Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Plating News

I called Astro Chrome & Polishing today to see about sending them some bathroom items for nickel plating. I tried to get an estimate from the person I spoke with, but he basically said it all depends on condition. The best he could tell me was that there was a $75 minimum, so it will be at least that much.

I mentioned it yesterday, but to recap, I’m having a few things for the bathroom nickel plated. On some, the original plating has worn off, others are new, fabricated parts that need to be plated, and some were never plated, but for the sake of protection, I’m having them plated.

I’ve never done this before, so it’s new territory for me. We don’t have anyone locally that can do it. I called some places in the area and did not feel good about the conversation I had with them. With one guy I had to repeatedly correct him that it was nickel and not chrome I wanted, and others sort of had funny comments when I told them these were antique plumbing parts.

Astro Chrome & Polishing was recommended to me by Don Hooper, who owns Vintage Plumbing. When I spoke to the man at Astro today, he didn’t flinch when I mentioned it was old plumbing parts. I sort of tried to give him as much information about what it was I wanted plated, and the condition it was in, while we were talking. I wanted to make sure I wasn't going to get a, “Boy, I don’t know about that”, or, “Well, I guess we can do that”. With each curve ball I threw at him his response was something like, “Yes, we’re familiar with that”, or “We do this often”. It’s just the sort of thing you want to hear.

On their web site they even have a link for “Hardware” and it shows a few pictures of nicely nickel plated bathroom and door hardware, along with some other high-end house wares. The man I spoke with told me to UPS the items to him, and once they get them, they will contact me with an estimate. I’m going to send them out tomorrow or Friday.

The Polls are still open.


StuccoHouse said...

If you have any custom bike shops nearby (motorcycles=CA, right?), ask them who does their custom plating.

Ragnar said...

Hi, it's me again ;-)
Personally I'd polish the items myself as good as I can to keep the cost down, at least the parts you mentioned that have old paint and everything on them.
Hardware stores should sell polishing sets with drill attachments that are fairly good for that job. The sets usually contain 2 brushes, a sisal brush for coarse work and a cloth brush for fine polishing, as well as 2 polishing pastes (a mix of grease and ground clay). That's it. Apply paste to the brush, then move the item to be polished across the spinning brush. Just keep oscillating left and right.

That's about all the secrets of metal polishing I know and I learnt that stuff at school.
The bad thing is you need lots of equipment, otherwise you could even do the plating yourself.
I did nickel and even gold plating at school.

You could even sand off the old plating using 240, 400 and 600 grit sandpaper wet, but I guess having it de-plated is easier and faster.

Greg said...


I didn’t ask, but I’m sure the local shops probably send there stuff to the guys over in Redding, who I called. I was unimpressed when talking to them over the phone. I’m hoping by sending my stuff down to LA I’m going to avoid what you went through with your nickel plating. It will cost a bit more in shipping, but if I only have to ship it once it will more than make up for it.


Something’s are better left for others to do. My items need a lot more attention than just some polishing.

Joe said...

I've been in the commercial plating business for 25+ years and you can be sure that the first plated plumbing fixtures and articles were nickel-plated only.
However, you must be aware of an important thing before you send the parts out for plating. Today's commercial plating bath additives (brighteners) are substantially different than when the first nickel baths were developed. Early nickel plating was accomplished with very dull and soft nickel deposits at much higher thicknesses than today. Early plating always had to be hand-buffed to achieve a high luster and brightness. Due to economics, today's chemistries are designed to be self-leveling with ultra high brightness, but at much thinner deposits. Note the word thinner. We're typically talking 3-5 ten-thousandths of nickel, sometimes less in hardware that gets packaged.
For purely decorative items, this may not pose a problem. For items used where lots of contact with the hands (faucet handles, door knobs etc.) occurs or where parts get lots of cleaning, "modern" nickel plating-only is not good for long term appearance. (Bathrooms and kitchens have the added challenge of corrosion due to moist conditions.) Nickel-plating is not very corrosion-resistant or wear resistant by itself. (That is why the top chromium layer became so critical for the automotive and plumbing industries)
What this means to you the restorer is that if you want to achieve and maintain that early period look, you must find platers that will do a heavy, single-layer, nickel plate or what is known as "buffed-nickel" (hard to find though). The other alternative is a dual-layer process of semi-bright and bright nickel layers. Otherwise, you are better off getting the typical nickel/chrome combination for long best long-term protection.
Hope this information helps everyone. I admire and appreciate old house restorations.

Greg said...


That is very enlightening. Just to further what you said, some early, high-end plumbing parts, like faucets that would get handled a lot, were made of solid nickel. I owned a pair of very fancy, solid nickel sink faucets made by Wolff of Chicago.

It’s because of what you’re talking about that I sent my stuff to Astro Chrome & Polish. After talking with a few other platers I got the feeling they didn’t have quite the understanding you do. Don from Vintage Plumbing has worked with Astro for a few decades. They know what he likes on vintage plumbing parts and I get the feeling he’s pretty picky. Don suggested copper pre-plating for a longer lasting finish.