Some of you may not be aware of the profussion of inexpensive, and very high quality, home plating kits and suppliers out in the world today, and so, therefore, I decided to publish this article about how to home plate, one of your own guns, cheaply, and easily, with Excellant Results!!!
Unbeknownst to most persons who have never plated at home, the HIGH GRADE finish achieved by professional plating shops is NOT a result of EXPENSIVE plating tanks at all. The High Grade, Mirror Finish results, are due to multiple buffing and polishing steps, inbetween the various plating layers as a person builds up the electro-plating on the plated surface. And as any home crafstman knows, buffing machines at hardware distributors are probably the second cheapest machine to set up your home shop with, next to an inexpensive hand held, chord powered 1/4" electric drill. I was down at Home Depot the other day, picking up some stuff, and I saw a 4" two ended Ryobi grinding wheel machine, with the angle rests, two grinding wheels, and one each of a wire brush, and a spiral cotton buffing wheel, WITH an integral goose-neck lamp built in, for, $44.95 !!!... And, you could buy it's big brother, a 6" dual wheel machine, for a whopping $66.95 !!! Cheap, cheap, CHEAP !!! They also had a wide selection of various grades of buffing and polishing compounds, in stick form, all for around 3 bux a stick.... I almost picked up the little 4" Ryobi just to have as a spare in case my existing one ever burt out on me in the middle of a project !!!
A little 4 or 6" bufing/grinding machine is all a home gunsmith would ever need to buff out any metal part on any gun in their collection, INCLUDING the barrel of a Brown Besse flintlock, or a Revolutionary war French Military Musket, barrels that are extroidinarily LONG.
Well.... on with the PROJECT !!!
I have this pair of 1863 Remington 31 Caliber (5-Shot) Pocket Pistols, made by the F. LLI. Pietta Company of Italy, and purchased recently from Dixie Gun Works (DGW) of Tennessee. Stock from the factory box, the pistols have a solid brass (Actually, it's not brass anymore, the old originals were brass, modern reproduction guns are made with a new bronze alloy that looks just like brass, but is bronze, and is considerably stronger and more durable that the original brass pieces were. So, all the chatter on the internet, about, "I think I may have WARPED my brass framed gun !!!" ... Well... if its a newly made reproduction from a major manufacturer... Nope, NOT HAPPENING !!!)
The frame, backstrap, and trigger gaurd, are in the brass finish. The barrel, loading lever, cylinder pin, and cylinder, are blued steel, and the trigger and hammer, case hardened steel. They are handsome pistols from the factory, to be sure, but... but... even handsome can be made BETTER right?
I had this vision in my head, of Gold plating the brass finish parts, and Nickel Plating EVERYTHING else, including the hammer and trigger... The more I closed my eyes and imagined it... The more I wanted to re-finish the the matched pair of pocket pistols, and... AND... I wanted to to the whole job MYSELF !!!
I came across a company on the internet, Caswell Plating, out of Long Island New York, and they had a really big selection of hobbist plating kits, from very small and modest home set-ups, to larger tank systems for smaller sized specialty plating shops geared towards small items with very high quality finishes, such as watches, jewelery, detailed models, and.... GUNS !!! (clap... clap... CLAP !!!)
So... I bought some of their stuff... and BOY, am I IMPRESSED !!!
They have developed a very nifty, inexpensive, and very EFFECTIVE patented electro-plating system that does NOT REQUIRE expensive plating tanks or gallons and gallons of expensive plating solutions. They instead, utilize a "Plating wand", that is dipped into a plating solution concentrate, and brushed over a small piece, electro-plating the piece in a matter of a few minutes, using only a small, 4.5v or 1.7v pocket sized dc power supply/transformer as the electrical source for the electro plating process. That's it, that's the WHOLE ENCHILLADA... One plating wand, one little pocket sized power converter/transformer, and one bottle of plating solution... thats the ENTIRE SYSTEM !!!, No 20 gallon tanks, no gallons and gallons of plating solution, no titanium 2000w tank heaters, no circulating filter pumps, no bars of pure plating metal, no titanium plating racks, and NO 25 amp or greater EXPENSIVE power rectifiers... NONE of that AT ALL !!!
