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American Electroplaters Society
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3040 Diversy Ave., Chicago

VOL. XVII    FEBRUARY, 1930    No. 2



“We have always had war, therefore we will continue to have war.” This expresses the kind of logic that is characteristic of a large number of people; when they think of war, they think in terms of the past, their mind moves along the ruts made by the experience of the past. They do not think of the possibility of getting out of the ruts into better ways of life and of doing things. Because of this kind of thinking, those who would help us out of the ruts find they have a very difficult job, and so the thing that the world needs and everybody wants (except the few who profit by war) comes very slowly, because our habit of thinking keeps us in the old ruts. Change is the order of the day—and change means get out of the ruts. This change must start with our habit of thinking.

I would say that one of the very necessary qualifications of an electroplater is that he shall be able very frequently to change his mind, to change his method of thinking in terms of the past—to thinking in terms of the future. If we change our thinking, we will change our method of doing things. We spend too much time in trying to remember how things were done yesterday, when we should be thinking of how we will do things tomorrow. It is so easy to feel that we have perfected a plating method, process or solution, but the moment we feel we have perfected something, that moment we set up a barrier toward change, and if we do not change we stay in the old ruts. Of course, there are some good ruts in which to travel, if we don’t stay in the good ruts we may go into the ditch, but we should always be on the lookout for better ways of doing things. After all, the men that make a real contribution to their special field of endeavor are the men who are remembered, because they got out of the ruts of the beaten path and became trail builders that lead to new and better ways of doing things. May every member of the A. E. S. stay in the good old ruts as long as they are good and get out of them just as soon as study and research point us to a better way of doing things.


W. M. Phillips of Detroit Branch

The plating industry, in spite of the many vicissitudes through which it has passed, has become quite an important factor in the automobile industry, to say nothing of its place in other lines of business. It appears to have reached a very critical phase. It can go forward rapidly, or backward with still greater speed.

The practice of plating automobile parts is being challenged by the proposed use of stainless steel and irons. Also by the use of paint, lacquers and enamels.

Sketching a few fundamentals we will ask a question: “Why electro-plate?” First we wish to protect the base metal from corrosion and wear, allowing the engineer the choice of metals best suited to the part as to strength, workability and cost. Second: we wish to produce artistic and pleasing effects.

There is not very much question about plating producing the pleasing effects which it is asked to do. There is some question about the present type of plating being able to protect against corrosion and wear in a satisfactory manner. I do not believe that any of us could successfully plead ignorance as to how good a job should be done.

I am going to risk going over some ground which has been covered probably much better than I am able to do. Let us look into some of the causes of poor work and see what would remedy the situation. Iron and steel present a great many advantages from the standpoint of engineering. In most cases where it is used for decorative parts, a good plate is one of the essentials. One difficulty is that these parts are often made from inferior iron and steel in such a way that they are porous or full of slag inclusions. Next, they are made in such a shape that they are difficult or impossible to polish, plate and buff satisfactorily. A great deal can be done by giving our engineers information which is necessary to remedy these conditions.

Even if the steel and iron were relatively perfect, the plate is still unsatisfactory as it is usually done.

In spite of the fact that Dr. Blum, Professor E. M. Baker and others have pointed out that a thousandth of combined nickel and copper are necessary to produce a good job, very little of the work done today carries a plate as heavy as this. In man,, cases it is not half as heavy.

It would appear that a great many manufacturers are leaning too heavily on the qualities producible by the light chrome coating which we put over copper and nickel plated steel.

When it comes to chromium plating, even this is seriously slighted. It has been found by our experiments that an article plated for 30 seconds in the usual chromium bath at 20) amperes per square foot is quite unsatisfactory. When it comes to withstanding even a casual polishing, 15 seconds rubbing with ordinary nickel polish will generally cut through a plate of this character. Now the average new car buyer at least is going to rub his chromium whether it needs it or not, and he may rub it off, .If it only has 30 seconds on there. If we plate the article for one minute at the same current density, it is still unsatisfactory, as this plate can be generally rubbed through in one minute, whereas if it is plated for two minutes at 200 amperes per square foot or 400 ampere minutes, it generally requires about fifteen minutes, and often more to remove this plate, rubbing vigorously with nickel polish.

The question naturally occurs, ”Why stop at 400 ampere minutes?” I am going to refer to a paper of Mr. E. M. Baker and Mr. Walter Pinner, read before the Society of Automotive Engineers, March, 1928, which answers this question, and also throws considerable light on the requirements of a good nickel chrome job.

