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Electrolysis works both ways.... DIY electroplating

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I've been a big fan of e tanks for a while now, they are great labour saving items and work wonders on all manner of things.

Here's my small setup on the bench cooking small pieces for bendy.


These were lug nuts with 45w of power running through them, you can't see the gassing - but a reasonable amount of hydrogen was being given off :o


So this is only one half of the set up... I looked into electro plating years ago and just couldn't lay my hands on the correct electrolyte. It was a bit Heath Robinson even by my standards :)

About 6 months ago my brother managed to source a kit and has had some pretty good results tarting up parts on his range rover. So I bought the chemicals and some zinc before Xmas.

So now the other half is my plating rig, parts go in rusty or bare metal and come out shiny and fairly rust resistant. The camera doesn't do it justice on some of the pieces.


Here's a few bits we've done



Which means bendy can actually get 5 bolts per wheel, when I get them all cleaned :D

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looks very pretty, now, where did you get those chemicals? and maybe some instructions?

The ammonium chloride, and zinc chloride are part of a kit I managed to buy. The bits separately were more expensive than paying for a packaged kit. The expensive bit that helps is a really good power supply.

The hardest bit is the cleaning, everything has to be spotless, the plating then takes 30 mins

Interesting stuff, Mark. :thumbs:  When can I bring some bits over? :D

If they are small enough and spotless, you are welcome to see the results!

Good work Mark, what would be the rough cost to set that lot up ????

About £80, not including the power supply Neil

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I've just up sized my e-tank from a 20 litre storage box to a 205 litre drum. My power supply is a 12 volt battery charger that seems to be running it at around 2.5 amps. Does this seem about right? Have found some instructions and a circuit diagram for a dedicated power supply on the net but I'm better with a spanner than a soldering iron!

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From what  I have read, learned and tested over the years of using this process, the best Battery Charger set up is to have an older type Charger that has no 'Auto Reduction' or Cut Out. 

4 Amps is about ideal, but I've obtained good results with 2.5 amps (or less) and used an Auto Reduction Charger . It just takes longer to do it's job on large pieces/panels.  

Power/efficiency reduces with build up of corrosion on the Anode Rod(s) and resistance increases ,so you can work with what you have if you clean the Rods regularly and keep the gap between Anode and the Work piece to a reasonably close position. 

A handy method I use is to have 2 sets of Anode Rods. I use one set then switch them over, but use the process to clean the old Rods, saves a lot of cleaning. 

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Thanks for the suggestions. At present my anode is a section of steel grid facing the target area but I'm in the process of obtaining enough to completely line the inside of the drum. The charger that I'm using is around thirty years old and seems to be working reasonably well ; when I was reversing the process to derust the interior of some mower fuel tanks I had to put a twenty watt light in series with it or it would shoot up to ten amps and the trip it's thermal cutout!

I really like the idea of "reverse cleaning " the anodes.

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I'd say for a huge drum you need more than 12V, I have used a 28V power supply from the aviation industry with good results. Or two 12V batteries in series...


To get as close as possible to the anode I have often put the parts to be cleaned in a container and sat it straight on the anode.


I too have reversed the anodes - I've also used this process to age metal when I was making reproduction hinges

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You can also switch the polarity and replace the steel plate with a copper pipe or zinc sheet or old brass ornament to coat your items ( electroplate ) .

A good cheat is to make up  copper pipes then zinc plate them to give an origonal steel pipe look .

Steel nuts and bolts with a zinc coat first then a copper / brass coat gives you a real finnishing touch at a fraction of the cost of buying solid brass / copper fixings .

Especially usefull when high torque loads would strip out a brass or copper nut threads .

You can go micro for individual letters etc on casings by running stainless welding rod / wire into a cotton bug / swab and applying liquid electroplating solution of the metal of choice onto the single letters etc instead of painting them .Though this method requires only around 3v or the plating can burn / blacken .

The zinc coat should be polished to a shine before applying copper / brass as this gives a much better finnish .

And of course , any washing rinsing should be done with new deionised water to eleviate any chemical / metals contamination from tap water .

And do this in a ventilated room or better still out doors as the fumes can kill .

And should you decide to coat chrome plated tools etc , then the chrome has to be removed back to the nickle plate under it .A weak solution of caustic soda and a swab set up for removal sees the chrome come right off , then Brass or copper plate will stick to the tools etc without the need for a zinc sub base .

Imagine a rack of brass look spanners set up at a rally .

With of course complimentary brass / copper work on your pride and joy ,  polished and glinting in the sun .

But all there is to it is to remember that the polarity matters .

That is to say the metal always travels to the negative - terminal , so to remove metal / rust attach your part to the + terminal .  To add metal / electroplate ,  attach it to the - terminal .

But the question is , do batteries run backward ? .

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