Gold Plating Guns
Gold plating on guns allows you to add a beautiful look of gold to a firearm. The entire gun can be plated or it can be plated in very specific areas using "Pen Plating". This idea has been around for quite some time, however as of recent it has become a trend that is exploding with popularity. Gun collectors and owners love being able to modify their guns and make them truly unique.
Types of Material Used to Make Firearms:
There are 5 main types of material that guns are made of: 1) Steel 2) Stainless Steel 3) Aluminum 4) Zinc Alloys 5) Plastic. Which one you are wanting to plate greatly affects how it needs to be treated. Which one is applicable to your needs?
Steel: Due to the nature of steel, it is always coated with some sort of "Bluing" or black colored finish. It can have paint, powder-coat, bluing, Cerakote or other finishes. Regardless of what finish it has, for electroplating purposes it must be completely removed before plating. Once you're down to the bare steel, the plating is quite simple. You follow our 3 step process of cleaning, striking and plating. This can be done both by brush plating and/or bath plating, depending on which method you choose. As with all electroplating, preparation is critical, if you desire a shiny finish you will need to get the piece shiny before plating. The gold plating will simply cover the finish that is present prior to plating - it will not make the piece more, or less, shiny. Typically when plating steel pieces they are highly polished prior to the plating process as most desire a shiny gold plate. Often times customers elect to have their piece Nickel plated prior to gold plating in order to provide a "diffusion barrier" between the gold and steel. If gold plating wears too thin the steel can start to corrode underneath the gold plating, nickel prevents this entirely.
Stainless Steel: Stainless Steel is treated in the same way as steel, as far as electroplating goes. Stainless Steel does not usually have any sort of coating and typically has a "polished" or "brushed" finish. If it is highly shiny and silver in color, it is probably a piece of stainless steel. Stainless Steel is plated using the same 3 step process as steel.
Aluminum: Aluminum is one of two metals (the other is pure Titanium) that cannot be gold plated directly onto using any of the chemicals that we sell. Aluminum must first go through a special process that no other metal requires, involving a specialized bath plating setup. This process must be performed by a professional who has the expertise in plating aluminum. When the piece is done with this special process it has a bright nickel finish that can then easily be gold plated or plated with whatever finish is desired.
Zinc Alloys: These types of items are coated in the same way that Steel is. The coating must be removed and the piece polished prior to plating. Zinc is unique in that it does not react in a way conducive to plating when exposed to acidic solutions - many of the chemicals used in plating are acidic. Zinc will turn black if exposed to an acid, quickly. In order to plate onto this type of metal you need an Alkaline solution, typically a Cyanide Copper is used. Once the copper is applied, it is typically nickel plated and then the final layer of the desired metal is applied. We currently do not sell any Cyanide Copper or other Alkaline Copper plating solutions. We do, however, offer plating services onto these types of metal.
Plastic: In order for electroplating to work the item needs to be electrically conductive (metal). Plastic cannot be electroplated onto, directly. It must first either be coated with a conductive paint/ink or made conductive in some other way. There are certain types of plastic that can be coated with a layer of "electroless" nickel, however we do not offer them or the services of this nature. For all intents and purposes, it is not feasible to plate plastic firearm pieces.
Bath Plating vs Brush Plating:
There are two main methods of plating, read on to determine which is more appropriate for your needs.
Bath Plating: Bath plating allows you to plate an entire item or multiple items at a time, covering the piece(s) with a uniform layer to a predictable thickness. If you wanted to ensure that an entire piece is coated with say .5 microns, (20 micro-inches), then bath plating is the way to go. The longer the items stay in the bath the thicker the gold gets. Our "24K Bright Gold Solution" has a very predictable 'deposition rate'. If you follow the guidelines of the solution, you will achieve 1 micron of gold plating in about 5.6 minutes in the gold bath. It "throws" into all the cracks and crevices that are beyond the reach of brush plating. The "cons" of bath plating are that the entire piece is plated (some only want specific areas plated) and that you are limited to the size of the beaker. If the item is too large for the beaker or if you only want specific areas of it plated then brush plating is the method you should use.
Kit for Bath Plating on Guns: The JewelMaster Pro HD is the bath plating kit that hundreds of Gunsmiths and gun enthusiasts choose for their bath plating needs. It's fast, efficient, predictable and truly one of a kind. We have videos on the product page linked above showing how to plate using this kit. This kit has the ability to perform brush plating with the purchase of our "Brush Plating Add-on".
Brush Plating: Brush plating is appealing to many for a couple of reasons. It has a lower start-up cost, usually around half as much. It allows you to plate specific areas of an item and also to plate items of any size. There are no size constraints with brush plating. For these reasons brush plating is an ability that most platers want to have in their arsenal. If you plate enough gun parts you're eventually going to need the ability to brush plate. The downside to brush plating is that you cannot easily control the thickness, is much more time-consuming and is more 'artistic'. It's not difficult, but there is more of a learning curve than simply dipping the piece. Once you get a knack for it you can plate quite quickly and can have a pretty good idea of how much gold you put on, however it is not as precise when it comes to determining thickness. You cannot tell visually how thick the gold plating is. It won't look uneven, it just may wear quicker in some spots than others if you don't spend equal time plating everywhere.
Kit for Brush Plating on Guns: The "Universal Plater Kit" is the best brush plating kit available for plating onto guns. It comes with everything you will need with one exception. "Woods Nickel Strike" is required to plate onto steel/stainless steel, it is an inexpensive add-on that allows you to be able have perfect adhesion and beautiful gold.