Electroless plating is a chemical method that deposits a protective coating of nickel-boron or nickel-phosphorous alloy onto an object's surface. Unlike electroplating, electroless plating does not require electricity. It also creates an even coating regardless of the object's shape, and can plate non-conductive materials like plastic. The coating protects an object from wear and tear as well as chemical corrosion or oxidation.
Wash the surface of the object with a degreasing agent. Any automotive degreaser should work fine. Before plating can take place, the object must be completely free of fingerprints and dirt.
Rinse the object 2-3 times with distilled water to remove any leftover degreaser.
Wash the object with an acidic cleaning agent. Cleaners containing hydrochloric acid and sulfuric acid work well. If none are available, vinegar is a good substitute, or check the Resource section for a guide on making your own from lemon juice. The acid helps remove any scale buildup on the object.
Rinse two to three times with distilled water to remove any remaining cleaner.
Choose a type of electroless plating solution. It comes in low, medium or high phosphorous content as well as a version that also deposits Teflon. Medium phosphorous is the most commonly used type. Low phosphorous deposits very uniformly and provides good protection against corrosion by alkaline environments. High phosphorous provides the greatest corrosion resistance, and is especially useful when the object will be exposed to highly acidic environments. Teflon helps reduce friction with the surface of the object. Electroless nickel plating kits can be purchased online.
Pour the solution into a container large enough for the object you wish to plate. The particular formula you purchased should have more specific instructions for how much to use and how long to leave the object in the solution.
Gently place the degreased and cleaned object into the chemical bath without smudging its surface. Plastic gloves or metal tongs are good ways to avoid fingerprinting the surface.
Remove the object from the chemical bath after the amount of time stated in your solution's directions. Different solutions plate at different rates.
Depending on the formula being used, a chromium or trisodium phosphate finish may need to be applied once the electroless plating is complete. The electroless plating kit will contain these chemicals, if necessary. Afterwards, rinse the object with distilled water.
Items you will need
- Automotive degreaser
- Acidic cleaning agent
- Electroless nickel solution
- drill bit image by Greg Pickens from Fotolia.com