Slide No. 1. Let us first refer to Fig. 2. Here we see a series of micrographs of pieces first nickel plated, then chromium plated with various amounts of chromium. The first specimen 100 ampere minutes, the next 200 ampere minutes, on up to 1400 ampere minutes on the last one. Following the chromium plate, each piece was plated with copper from an acid copper bath. The copper does not plate on the parts completely not covered with chromium so that Mr. Baker obtained a very good map on each specimen. The black line at the bottom represents merely the edge of the specimen. The copper shows up white and the chromium black. Please notice that 100 and 200 ampere minutes do not cover very well, the chromium is quite porous. Then as we proceed, the 500 ampere minute plate starts to develop a lot of fine cracks which get worse as we go on, indicating the reason why we do not want- more than 400 ampere minutes, unless other methods are shown to deposit chromium of different characteristics.

Slide No. 2. We shall now refer to Table No. 2, Series Nos. VII and VIII, representing a series of panels all of which were plated with nickel 100 ampere minutes, copper 100 ampere minutes and nickel 300 ampere minutes.

No. VIII represents a series of panels chromium plated with various amounts of chromium which had first been plated with a base deposit of nickel 200 ampere minutes, copper 300 ampere minutes, nickel 4(10 ampere minutes. The column of figures to the extreme left represents the number of ampere minutes of chromium used in each case. The figures given under VII and VIII represent salt spray hours. You will note that they increase gradually and decrease the same way, with a few exceptions which I believe could probably be called experimental errors. The optimum condition seems to occur at somewhere around 400 ampere minutes. This is a very fortunate circumstance as it gives us the opportunity to standardize on about this amount of chromium. Mr. Strausser has kindly given me permission to use some slides which he used in a paper entitled ”Chromium Plating, Friend or Foe.”

The first slide ( Slide No. 3) represents a wire chromium plated to a thickness of .0019 and shows-what might be considered a very nice distribution and plate of this material.

Slide No. 4. This slide shows a badly rusted and pitted piece of work which was exposed for one year in actual service. This piece was copper plated only before chromium.

Slide No. 5. This slide shows also a defectively plated filler cap taken from service. In this case the copper nickel base was too light.

In summing up, it would appear that the cause of electro-plating is by no means hopeless. However, it is going to be necessary to do a better job. The use of stainless steel and iron has increased over 500 in the automobile industry since last year. In some cases it is absolutely the right thing to use, and I don’t believe that any plated work can compete with it for these uses. Among these are wire wheels, another is running board molding. In these cases, electro-plating through too severe usage is removed, either by abrasion from stones striking the wire wheels, or from scuffing in getting in and out of the car on running board moldings.

There are many other cases where steel articles plated with copper, nickel and chromium would be much more economical if the work is done properly, but I believe you will agree with me that a warning at this stage of the game is in order.

I have mentioned one other thing there—I said that paint and enamel were a certain amount of threat to the plating industry. We have practically done away with plating on automobile rims and are using Parkerizing and enamelling. That was due to two causes, the main one that we wanted a black rim due to the black side walls on the tires, more than the fact that the plating was not satisfactory. The plating was really quite satisfactory, but we needed a black and- couldn’t very well plate it black as economically as we could do it the other way. But there are certain improvements in the paint and lacquer industry that call for a better plate so as to have a uniform finished product, that is a product that will stand up the same all the way through. And I am going to ask everybody to try and co-operate to get a letter standard of plating.

CHAIRMAN FEELEY: Are there any questions the members would like to put to Mr. Phillips?

MR. WOODMANSEE: I would like to ask Mr. Phillips if his company will pay the price to get that product the way it should be.

MR. PHILLIPS: I would say yes, Mr. Woodmansee, that that will be done. The very fact that companies—not ours, but others—seem to be willing to pay for stainless steel is the answer.

MR. HOGABOOM: It would be fine if a company such as Mr. Phillips represents would develop a standard method or standard process for testing. His figures on salt spray mean nothing—it just means what he got in that particular line. It depended in a large measure upon the degree at which the salt solution was atomized. If he had a fine spray, he would get one result; if a coarse spray, he would get another result. If the air leaked out of his chamber at a different rate, he would get a different rate of corrosion. If he would, as they have done in the Bell Telephone laboratories, exhaust the salt spray chamber, he would get one-fourth the life and corrosion as he would if he didn’t exhaust it and kept it tight. So that salt spray, as is, and the figures, are only of the value to a particular test, under particular conditions, and unfortunately, the investigators do not give those conditions, so comparable results can be had throughout the industry.

