Frequently Asked Questions
(Q) .. Is it really possible to make money with a portable gold plating business?
(A) .. Absolutely, we have many customers that started their portable gold plating business on a part time basis with little more than a cell phone and the components that initially came in their original electroplating kit. With a service oriented attitude and some persistent work, they have grown it into an excellent income. Others have kept is as a part time "extra income" business only plating a few cars a month. Because there is virtually no fixed overhead, it works perfectly as a part time business. Follow this link for more information on making money with a gold plating business.
(Q) .. I work in an auto auction & am in a parking lot every day & inspecting emblems. I honestly don't know a gold plated emblem from a gold colored plastic yet. I've seen several that are darkened and others that look as if they have black bubbles through out. Would these be simply plastic or poorly applied gold?
(A) .. Probably both. Most automotive emblems are plastic and most of the emblems that look gold, (in good or bad condition), are plastic emblems that have been gold plated. The reason that the bad looking gold looks bad is most likely the result of being plated with a "short cut" method of gold plating or they were plated by someone that wasn't concerned about the quality of their work. We are trying to head off this image in our industry by promoting high quality workmanship, not just going for the fast buck now. We do this by only promoting the most durable process of automotive gold plating, i.e. chrome removal and applying the gold heavy enough to insure corrosion protection to the underlying nickel. Any gold plated layer is relatively thin and somewhat porous. If the gold layer isn't thick enough to seal off the underlying nickel plate then corrosive environmental conditions can corrode the nickel plate. When the nickel plate corrodes, it first forms tiny black pits. The black pits develop into small mounds that look something like a miniature volcano when magnified. These mounds are caused by the corroded nickel expanding under the surface. From a distance this nickel corrosion can appear as a general darkening of the emblem. When the nickel gets to this point, the emblem most likely needs to be re-plated with nickel and is probably not worth saving. At Gold Plating Services, we have always offered a lifetime warranty on our automotive gold plating. We guarantee that the gold we apply plate won't peel, flake, or corrode for the life of the car. We promote a process that allows this type of warranty. By the way, there are a few vinyl automotive "emblems" (I call them decals) that are suppose to look like gold, they are soft and will indent if you push on them with your thumbnail.
(Q) .. I've heard that the thickener used to convert liquid brush plating gold to a gel reduces the amount of actual gold solution I receive by up to 1/3. Does your gold thickener add to the volume of gold?
(A) .. NO, the thickener we use is a very fine powder. The amount required to thicken an 8oz jar of gold actually increases the total volume of the solution by less than 2%. We compensate for the added volume by slightly overfilling the jar. When you buy the solution you are actually buying the pre-thickened volume. We do, however have some customers that prefer to buy the solution as a liquid and the thickener on the side. They then add the thickener to suit their personal preference.
(Q) .. Why is aluminum so difficult to plate?
(A) .. Aluminum is a very reactive metal. After being polished or cleaned the surface oxidizes within seconds of coming into contact with the air. The resulting thin layer of aluminum oxide is very inert, coherent, and protective and cannot be reduced (returned to the pre-oxidized state) electrolytically. The oxide layer cannot be plated onto. One typical method used to plate onto aluminum involves removing the oxide layer using a strong alkaline solution which simultaneously replaces the oxide film with a layer of zinc (known as zincating). The zincated part can then be plated with an electroless nickel or alkaline copper solution. The part can then be plated normally. The use of the extremely caustic zincate solution and hot dip electroless nickel solution makes plating onto aluminum impractical for most portable platers using standard electroplating kits. Many larger chrome shops can economically plate a heavy coat of hot-dip decorative nickel onto aluminum. This will produce a very hard mirror bright surface that then easily be gold plated. While it is possible to plate onto aluminum using a portable system, the process is not cost effective and the durability of the resulting finish is generally not sufficient for long term service. When we have a customer that wants an aluminum part gold plated we always recommend a procedure that involves a hot-dip nickel layer.
(Q) .. Would your machines work to repair chrome for hotrod/muscle car enthusiasts? Would the pieces need to be completely stripped down or could chrome be applied in these scratched "injured" areas?
