The Art of Electroplating

Answer-man Art Kushner retires from the world of plating.

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For almost two decades, Art Kushner has spent most of his days explaining the nuances of things such as plating electroless nickel on magnesium, bronze plating with cyanide and cyclic voltammetric stripping to the masses in the finishing world.

But from here on out, Art’s life will be a lot more complex as he tries to explain the difference between things such as a USB port and an HDMI connector to groups of second and third graders as a volunteer in the computer lab at his grandchild’s school.

“This will be my life for now,” says Art, who you just know will be distracted by the metallic finishes on each computer part much as one of his students will become entranced by a balloon or an airplane as it soars across the sky.

For almost 20 years, readers of Products Finishing have come to know Art as the man who had all the answers for some of their most complex electroplating problems. Each month, he would dissect the problem—as least as much as he could understand from the less than formidable information he received—and then he would provide suggestions and guidance on how best to solve the issue (as if any problems in electroplating ever get fully solved).

“I saw a lot of the same type of questions come through from time to time,” says Art. “I could have gone back and probably recycled some of the answers I gave because the similar issues often come back up. I guess we’ve all been there.”

Art is retiring from the expert clinician field and just about anything else that might make him work. He will now volunteer, travel and spend time with his lovely wife, Bobby, in their home just outside of San Francisco.

He took over at Products Finishing for Larry Durney, who answered questions for readers for decades with the expertise of a skilled craftsman. At the time he stepped in for Larry, Art was running his own electroplating consulting business and also his own training school, which he eventually sold to Technic.

Art is the son of Dr. Joseph Kushner, who had a long and respected career in the plating industry, and once won the AES Scientific Achievement Award for his long body of work. Joseph had a degree in chemical engineering, and received a master’s degree and a doctorate in metallurgical engineering from Lehigh University. Art recalls tagging along with his father to numerous consulting jobs, including one plating shop where his father warned him in advance of some “unusual odors” at the facility.

“My dad told me, ‘If you start getting dizzy when we get inside, we’ll step outside for some fresh air,’” he says. “I was in there a few minutes, and boom—I was on the ground, passed out. I came to on the grass outside, and I remember the plant manager standing over me saying, ‘Obviously, the kid hasn’t built up a tolerance to cyanide.’ On the drive home, my dad says to me, ‘If you tell your mom about this, I’m going to kick your butt.’”

Art’s father developed one of the best and most sophisticated methods for training people in the electroplating industry, and soon after Art graduated from Penn State with his Ph.D in chemistry, he went to work as a trainer and technical consultant, which he propelled into a 40-year career. He also served as president and education chairperson of the Santa Clara Valley Branch of the American Electroplaters and Surface Finishers Society, now the NASF.

Besides his doctorate, the best thing Art took away from Penn State was Bobby, who graduated from PSU and had a long career as a teacher before helping her husband run Kushner Electroplating School for more than 20 years.

It was in October 1996 when Products Finishing publisher emeritus Jerry Poll hired Art to take over for Larry. Just over 19 years later, we will have several voices taking over for Art as we rotate in the best and brightest minds in the plating industry to help readers fix trouble spots in their tanks and lines. We know our readers will enjoy their expertise, and the variety of perspectives they will bring to each issue.

For Art and Bobby, they plan to travel around the world, something they held off doing while raising their two sons. Already, Bobby has them lined up to visit the Hopi Indians in Arizona, and next March they will travel to Cuba to see the island recently opened up to U.S. travel. Next summer, they are off to Iceland.

“When we run out of money, then we’ll stop travelling,” Art says.

Originally published in the November 2015 issue.

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