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Electroplating and electropolishing


#1

I would like to buy a set of electroplating equipment. And I would
like to know whether a rectifier with (0-15V) (0-120A) is quite
enough for this purpose. If I want to buy a full set, roughly how
much is the cost? Thank you very much. - Mr. Raja


#2

Hi - I’m looking into a pen plating system, and called Rio Grande.
They connected me to their tech folks who were very happy to walk me
through what I would need, what the options are, what I HAD to have
versus what might be “nice” to have. Highly recommend them. They also
stand behind their products, and provide technical assistance after
purchase if you need that. I’m sure they will be happy to do the same
with a full plating system.

Beth Wicker
Three Cats and a Dog Design Studio
bethwicker.com


#3

Mr. Raja,

Electroplating and electropolishing are similar in some ways but
require different equipment specifications, procedures & chemicals.
I’ll mention some basics that might be of interest to other readers
and advise picking up a book on plating & electropolishing for
jewelry makers for anyone starting out.

Electroplating can safely be done in small studio operations if
simple precautions and correct procedures are followed.
Electropolishing is a much more aggressive process that requires
additional safety considerations and should only be done by
experienced people. When I started over 40 years ago we used cyanide
based solutions for both processes. Still used today cyanide
solutions are NOT safe for someone just starting to plate of
electropolish. The “Acid” based electroplating solutions available
today are much safer and give good results.

Another common term for electropolishing is “Stripping.” Stripping
can (also) be done without electricity using a process called
"bombing"with a cyanide / hydrogen peroxide solution but it’s only
for very experienced users. Electropolishing without cyanide can be
done using a “Thiourea” / phosphoric acid, sucrose solution at low
temperature & voltage. You would need to research this for more

A common method of cleaning silver (does not make it bright like the
cyanide stripping processes) is the ion exchange method. Very safe
and works pretty well to clean silver. Aluminum pan + baking soda &
boiling water. Use a stainless steel pan lined with aluminum foil as
an alternative.

done using DC voltage. Depending on the metal you plate the voltage
range used is typically between 3-6 VDC so a rectifier adjustable up
to 15 VDC is fine. With electroplating the current (amperage)
required is very low. Several 1.5 volt batteries (AA up to D size)
wired in series to obtain the correct voltage works great for small
scale electroplating. If you need 6 volts a “lantern” battery is a
good option. Very inexpensive way to get the voltage you need. Yes,
batteries would need to be replaced from time to time but for people
doing occasionally plating using batteries are much less costly than
buying a commercial “rectifier.”

By the (0-120A) reference in your post If you mean having a
rectifier able that would output up to 120 amps that is far more
current capacity than you need for any plating operation or even
doing small scale electropolishing. A jewelry trade shop doing lots
of electrostripping might need a unit with that current capacity but
not in a smaller operation.

Buying the items you need will likely be less expensive purchased
separately than in a ‘set.’ Sets may not come with the size of pyrex
beakers you need, anodes required for the metals you will be
plating, etc. I’ve seen ‘sets’ that have a magnetic stirrer, heated
holding unit for beakers, etc. Way overkill in my opinion for
someone just starting. A simple electric hot plate works fine for
solutions best used heated. An accurate immersion temperature gauge
is needed. Good ventilation is always important. Highest $ cost
items are a commercial rectifier, if you choose that option, the
plating solutions & the special anode for rhodium or palladium
plating.

Electroplating is easy to do, fast and can be inexpensive. Copper
plating is the lowest cost, next is silver plating. Gold plating
cost is more and rhodium or palladium plating the most expensive.
Electroplating small areas of jewelry or touching up small areas can
also be done using a homemade, or commercial, “pen plater.” Easy to
make for under $5 + pen plating solution. Good plating requires what
you plate to be very clean. In some cases an under plate of another
metal is necessary for best adhesion of the top metal. A basic
electroplating book for jewelry makers will explain all of this and
more. Remember this. electroplating deposits a very thin layer of
metal. All surface finishes are done prior to plating. That means
you will not be polishing the plated surface. Any polishing is done
prior to plating. Possibly you have heard of “Electroforming” which
is really plating done very slowly, at reduced voltage using current
control with very low amperage (milliamps). You can obtain very
thick plated surfaces up to structurally strong objects that are
hollow.

Sorry for the long post. Because electroplating is such a great
process and easy to learn / do I thought some additional comments
might create an interest for others.

Richard Paille
Paige Tools