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Old 14 Aug 2012
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Nickel plating tank and mudguards

Having hummed and hawed over whether or not to sell my Enfield Bullet (my first bike) I am now planning to tart it up in order to have a fun ride for about town and down the coast. It is currently SORN'ed and needs a bit of TLC.

I'm thinking about nickel plating the steel tank and mudguards. I understand this can be tougher than chrome plating and has a different look. A softer, deeper sheen? I hear it can also patina quite nicely.

Anyone done this before? Any issues I should be aware of?

I'm aware nickel plating needs a fair bit of work to keep shiny, but I'm probably going to let it patina to a dull metallic colour, to give the feel of age (I understand some vintage bikes had nickel plated parts) - although I'm not planning to make it a 'faux vintage' bike. I'm going to go for a slightly retro custom look. (Also going to make a custom seat, shorten the mudguards, fit a trials custom rear subframe, strip off as many extraneous parts as possible).

Interested in any constructive views.

Cheers,

Matt
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Old 14 Aug 2012
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The shiny metalic element of chrome plating comes from the base layer of nickel plating, the chrome layer is just protection for the nickel. If you don't want the extreme shine of chrome try stripping the tank to bare metal, polish and then lacquer for protection.
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Old 14 Aug 2012
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as above but a bit more detail.

Good chrome plating would have been steel that was copper plated, then polished and nickel plated. polished again and finally chrome plated.

Sadly these days the process is often cheapened by plating direct onto steel, which peels easily.

copper plating is easy to do at home, once polished and lacquered would look good
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Old 14 Aug 2012
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Thanks folks, interesting ideas. It would be good to to do this DIY as I'm trying to keep this a budget project.

If I wanted to go with the 'bare steel' look, I guess I could take the current paint off using an angle grinder with a wire brush attached, followed by polishing/buffing discs? Then would I just laquer onto the bare metal?

Don't think I've ever seen a copper plated petrol tank! Will need to have a think about that - it could be quite groovy!

Thanks,

Matt
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*Disclaimer* - I am not saying my bike is better than your bike. I am not saying my way is better than your way. I am not mocking your religion/politics/other belief system. When reading my post imagine me sitting behind a frothing pint of ale, smiling and offering you a bag of peanuts. This is the sentiment in which my post is made. Please accept it as such!
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Old 15 Aug 2012
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I had a diy nickel plating set up over 20yrs ago and used it for things like brackets, nuts/bolts etc - small stuff. I've still got one of the bikes that I plated bits on and just about all of the nickeled bits have survived really well with no peeling or rusting through. The plating was done straight onto the steel - no first coat of copper.

The surfaces have degraded gracefully into a kind of vintage look matt sheen. It's not right for the bike they're on (an early 70's Jap) but would look kind of ok on something like an Enfield.

I do remember putting a lot of effort into prepping the parts though. The mists of time have fogged over exactly what was needed although I have vague memories of lots of polishing and stuff like acid baths to etch the surface. I'm not sure I'd want to do stuff much bigger than brackets, engine mounts etc. Certainly not mudguards or a tank on a diy basis as the cost of the equipment to do it would be more than paying a professional company.

There's also a few technical issues with stuff like evenness of ion flow and metal deposition. It's not really an problem with small bits in a 5L tank but with a bigger setup and bigger items in the tank you can have problems with uneven coverage and staining that need some experience and a bit of trial and error to work through. Not an issue if you were setting up to do 20 tanks but if you're only doing one it could be a bit frustrating. I stopped doing it when I stopped working in research labs (couldn't get the chemicals easily any more) and just do the odd bit of zinc plating now (much easier)
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