Electroplating at Home – Easy Method of Electroplating – Before proceeding to electroplate with copper, silver or other metal, clean the articles thoroughly, as the least spot of grease or dirt will prevent the deposit from adhering.
Then polish the articles and rub them over with a cloth and fine pumice powder, to roughen the surface slightly.
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Excerpt from the book: THE BOY MECHANIC VOLUME I / 700 THINGS FOR BOYS TO DO WITH 800 ILLUSTRATIONS 1913, BY H. H. WINDSOR CHICAGO POPULAR MECHANICS CO. PUBLISHERS
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Finally, to remove all traces of grease, dip the articles to be plated in a boiling potash solution made by dissolving 4 oz. American ash in 1-1/2 pt. of water.
Do not touch the work with the hands again.
To avoid touching it, hang the articles on the wires, by which they are to be suspended in the plating bath, before dipping them in the potash solution; then hold them by the wires under running water for ten minutes to completely remove every trace of the potash.
For plating with copper prepare the following solution: 4 oz. copper sulphate dissolved in 12 oz. water; add strong ammonia solution until no more green crystals are precipitated.
Then add more ammonia and stir until the green crystals are re-dissolved giving an intense blue solution.
Add slowly a strong solution of potassium cyanide until the blue color disappears, leaving a clear solution; add potassium cyanide again, about one-fourth as much in bulk as used in the decolorizing process.
Then make the solution up to 2 qt. with water. With an electric pressure of 3.5 to 4 volts, this will give an even deposit of copper on the article being plated.
A solution for silver plating may be prepared as follows:
Dissolve 3/4 oz. of commercial silver nitrate in 8 oz. of water, and slowly add a strong solution of potassium cyanide until no more white precipitate is thrown down.
Then pour the liquid off and wash the precipitate carefully.
This is best done by filling the bottle with water, shaking, allowing precipitate to settle and then pouring off the water.
Repeat six times.
Having finished washing the precipitate, slowly add to it a solution of potassium cyanide until all the precipitate is dissolved.
Then add an excess of potassium cyanide—about as much as was used in dissolving the precipitate—and make the solution up to 1 qt. with water.
This solution, with an electric pressure of 2 to 4 volts, will give a good white coat of silver in twenty minutes to half-an-hour; use 2 volts for large articles, and 4 volts for very small ones.
If more solution is required, it is only necessary to double all given quantities.
Before silver plating, such metals as iron, lead, pewter, zinc, must be coated with copper in the alkaline copper bath described, and then treated as copper.
On brass, copper, German silver, nickel and such metals, silver can be plated direct.
The deposit of silver will be dull and must be polished.
The best method is to use a revolving scratch brush; if one does not possess a buffing machine, a hand scratch brush is good.
Take quick, light strokes.
Polish the articles finally with ordinary plate powder.
The sketch shows how to suspend the articles in the plating-bath. If accumulators are used, which is advised, be sure to connect the positive (or red) terminal to the piece of silver hanging in the bath, and the negative (or black) terminal to the article to be plated.
Where Bunsen cells are used, the carbon terminal takes the place of the positive terminal of the accumulator.