"I wonder if one of those home use kits would help with this?"
So far as I'm aware nobody has actually piped up and admitted to trying it out. So I've bought one and will now share my thoughts on the matter.
First the history, when I was a yoof every small town had a back street engineering shop or garage where for the price of a pint you could get an item chromed. Then Elfin Safety stepped in and pettily banned it all on truthful claims that Hydrochloric and Sulphuric acid weren't really the sort of things that should be dumped in the water course. Likewise they were a bit tetchy about the cyanide and arsenic
by-products that wafted around shortening lives and causing kerfuffle to break out all over.
Consequently regulations and restrictions leave us now with only a fraction of expensive places left to go to.
Consequently home kits abound.
How does this get around the danger side of things?
Well, first of all, it's not real chrome it's a product they call "Replica Chrome" so that's not confusing is it?
Secondly, you don't tend to rely on vats of pickling acids bubbling away on your dining room table. Using low voltage (3V DC - 12V DC) you mainly use a brush that incorporates an anode to slowly coat the piece, Rather like painting.
So I spent about £40 on a basic kit.
The instructions I found a bit vague and confusing.
This was probably down to simple things like a list of what's included in the kit using names that are different to those used in the instructions. Plus no pictures of what all the different parts look like, so you're left trying to guess what a "Plating Brush Standard" looks like as opposed to a "Plating Brush Detail" or a "Plating Pen". You can take an inspired guess but why does only one of them contain an anode?
So following the instructions precisely I tried it out on an old penny first. I used The Alkaline Cleaner, then Acid Activator before connecting myself to The National Grid.
The penny went from a dull copper colour to a dull greyish hue. Not unlike the result you get from base nickel plating, but without the roughness.
It didn't look too bad, but was quite dull. After about an hour it took on a very flat and uninspiring look.
So I repeated the process with another identical penny, which this time, after allowing it to go the same I polished it with a cheap liquid metal polish.
This one buffed up nicely, like a very highly polished copper penny but without the yellow tinge. It wasn't so deep and dazzling as chrome but a quite good first attempt.
I spoke to the distributor before buying as I wanted to know how "Replica Chrome" compared to the real stuff. He described it as just like the real thing. The trouble with somebody else's opinion is that they're entitled to it and it tends to be subjective. My interpretation of just like the real thing is errrr .... just like the real thing. Then again I'm not trying to sell something.
My biggest concern is if it's going to need constant polishing to maintain it's shine and stop it reverting to plain old dull. The thickness of plating will be so thin that polishing it is likely to wear it away.
This photo shows the three stages 1) Raw coin 2)Plated coin after an hour 3) Plated and then polished coin.
Being as truthful as I can, in my opinion the photos are better than in reality, you can click on them to enlarge for closer scrutiny.
It's important to remember that an old penny is copper which is the best of metals to electro plate. Many of the machine parts I'd want to plate are cast from alloys which won't take, without first being coated in Copper or Brass.
None of this eradicates the need for total cleanliness and buffing.
So who else has tried this, and what are your experiences?