MR. PHILLIPS: I think Mr. Hogaboom is 100% correct about the salt spray being merely a comparative test under the conditions under which it was conducted; that is, I do think Mr. Baker’s figures have value, a value by comparison in that particular test. Probably all his factors in that case were fairly uniform. There is one thing else, however, before we condemn the salt spray too harshly. The material which we ordinarily take as an example to electro-plate quite often has variations in it greater than the salt spray; that is, we may select ten pieces of steel, ten articles, and of those ten articles, the basic material is going to vary all over the lot, probably. We will have a lot of holes in one, another one pretty good, and if we were to put the faintest kind of a plate on that and merely test it, there would be a big difference right there. So we are applying a rough, a very; rough and inaccurate test when applying the salt spray, and do need a better one, but we will need it a whole lot more when the raw materials become more uniform.

MR. SIEVERING: I would like to know if the automotive industry is making any standards at all as to what constitutes a standard plate.

MR. PHILLIPS: I can only speak for the company that I represent. We have recently adopted a specification calling for a definite thickness of plate, in addition to the salt spray, and I may say probably in the future, judging work, we will pay a little more attention to the thickness of the plate than we will to the salt spray results.

DR. BLUM: I want to come up and speak in front here because what Mr. Phillips and Mr. Hogaboom said fits in so well with the program of the Research Committee for the next year that I am going to risk a repetition of some of the things that were said last night when only the stragglers were left here and after our own technical program.

As some of you know, at the meeting of the Research Conference held in Newark on April 6, Mr. McCord, of this city, gave a rather scathing indictment of the plating on automobiles. I am not going to discuss the question as to what extent this criticism was justified, but at any rate, the two points that he emphasized were first of all that we do not know what constitutes a good job of chromium plating, and a means of defining and ascertaining it; and secondly, the manufacturers are not using the knowledge that they already possess. Now, the Research Committee certainly, or the Bureau of Standards, can have very little to do with the latter part, that is, the question of the selection of the conditions by the manufacturers is an economic question which they are going to be forced to just to the extent that the public demands it. But the Research Committee did decide that the subject for research for the two associates for the next year, or as long as necessary, is to be the protective value of plated coatings, with special reference to chromium. No we have not attempted to make a detailed plan of the investigation because there are so many factors that will have to be planned in the light of what we discovered in the early work; but we are starting out to work on the question of the porosity of the coatings, and then, in the light of that, the relation between porosity and the protective value, both under accelerated conditions, including salt spray and any better test that can be devised, and under normal atmospheric conditions, in different localities, we hope, in co-operation with the American Society for Testing Materials, who maintain test fences at five different localities in this country.

Now the reason that I am speaking emphatically on this point is because of the conditions which Mr. Phillips and Mr. Hogaboom and Mr. McCord and others have pointed out, that this whole subject is of very grave importance to the electro-plating industry. It isn’t a question simply of how you are going to do your plating, it is a question of whether you are going to do your plating. In other words, as to whether nickel and chromium plating will increase in extent or decrease in extent.

Now all of this means money to support the research work and the Research Committee. The research work, the research fund, is just completing its first three-year program, and during the next six months, it is going to be necessary for the Research Committee to go out to the manufacturers, not simply to collect the funds they have promised—they have already paid that but to get new promises for we will say another three-year period, in order to support the work of the research associated and in order to get more definite information.

It is no disparagement of Professor Baker, who was unable to come to’ this meeting today—it is no disparagement to say that as valuable as his results are, they are not the last word; there is still a ,great deal more to be learned regarding the relation of various factors to the quality of the plating, and I say that then, when the Research Committee comes out for funds, don’t forget that it is your committee and that it is the fund of the ElectroPlaters’ Society and that the Research Committee can not get those subscriptions and those funds unless the members of the branches get back and help.

It is very appropriate that Mr. Phillips and many others here represent the automobile industry; certainly the biggest branch of plating in the country today. And I say with no disparagement to them at all that out of over 100 subscribers to the Research Fund during the past three years, there is one automobile concern represented, Mr. Phillips’ firm, and there are four accessory firms. Now you know better than I do how many automobile factories and how many accessory firms there are in the country, and I just say that every firm that is interested in plating, if they feel that the research work should be carried on, (and that is for you people to decide, if you feel that the research work should be carried on and extended along these lines that Mr. Phillips has suggested), then get back of your Research Committee.