(A) .. Our system will repair chrome as well or better than any portable system on the market. However, I like to give people an honest answer to the chrome repair question. You need to understand that chrome is normally plated over a heavy, hot dip immersion nickel that produces a lot of thickness relative to the chrome plate. The heavy nickel plate is plated over a heavy copper plate. Therefore, offering a "chrome plate repair" without being able to also repair the underlying copper and nickel is a little like trying to fix a dent in a fender by simply applying a thin layer of paint. While it is possible to sand out the ding, plate with copper, polish, plate with nickel, polish and then plate with chrome this repair would require a lot of time and a high level of craftsmanship, and almost never would be worth the effort. This is especially true in light of the fact that a large chrome shop will straighten, strip and completely re-plate an entire bumper for a couple of hundred dollars. There are well established, large chrome plating businesses that have invested millions of dollars in chrome plating equipment. These companies such as Ogden Chrome Plating, provide an extremely high level of service for a relatively low price. It is our opinion that it is not smart for a person with a portable plating system or a home based (bucket) chrome plating system to compete with these well established companies. This is epically true when the environmental regulations and procedures for disposal of rinse water and spent solutions is taken into account. There are far more profitable ways to utilize a portable gold plating system. In fact, I have never heard of anyone that has made a profit offering portable automotive chrome repair.
(Q) .. How can I tell if a conductive surface is chrome, aluminum, or stainless steel?
(A) .. Most silver colored, metallic (conductive), surfaces encountered in everyday use are either chrome, stainless steel, aluminum, nickel, zinc or silver. If you are faced with a surface and don't know what it is. By using our portable plating system, you can determine which of the above four it is by grounding the part and touching the surface with your chrome stripping wand. If it is chrome plated there will be a distinct yellowing of the chrome stripping solution. Careful analysis of the surface after you have worked on it with the chrome wand will reveal a slightly darker, bright metallic surface, (the nickel) as opposed to the chrome that has more of a blue tint. If the item is stainless steel, you should be able to detect some light, bubbling action where the wand is in contact with the surface. The stripping process won't have any affect on the appearance of the surface, however the solution may develop a light purple tint. An aluminum part may initially react like stainless steel. The chrome stripping solution will lightly attack the surface of the aluminum, when you have moved the wand away from the surface there may still be some light bubbling where the solution was left on the part. After rinsing, the area that you tried to strip may be slightly milky white and with less luster. Normal polishing with metal polish will return the surface to its previous condition. Since polishing may be required on aluminum items, it is recommended that you try a very small area on items that could be aluminum. Silver surfaces will immediately turn black when you try to strip them with the chrome stripper. Don't worry, the nickel activator will remove the smut. Zinc parts won't have any reaction to the stripper, but the nickel activator will attack the zinc surface even without having the common applied. If you then try to gold plate a zinc part using our normal gold solution, the part will turn black.
(Q) .. Why do I need to use a nickel strike on stainless steel?
(A) .. Stainless steel, is a family of steel alloys that contain, among other things, 15% to 20% chromium. The chromium is a little like aluminum in that it forms a thin, self-healing layer of chromium oxide. The chromium oxide is inert and therefore highly corrosion resistant and difficult to plate onto. Fortunately, unlike aluminum oxide, the chromium oxide can be chemically reduced using an acid solution. If the acid solution contains nickel, such as the Woods Nickel Strike that comes in our electroplating kits, the reduced chrome can then be simultaneously plated with the nickel in the strike. The part can then be activated and plated normally. Remember that a key step in our stainless procedure is to abrasively remove the all of the oxide layer possible prior to the nickel strike step. Since we have had so many questions on the stainless procedure, I have revisited our published stainless procedure and amended it. I have taken out the nickel prep step, which is only necessary under extremely oily conditions. Click here for the stainless steel procedure.
(Q) .. Does an automobile emblem have to be removed before it can be gold plated.
(A) .. Not usually, our electroplating kit utilizes a unique process has been developed to allow the technician to leave the emblem on the car in almost every case. The plating solutions will not affect most new car finishes. Our training will teach you how you can tell if there could be a risk of having a problem with leaving an emblem on the vehicle. Being able to leave the emblems on the vehicle provides a great advantage for the on-site plater. Imagine the cost of removing the emblems, sending them to a plating company and then having to re-install the plated emblems, and then having to re-install the plated emblems.
(Q) .. How long will the gold last ?
(A) .. 24 Karat gold will never corrode under normal conditions. The plating that is applied with our system is the same as any other 24 karat gold electroplate, no more or less. While 24 Karat gold will never corrode under normal conditions and if applied correctly should never peel, flake or fade it is very soft and needs to have proper care to insure maximum life.