Electroplating your own components is something that most of us who do our own restorations never consider trying but having had a go at it myself, I am pleased to tell you it’s not as hard as you might think. That’s not to say there are plenty of potential problems, but with care you can get some really good results like I manages on these Datsun 510 parts…
This kind of gold passivate finish is common to a lot of cars and Nissan tended to use it a great deal on brackets and fasteners. It’s not uncommon to find parts with a slightly blue finish, as well as fasteners in black or an olive drab. All of these various finished can be done at home with a little investment or money and time.
With regard to cost, a basic DIY plating kit cost little more than £100 and although in theory it would be possible to get parts plated with just this, you chances of getting good results are small in my opinion as the basic kits lack a great deal of equipment which I would consider essential. Of course, this adds to the cost and it’s quite probable that compared with paying to get a specialist company to do it for you, DIY plating might not be cost effective. So why do it? Well, there are a number of reasons…
1) The first is being able to keep everything sorted. there are a lot of fasteners in a car and by doing them in small batches, it’s easy to keep them in order and sorted into sets. The chances are to get a batch done professionally, you would have to chuck them all in together then try to sort them out after which would be a nightmare!
2) You can control the finish and quality. If you plate something and are not happy with the finish, or you have passivated it in the wrong colour, it’s no problem to do it again. You just acid dip and re-plate. Also, particularly with yellow passivate, the depth of colour is greatly effected but how long the component is submerged for, from a very pale gold tinge to a deep, almost orange colour. Do it yourself and the choice is yours.
3) Satisfaction. To me, this is a big part of restoring a car. Knowing that I have done as much of the work myself as possible. Imagine how pleasing it would be to look at a completely restore engine bay with everything painted and plated and to know it was all your own work.
4) The final aspect is convenience. If sending of a batch of parts to be plated it would be very easy to forget a few parts, or later you might discover something else that needs doing. Because with DIY plating parts are done in small batches, you can almost just plate parts as you need them. Most of the preparation of parts isn’t labour intensive as it’s just a matter of soaking them in various solutions and the plating itself doesn’t take long. The only inconvenience is the plating tank itself which must be emptied when not in use but if you set up the tank as I’ll show you in the next part, then even that is quite simple.
The only other thing to consider when deciding is DIY electroplating is for you or not is space and whether you have enough to set up a home plating lab. It does take up quite a bit of room and it ideally needs to be somewhere warm where it is safe from children and pets due to the chemicals involved. There are some fairly nasty chemicals involved in the process, in particular the passivating so safety is very important and great care must be taken at all times. Provided the correct precautions are taken than there is no great personal risk but it is essential that children in particular be kept away from the plating equipment and solutions.
As this is such a comprehensive subject I have decides to separate this article into three parts. Part two will cover the equipment, chemicals and the set-up and part three will cover the process itself, so if you fancy having a go at this yourself check back for for more in the next few days.