I am not speaking for the Bureau of Standards, I am speaking for the Society and for the Research Committee, because I know how hard they have worked during the last three years to collect and administer the funds that were used in the research work. We are simply your agents, we are at the Bureau. Our laboratories are at your disposal, and we will do just as much work as we can, both with the funds obtained from the government and with the additional funds that are secured from those who are interested in electro-plating. But I have made this talk today even though it is more appropriate tomorrow, in connection with the business session, because I see there is a big crowd here today, and I don’t know whether there will be so big a crowd tomorrow.

MR. HOGABOOM: Mr. PhilIips spoke about the replacement of the present iron and steel with stainless metals. Will the same thing occur with aluminum, chromium plated?

MR. PHILLIPS: That is a very difficult question, for this reason. I wouldn’t say that chromium plated aluminum is a failure, but it is not yet as satisfactory as we would like to have it. If it became more satisfactory, then it would become a possible contender for a place in the industry. But it does need to become a little more satisfactory than it is at the present time.

CHAIRMAN FEELEY: Are there any more questions? This is very important to the industry and to every plater. I might draw your attention to a suggestion made to you by Mr. Phillips. He says it is in the hands of the plater to present his position to the automobile manufacturer in the construction of his supplies, radiator shells, and so forth, that they get away from the recesses and the difficulties that we have in getting into, both for polishing and to throw. It is possibly well that the American Electroplaters, in session, might take this up at their business meeting tomorrow and- make some recommendation, that a great deal of the difficulty found in industry, as Mr. Phillips said, the cutting through the edges and the difficulty of throwing into the designs as constructed now by the automotive engineers, might be avoided.

MR. LOUIS LIGHTMAN: You do not think, Mr. Phillips, it is more advisable before you decide upon the thickness of plating that you also decide upon the porosity of the plate? Has that a material effect on the lasting qualities of the plate?

MR. PHILLIPS: Certainly, if a last coating of non-porous metal could be put on, it would be an aid. However, we find that most of the plates are porous, and we must treat things as they are, not as we would like to have them. When, later on, someone comes out with a plate that is absolutely non-porous, we can cut down the thickness with impunity.


Read at 18th Annual Meeting of Chicago Branch, A. E. S.
By Jos. H. Hansjosten

Mr. Chairman and Gentlemen:

When your chairman invited me to address you on this auspicious occasion, I felt that a great honor had been bestowed on me and when he requested that I speak on ”The Past and Present of Electric-Plating” I knew I was on safe ground. So I wrote to him, and told him that I knew of no one better qualified than myself to speak on that subject; particularly, the ”past of electroplating,” for I informed him, I could go so far back in plating, that to tell it would sound like ancient history.

His request sent my memory racing back over the years gone by, back to scenes and conditions as they were then, scenes almost forgotten, and conditions that would not be tolerated today. In comparing that time to the present, I was impressed with the changes that have taken place with the changing years—changes for the better.

We know that the world has improved, or rather that conditions in it have changed, not only in our industry but generally. We are no doubt more impressed with the changes in the plating industry, because we are in daily contact with it. But, even out of our line of work the world did move, and move forward fast. So notable are the improvements that by contrast, they are striking.

Strange how some happenings awaken long dormant memories in us, and stir our ever-present tendency to look backward. And looking backward I know some of you will go back with me in memory, and view again scenes long forgotten and see again with memory’s eye, some face long since dim. Many of you here today can look back to the time when a plating room was considered just a necessary evil, just an added expense to a factory, and the time when the public taste was not developed to look for beauty as well as for utility.

You may think, as I go on that I am rather hard on the old-time plating room and that I exaggerate. But, the truth is, my pen has not the facility to describe the conditions as they really were. Some of you know that the picture is accurate, for you saw it. Others of you who came into being at a later and more enlightened time, will be grateful that the voice of those ”crying in the wilderness of long ago” was heard and that they prepared the way for you, and made your path if not easy, at least less hard.

Let me first impress on you that to the old-time plater the mixing of solutions was a secret to be jealously guarded. It was his firm belief that the beginning and the end of the plater’s art was the mixing of solutions. He who knew how to mix a nickel, copper or brass solution was a plater; and the logical sequence of such a belief was that for his own protection he must guard his secret well. You would not think of erasing the names of chemicals from their containers today, yet many of us saw that done frequently; for if the plater was to fully guard his secret no one in the room must know what he put in his solutions.

