The Chrome We Know
When it comes to the chrome we know, show-quality chrome, a renowned job by industry standards is referred to as triple plating. Chroming objects isn't a quick process; in fact it's much like a paintjob. The actual layer of chrome is exceptionally thin, measured in millionths of an inch rather than in thousandths, therefore work must be put into parts to ensure a smooth and even finish. Hours of physical work is spent massaging objects to perfection, followed by several "coats" of various metals. When parts are dropped off at a quality chrome shop, such as MJB, first they are sent to the polishing room. Parts start off with a trip on a 150 grit aluminum oxide Emery wheel to get roughed out. From there the parts are then followed up with 180 grit Turkish Emery for fine polishing. The final step in the process is a super fine Sisal buff. At this point the raw material is suitable for plating. Once polished, the parts enter the first step in the triple-plating process, a 120 degree copper bath. The parts are dropped into the copper tank for an hour-the longer they are left in, the higher the copper buildup. The copper acts like a coat of primer in a paintjob, by providing a basecoat to help smooth any minor blemishes. Once plated in copper, the parts are then buffed with a fine cloth-think of this process as blocking a primered truck. If the parts are defect free they're sent on their way. However, if the parts still have pin holes, scratches, divots, etc. they get another dip in the copper and are re-buffed, much like laying down several coats of primer on a paintjob. This process can be repeated as many times as needed, however, each time the price increases-more labor and material equals higher cost. Parts are then moved to the second phase in the plating procedure, nickel plating. The objects are submerged into a 135 degree nickel bath for an hour. The nickel plating provides smoothness, corrosion resistance, and a great deal of the reflectivity. In fact, to the untrained eye, if one was to see a freshly nickel plated object they would probably assume that is has been chromed; however that's not the case. (We'll get back to this in a minute.) The last step in the triple-plating process is really what it's all about, a chrome bath. Unlike the pretty intense soaking a copper or nickel bath takes, objects are dipped in a chrome bath for roughly two minutes! Once they leave the chrome bath they're finished. Now some of you are probably wondering, "Why chrome-plate something if the nickel looks almost the same?" Well, here's why. For starters, nickel won't hold up. Shortly after nickel enters the elements it begins to oxidize and lose its luster, whereas chrome will hold up and keep its finish for years. Nickel is also a softer metal, prone to scratches and such. Once again, chrome is a much harder metal that is durable. Along with that, the finish nickel leaves is that of a yellowish cast. As for chrome, it provides a deep, radiant bluish cast that we have all come to know and love.
Don't Get Hosed
When it comes to chrome plating, there are several things to always keep in mind. For starters, a good rule of thumb is what Bill advised us on, "When it comes to the chrome industry, the process is pretty much the same throughout. The only way to cut cost is to reduce one of three things; either cut the process from a triple-plate process to a two-step process with just a nickel and chrome bath, reduce the time each object is submerged in one of the necessary plating baths, or skimp on the polishing prep work at the beginning. Although cutting corners will work, when you leave out any of the necessary steps you'll end up with a sub-par plating job. Always ask questions about a chrome shop's procedure before you employ them, because not following through with the necessary steps is the difference between a quality and non-quality chrome job." Basically it's a steak vs. hamburger type of situation.
When sending off things to get chromed, be sure to specify anything that doesn't need to b
Electroplating 101: copper, nickel, and chrome tanks all look like this, a tank filled wit
Along the sides of the tank are two poles with bags hung on them. The two poles are essent