Plating Chromium on Stainless Steel

How does one plate chromium on stainless steel?


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Q. How can I plate chromium on stainless steel? –M.P.

A. Plating on stainless steel is somewhat more difficult than on other base materials, but is not as difficult as some make it out to be. The trick with plating on stainless steel is to thoroughly clean the surface and remove all oxides that form on the surface.  Here are three tried-and-true methods.

Method One:

  1. Degrease parts
  2. Electroclean anodically
  3. Rinse thoroughly
  4. Using a PVC tank, immerse parts in the following solution at room temperature for 25 to 50 seconds:
    1. 1 mL hydrochloric acid (conc)
    2. 10 mL sulfuric acid (conc)
    3. Up to 1 L water
  5. Rinse thoroughly

 

Method Two:

  1. Degrease parts
  2. Using a PVC tank, treat parts cathodically in the following solution at room temperature for 1 to 5 minutes, using a lead anode and a current density of 5 amps per square foot.
    1. 50 to 500 mL sulfuric acid (250 mL recommended)
    2. Up to 1 L water
  3. Rinse thoroughly

 

Method Three:

  1. Plate parts cathodically in the following solution at room temperature for 2 minutes, using a nickel anode and a current density of 50 amps per square foot.  
    1. 240 g nickel chloride hexahydrate (NiCl2 · 6H2O)
    2. 125 mL hydrochloric acid (conc)
    3. Up to 1 L water
  2. Continue plating for 2 minutes, lowering the current density to 15 amps per square foot.
  3. Rinse thoroughly

 

Method three is more commonly known as a Wood’s nickel strike and is the most reliable procedure. The drawback of this procedure is that you are left with a small amount of nickel on the base metal surface that may not be acceptable in some situations.

You did not say in your e-mail whether you want to plate hard chrome or decorative chrome on the stainless steel. The first method is often suggested for plating hard chrome. Any of the three methods can be used for plating other metals on the surface.

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