Of course, if any of you have read any of my "how to" articles in the past, you know what a purist I am... and yes... I am drooling over the tanks... I want a Tank Plating system too !!! But, for now, it will have to wait, until I buy my next two or three rifles... I want them MORE than a plating tank at the moment !!! And... there is no real need for a tank systems such as plating a large rifle, it can all be done, in TOP QUALITY, with the little, inexpensive, "Plug N Plate" wand plating kits just fine !!!
The process, for plating by this method, does require ONE tanking step, that of degreassing and cleaning the parts to be plated, with something called an "SP" cleaning solution. This needs to be done before each plating step, and with high quality plating projects, there are several plating steps, it's not just a simple matter of dumping one plating coat onto the item, nope, not at all. The cleaning solution, needs to be in a tank, as it is heated to about 140 degrees farenheight, which means, you will need a cleaning tank heater, and a heater thermostat, but don't panic, those items are all inexpensive, not a major layout of bucks at all. With plating, any grease or oil at all, will have a DISASTEROUS effect on the plated piece, touching the metal, one time, even with just washed hands, will require re-cleaning and degreasing of the part before proceeding onto the actual plating step.
The basic overall steps are, buff off any unwanted finish on the piece, clean/degrease the piece, copper plate the first copper layer. buff and polish the piece, fill in any scratches or pits with a soft filler compound, which is also available from Caswell Plating (Again, very cheap stuff). Lightly sand the filled areas, buff the piece again. Clean and degrease the piece, then, apply the second layer of copper plating. buff and polish the second layer of copper plating, clean and degrease the piece again. (You WILL get your money's worth out of the cleaning/degreasing tank/heater set-up). Now, you are ready for your first finish platng layer, if this is to be a two metal plating finish, as with Nickel or Gold plating, if you wish to go onto a chrome plated piece, that would be a three metal plating job. (Ahhh... you say... That's WHY Chrome Plating costs so MUCH !!! As chrome plating on steel is generally done by first copper plating and buffing then nickel plating and buffing, and finally chrome plating a polishing.) Now, if Nickel Plating the piece, after cleaning and degreasing yet again, Nickel plate the first layer. Remove and rinse, buff and polish, clean and degrease, and Nickel plate the piece a SECOND time... For a truely PRO JOB, repeat this process a THIRD time, for a three layered Nickel plating final finish... Your Nickel plating is now DONE. As I pointed out in the begining... It's all the darned buffing and polishing that makes the end result a PRO JOB, not the tanks !!!
The following composite photo set, shows the basic steps using the casewell Plug N Plate wand plating system. (Minus all the buffing and polihsing and cleaning/degreasing steps in the heated cleaning/degreasing tank.) As performed against a metal watch, the process is exactly the same on gun parts I assure you.
Strip the part of any unwanted existing finish. In the case of a blued gun piece, this would be with a soft metal wire brush, (Such as aluminum or copper/brass, mounted on your electricgrinding/buffing machine.)After removing the existing finish, buff the surface, with a spiral cotton buffing wheel, and a buffing compound, to a medium finish raw steel buff.
Clean and degrease the piece in the heated cleaning tank filled with the SP cleaning solution. allow to stand for a minimum of 5 minutes in the 140 degree tank. Carefully remove the cleaned/degreased piece, from the tank, with tongs, rinse with cool clear water, pat dry the piece with a towel... DO NOT TOUCH the piece with your hands, if you do, you MUST clean and degrease the piece again !!! Use a paper towel, or a tissue, to handle the piece after pat drying.
