Nickel Electroplating Basics

Electroplating is the act of using the movement of electrons through a “circuit” to transfer material from one object to another conductive object. Many different metals may be plated in this way including pewter, silver, gold, bronze, copper, brass, nickel, steel and stainless steel. Metals that cannot be plated are galvanized metal, zinc and carbide. The use of small and personal plating kits allows for a single person in their home or place of business to plate many of these metals for whatever reason needed. Plating can be used by watch repairers, clock makers, guitar enthusiasts, model builders, motorcycle repairers and even chemistry students working on a class project.

There are many of these kits available online including nickel plating kits that can add a shine and glimmer to small parts that lack it. Nickel is also very corrosion resistant and will stand up to harsh weather and looks similar to chrome. Nickel plating will leave a hard exterior shell and provide that extra protection a part may need. Motorcyclists who work on their own equipment, for example, may want to use a nickel plating kit to add some electroplating to some exterior pieces on their custom bike. This is possible because a modern electroplating kit is very accessible and doesn’t require some of the caustic and hazardous materials that have in the past been a part of the plating process.

Plating works through the transfer of material from one object to the next. The electrical current from either a battery or a 12 volt power source causes the primary material to “reduce” then follow the wires to the other object where it covers it with a layer of the primary metal. It is an old and very tried and true process. Automobile parts are routinely plated in the car building process. An example, is a chrome plated fender. But this is on an industrial level, for the personal plater who wants to work on smaller parts like a watch or jewelry, smaller electroplating kits are available.

Many of these plating kits, like a nickel plating kit, rely on metal salts or a solution where the two objects are immersed while clipped to one another and also to the battery or power source. The first object is the anode while the second object is the cathode. The cathode is the object that is to be plated with a new material. For example, someone may have a piece of copper artwork that they want to cover with a nickel finish. First the copper should be cleaned and degreased. The copper object should also be free of nicks or dents as plating tends to build up around corners and edges and become thinner over dented areas. Once the copper material has been cleaned it may be plated with the nickel in order to add a sheen that is both shiny and protective. The entire process can be completed at-home with a do-it-yourself pack with some of the easy electroplating kits now on the market.