I can shut my eyes and still see an old-time plating room presided over by a kindly old man, who had a partition built across one end of the room so that he could keep his work from spying eyes. In the little room so made he kept his chemicals and mixed his solutions. In the partition were windows and on the windows were curtains which were drawn together whenever he went into his sanctum to mix his solutions. He would bring his mixtures from his little room in a large copper dipper and pour them into the tanks. In that particular plating room we used only one kind of acid and that was brought out of the little room in an earthen pitcher whenever it was needed. It was muriatic acid, but I did not know that until some years later. Besides the nickel solutions, we had in that plating plant, a copper solution that sometimes plated copper, and a brass solution that never plated brass.

I can vividly remember another plating room which had windows on one side—not many!—but they were windows. Against one of the windows was the ”strip tank,” a large earthenware crock, where future platers stripped the nickel from the copper wires on which the work had been hung in the tanks, so the wires could be used again. I might add, for your information, that we took the kinks out of the wires by striking them on a flat piece of iron and then sorted them as to lengths. How often we used them I do not remember, but labor was cheap then and I assume it paid to save them. The strip just mentioned was of the nitric and sulphuric acid variety and when the wind was in the right direction and the strip was working good, you knew without being told that the breeze coming through that window was not scented with the breath of new-mown hay.

The plater in that plant had a little ”stock room” in one corner of the plating room, which we irreverently called the ”Holy of Holies” and which was always locked. In it he kept his chemicals and mixed his solutions, and it was the only part of the plant where the floor was dry. In the rest of the room we just waded from tank to tank. Rubber boots were too high in price and wooden shoes were not high enough to keep our pedal extremities dry, for the water was always at high tide. But it was a rather nice place to work in. That is by comparison.

As I stated some time ago the knowledge of mixing solutions was-the plater’s secret. It may even be called a dark secret when the work turned out by some of them is considered. His attitude toward his fellow platers was the same as toward his helpers. He would not in those days exchange ideas with another plater because he might possibly have a better solution than the other fellow and he did not want to give his formula away. So he hid his light under, a bushel. The trouble was, in cases at least, that when the bushel was raised there was usually no light under it. As a rule when two or more happened to meet they could not or would not agree on anything. It was not policy to agree, for each might give some of his secret away.

But there came a day when they received a great shock and many of them finally had a subject on which they thoroughly agreed. A book was written and published which exposed their most cherished secrets and told how their solutions were made. Anyone who bought it and read it could now know the plater’s secrets. My memory is rather dim about this but I believe that some of them agreed so thoroughly on this subject, that they requested the supply houses to refrain from selling the book. It was to them the most outrageous thing that had ever happened. Why even the boss would now be able to mix solutions and every Tom, Dick and Harry would now be a plater.

Those were indeed dark days for the old-timer. But even then the dawn of a new day was breaking—a new era in the plating industry was at hand.

In describing the last plating room I said it had windows in one side. Now I will tell of one that had windows in the sidewalk. Ridiculous, you say? Not at all. For, bear in mind, that we are still speaking of the days when any old place was considered good enough for the plating room. This room was in the basement and the plating tanks were in that section that extended under the sidewalk. All the daylight to be had came through those thick, round pieces of glass set in the iron framework of the sidewalk above. Some of the glass was always missing, but we had on hand a number of pans to catch the water that came through when it rained.

The connecting rods in this plant were very handy. We had no rheostats, but we had a lot of copper wire twisted into a cable that was fastened to the bus bar, and we just slipped the other end of it around the cathode rod when the tank was loaded.

The dynamo was a wonderful piece of machinery. As an antique it was grand! But it could be regulated quite handily. In the front part of it were a number of holes and in a box we had a number of what we called plugs. To step up the current we put a plug in one of the holes. The more plugs we put in the greater the shower of sparks became when we drew a file across the anode and cathode rods.

Of course, some plating rooms were more up to date. I saw one that had electric light bulbs connected to the tank rods. If the lights were bright, the dynamo was doing its bit. If they were dim a piece of sandpaper held on the commutator or some belt dressing applied to the belt usually helped.

Among the platers of that day were many men who realized that if they were to become masters of their art they must know the scientific principles upon which it rests. And more and more the progressive plater studied the why and wherefore of electrodeposition. Instead of looking for new formulas he began to study—he tried to find why a solution acted thus and so. The rule of thumb was slowly but surely giving way to scientific practice.

