. It's available in 9mm, .223/5.56, and .308.</p>
Can the Nickle plating handle High temperature such as 300 degrees C.
When dissolving nickel to make the acetate solution, is there such a thing as a saturation point when no more nickel will dissolve and you are ready to plate? How deep of a green color albeit clear should one try to achieve to have a bright nickel plate?<br>Thanks,<br>Jim B.
I am about to begin this process, i bought a set of Cast Iron Nickel 99 welding electrodes. Is it ok to use these to make the electrolyte?
Is it possible to use electrolyte method with copper?
<p>This was an excellent article. I found the steps easy to follow and I love the confused look on faces when I show my nickel plated penny and copper plated quarter!</p>
<p>For a piece of jewelry, I'd like to etch a copper plate using a photoresist, then electroplate with nickel before removing the resist (I've done this much already, following your tutorial). I was hoping to apply a blue patina to the copper (not affecting the nickel), but have discovered that blue copper patinas are extremely tricky and unpredictable. So my next thought is to anodize, but for that I think I would have to first plate the copper with zinc. Would zinc plate onto the nickel as well?</p>
<p>Great article. I want to nickel plate a thin peice of steel - I realize I will have to copper plate it first. I want a mirror smooth finish. My question is: Do I need to polish the steel to a mirror smooth surface, or can I buff it out once the final nickel plating is done? The steel has a mild, smooth and shiny finish right now. Thank you</p><p>John L.</p>
What cain of containers can I use for a bigger project
<p>I saw in the &quot;Nickel Electroplating Wiki&quot; that Zn added to a Watts solution will add to the brightness of the deposited nickel layer. Can you produce Zn acetate in a similar fashion as you did for Nickel acetate to then add a pinch of Zn Acetate to the Nickel electrolysis solution?</p>
<p>I have made a couple of batches of nickel acetate that start off green however after a short period they change to a black/green shade! I think that I have found the cause; my nickel anodes &amp; cathodes are suspended on stainless steel wire and the stainless steel wire is in the vinegar &amp; salt mixture which is attacking the stainless steel wire, so much so that after a couple of hours at say 10VDC &amp; &gt;2amps the wire gives way at the surface of the liquid and the nickel anodes fall in. Funny thing is I can still nickel plate with the brew although the surface is a little dull but comes up fair with a polish. When do you actually decide that the nickel acetate is ready or green enough to stop the process?</p>
is nickel plating is toxic ?<br>if I plating it on my copper bracelet will it harms me
<p>Can you tell me how to plate drum hardware that was chrome plated in black nickel? Is that even possible?</p>
<p>How can you create a matte or brushed finish on nickel?</p>
To get brushed nickel, you brush it with a wire brush.
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 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.
<p>You list that you plated at 6 volts but how many amps did you use?</p>
<p>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?</p>
<p>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?</p>
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.
<p>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.</p><p>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?</p><p>And was it ok. to make the electro-cleaning on 12v or it should be on 6v?</p>
<p>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.</p>
<p>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?</p><p>Anyway,it didn't disturb to the process.</p>
<p>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.</p>
<p>The little black particles is the carbon added to the metal for strength. </p>
<p>I found some 99.96% 0.1x4x100mm nickel plates on ebay. Are these pure enough? thick enough?</p>
<p>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?</p><p>Thanks!</p>
<p>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?</p>
<p>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 &quot;partial&quot; which I will have to experiment with tape or blue-tak or paint etc, will tin <em><strong>electroplate</strong></em> with this system? Tin adheres to copper quite easily but can it be used as the sacrificial metal?</p><p>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.</p><p>Anyone? anyone?...</p>
<p>I made a power supply using the L200C variable voltage/current chip. There is a datasheet &amp; 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:</p><p><a href="http://myweb.tiscali.co.uk/andyspatch/rust.htm" rel="nofollow">http://myweb.tiscali.co.uk/andyspatch/rust.htm</a></p><p>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.</p><p>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 &amp; 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.</p><p>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.</p><p>If there's any interest (I think there were a couple of <br>questions in this regard), I can post voltage/ current values and the <br>results.</p>
<p>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...</p><p>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.</p>
<p>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. </p>
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?
<p>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</p>
<p>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. :)</p>

About This Instructable


1,564 favorites


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 »
More by A_Steingrube: Quick and Dirty Mosquito Trap Send Texts with Intel Edison (Party Alarm) Email with Intel Edison (Intruder Alarm)
Add instructable to: