Wednesday, 9 October 2013

Not the solution for not enough solution

I've mentioned this before, but I like to do my own nickel plating for several reasons. The first is obvious, it's hard for me to lose bits in the bottom of my tank. Imagine if you have spent something like 40+ hours on a single component and the plating shop you have outsourced to doesn't wire it securely and it falls into a huge tank. The chances of recovery are slim and none. It does happen. I also like to do my own polishing. Polishing is not a highly paid job and you can guarantee that the dude doing your polishing will not take the same care that you would. I've seen some beautiful parts ruined by overzealous polishing, the polisher trying to get a mirror finish on every surface at the expense of fine detail. In addition, I can spend the time and effort to mask the components correctly, you don't want to plate a bearing surface for example. Masking is easy, either with tape or paint, but it all adds to the time and cost if outsourced.

I only have 10 litres of plating solution at present, this is more than adequate for the usual small items like cranks and brake levers. Handlebars are slightly more tricky, particularly if they are wide and bent into interesting 3 dimensional shapes. The answer is to use a little creativity in your choice of tank. I have previously used plastic garden window boxes for long thin items, but after scouring all the local garden centres, I'm unable to find any that are long enough, skinny enough and deep enough. And don't have holes in the bottom. Obviously.

So this week I tried something that I have attempted once before but which failed spectacularly. I made a custom tank out of scrap wood and then lined it with polythene. Last time the polythene had a tiny hole in it and I lost all my solution, I wasn't happy or popular since at the time I was plating in the dining room (tiny English 2 up 2 down). My lovely wife not particularly wanting the green carpet. We learn by our mistakes and I certainly did that day.

Some quick calculations to determine the maximum dimension of the tank to give me enough coverage and clearance for both sides of the handlebars at one go. Then make the thing and line it with polythene sheet. This time I planned to fill it with 10 litres of water and leave it overnight to check for leaks. The first bit went OK, but then I turned my back for a couple of seconds and when I turned back I had 10 litres of water all over the kitchen floor. Water is easy to clean off lino so I did learn by my mistake. I also learnt that this wasn't a practical solution, the tiniest of holes or tears causes titanic failure. Luckily my lovely wife and children are away this week on holiday so I could clear up the mess at my leisure. You'll notice that there is a slight shortage of photos in this entry, this is not because my camera is funded by the US government but simply that my family have taken it on holiday...

So back to the drawing board. Pete is going to try and locate some pipe of suitable dimensions to make a tank.

In other news, my lovely wife's parents arrived from England this week. They have been whisked off to Wanaka to stay in luxurious accommodation while I work on the deck. I'm beginning to dislike the deck. I managed a full 20 hours at the weekend on it and I ache all over. It is also raining now, so I can't work on it as planned. I'm also taking the opportunity to grow a beard as a nice surprise for when she gets back. This has nothing to do with being less concerned about personal grooming when my primary caregiver isn't present.


  1. Some heavier vinyl would probably work better, or better yet some EPDM rubber as used for lining small ponds. Here is a New Zealand source:
    Just a suggestion, and not necessarily a good one...

    1. excellent suggestion Andrew. I do enjoy trying to solve these little problems as they arise. Sometimes though it takes a nudge from somebody else to produce the answer. My friend Pete suggested the tube method which I'll try next, failing that I'll start looking at pond liners. Cheers

  2. Try builder's vapour barrier polythene. Much thicker and tougher than wrapping polythene and still cheap. Or, better still, get an off-cut of fish pond liner. This stuff comes in all sorts of thicknesses and materials.

    The problem with electroplating is not insecurity of the copper wiring of the dangling items. It's often shorts between the now invisible items in the murky brew. Which can cause deafening explosions of the surface foam caused by the rising gasses.

    I once built a very large, bow-fronted, fibreglass aquarium from scratch on the third floor balcony of a block of flats. I used a large car windscreen for the front Filling it went almost as well as its sudden auto-emptying as the silicone seal lifted off the GRP. It must have been quite spectacular to see from outside the building but I was too busy hiding. :-)

    1. Another excellent suggestion, thanks. As I mentioned to Andrew, I'll try the tube first and then have another think if that doesn't work out. I still have the tank, I didn't destroy it in a hissy fit which was fortunate.

      I do try to prevent my items from touching each other in the tank, I jiggle them around and try to hear and feel for contact before turning on the juice.

      Your fish tank story made me laugh out loud, I do enjoy reading and writing about successful projects but the best stories always come from the failures...