First layer of copper plating, base layer, for either Gold, Nickel, Silver or Chrome final finish plating. Attach the aligator clip to the piece to be plated, soak the electro plating wand in the electro plating solution, let the wand stand at least two minutes in the solution before you begin to wand the piece. Gently, brush the piece, with the plating wand, in gentle motions, switching back and forth between circular and linear motions. Just be patient, in about 45 seconds to a minute, you will begin to see the effects of the electro plating, the piece will begin to change color, and once the plating begins, it will plate faster, and faster, as you keep proceeding. Thoroughly brush all sides of the plated piece until you are nearly satisfied with the plating layer, move the aligator clip, on the work, to another location, and wand the area where the clip used to be attached, continuing to wand the rest of the piece as well. When nearly done with this layer, move the aligator clip one more time, and touch up the part where the aligator clip hand been attached. Unplug the plating power supply, place the wand back into the solution. remove the aligator clip, and rinse the piece with cool clear water, pat dry the piece, you may now handle the piece, as the next step is to buff the first layer of the copper plating.
Using metalic filler paste, fill in any areas of the buffed piece that may have scratches or pits on it, allow the filler to drya few minutes, sand the filler with fine grit sandpaper, and buff and polish the piece again. Rinse the piece with clear cool water, and de-grease and clean the piece in the cleaning tank again.
Copper plate the piece with the wand plating brush, as performed before. rinse the piece with clear water, and buff the piece again. De-grease and clean the piece in the heated cleaning tank.
Now, if this is a two metal plating job, proceed on with the finish plating at this time. If Nickel, plate with the Nickle plating solution, if Gold, then Gold. When the first layer of plating is completed. Rinse with clear water, buff and polish, and clean and de-grease in the heated cleaning tank.
Plate, rinse, buff and degrease a second finish plating layer
Plate, rinse, buff and degrease a third finish plating layer...
If you are going to go for the gold, and go for a Crome finish... perfom three more plating sequences, only now, layering Chrome plating on top of the Nickel Plating.
Clean, dry, and set aside your piece, it is finished... Repeat these steps for all the pieces to be plated on your project.
The following sequence of photos starts out with the stock, standard, brass and blued steel pocket pistol, and ends up with the finished plated pistol pair, in their display case.
Well guys, there you have it... Naturally, in order to plate the barrel, the barrel had to be removed from the frame, and of course, the entire gun, all parts, had to be disasembled, all pieces sanded, cleaned, buffed, plated, over and over in the same step sequences, until, finally, all parts, all pieces, were completed, and the pistols could be re-assembled. But I think, the final photograph says it all... a very nice plating job, done for LESS MONEY than a plating shop would have charged you, and in the end, you now have all the stuff to plate another project, you just need to pick up some more plating solution, which isn't all that expensive, for most metals, except for Gold, which is a bit pricey. 11.95 for an 8oz bottle of copper or Nickel, and... about 69.95 for a 4 oz bottle of Gold... but, you have all the other stuff, the heated cleaning tank, the cleaning solutions, the wands and the power supplies, so, any further plating projects drops the cost of plating down to something less than the cost of ammunition for an afternoon at the range.... CHEAP !!! DIRT CHEAP !!!
Have fun with it guys !!!
Elvin Warrior... aka... David
In case any of you are wondering... Here is a breakdown with some of the costs involved with plating using this method.
Plug N Plate Copper/Nickel Kit, includes plating wand, power supply, and two plating solutions, Copper and Nickel............. 46.99
Plug N Plate Gold kit, includes plating wand, power supply and 24Kt Gold plating solution.............................................. 67.99
2lbs of SP cleaning/degreasing Crystals, enough for 4 gallons, you only need two for small jobs..................................... 21.29
2 Gallon white plastic cleaning/degreasing tank with lid.......................................................................................... 7.10
300 Watt Titanium small tank heater (For the Heated Cleaning/Degreasing Tank)........................................................ 17.99
Heater Thermostat.......................................................................................................................................... 17.74
Agitating Filter pump (For Cleaning/Degreasing Tank, keeps solution clean so it lasts for many, many jobs)...................... 22.95
Soft metal filler for scratch/pit filling and finishing.................................................................................................. 5.95
All of these supplies are available from http://www.caswellplating.com
And... an FYI... I am going to replace the standard walnut grips with plastic ivory ones, I have them on special order from F. LLI. Pietta, but they take a while to get them. F. LLI. Pietta typically takes 30, 60 or sometimes even 90 days to fill special orders... But I am in no hurry to get them.
Have fun with it guys !!!
Elvin Warrior... aka... David