And here, too, let me say, among them were men who did splendid work; while they were not confronted with modern mass production, neither did they have modern instruments to help them overcome their difficulties. The hydrometer and a piece of litmus paper were his only means of making a test. Compare that with our color meter for the testing of acidity and metallic content, and your simple titration for your chloride test. That will give you an idea of the difference in the methods then and now. It is a matter of wonder that they were able to do as good work as they did.

Among the factors that aided much in bringing light into the darkness were the representatives of supply houses and the trade journals.

There were a never failing source of information and they contributed generously to the solution of many problems that confronted us. This tribute is due them from many of us for few platers of that time did not at some time receive their aid.

It was the progressive plater, the man with vision and a desire to elevate himself, who saw that if the art of plating was to become what it should be and what it has since become, he must cease to isolate himself and exchange the knowledge he possessed with his fellow plater. Both of them would gain in knowledge and both of them would be better platers. How could it be otherwise? When each of them knew how to do one thing and they exchanged that knowledge both of them knew how to do two things. Gradually, as the dawn grew into day, more of them got together and laid the foundations on which this great society is built.

And they built better than they knew. I venture to say that our esteemed founder, who today is honoring us with his presence, never in his most optimistic moments or in the greatest flights of his fancy fully visioned the growth in influence and members of this society of today. For our society, more than any other factor, is responsible for the great improvement in methods, equipment, and general conditions in the modern plating plant. For today, instead of the old earthen crock by the window, the strip tank is covered with a hood and its poisonous fumes are mechanically carried away. The contaminated air of the old room is no longer in evidence, and with it is gone the sallow skin and the cough that it usually brought about.

The rule of thumb is replaced by the rule of science and the plater that did not realize that a new era was at hand has become as driftwood cast on the shore of the stream of progress.

And the journey’s end is not yet. There is a long, long trail ahead. A condition confronts us today that for ourselves and our employees we must prepare to meet. For today as never before we face a competition,—the ”New Competition” as it has been called. A competition so keen that-the like has never been. I do not mean a competition among ourselves,—though to an extent it is even that,—but the competition for business brought on by modern mass production, the production for which the sales department must find a market if wages and dividends are to be paid. The plating cost of a product is only a part and sometimes only a small part of the cost of a product. But, whether much or little the plater who can keep his cost at the minimum is the one who will do his -share in helping his concern to meet the new competition.

Today, and in the future, it behooves the plater to pay quite as much attention to the elimination of waste, waste of time and material, in his departments as to the chemistry of his plating. Holding your cost to the lowest point can be done by applying scientific principles to your work. It can not be done by lowering wages, for a concern to be successful must have successful workmen, and an underpaid workman is not a successful workman. It must be done by instilling a spirit of co-operation and loyalty in our workmen by letting him realize that unless profits are made wages can not be paid. That unless the firm that employs him can meet its competitors on an equal basis for the world’s business, their business and his business will cease to exist and as a natural sequence dividends and wages will stop. Truly the employer today is not lying on a bed of roses, and if he were, the thorns of competition would prevent him from enjoying sweet repose.

You recall, how years ago we insisted that plating was a science, a fact now generally conceded. I will say now that we will need every bit of knowledge that we acquired during the years, including the science of handling men as well as scientifically handling our departments to meet the competition of the immediate future.

And we will be forced to acquire -more knowledge, we will have to find a way to handle stainless steel. As though the new competition were not enough and did not give us problems enough to solve we will find this a hard one to solve, and we will find that this problem is with us even now.

But life is like that—just one thing after another. And like men, men worthy to be members of this society we will meet every problem of the future and solve it; meet the new competition and beat it,—in short, we will win.


Read at Baltimore-Washington Branch Annual Meeting, January 25, 1930

I have been asked to speak on—”The Electroplating of Sheet Copper.” As far as I know, no previous paper has been read on this subject. It is my plan to briefly discuss how the use of copper as a base metal would solve some of the present problems (as mentioned by Mr. McCord) as well as the actual electroplating of nickel, chromium, and tin.

We picture mass production or production on a large scale, as that of automobile parts, plumbing supplies, etc. Very little is known by the electroplaters of the history, development and rapid growth of electroplating in the Sheet Industry. It began with the thought that electroplating of nickel and finally chromium on a suitable base metal, would produce a durable and more beautiful finish at a much lower cost than it would to alloy them. This alloy though as durable, would not have near the beauty and would not maintain its lustre.

The public has not only accepted chromium, but is now demanding it. What housewife does not want chromium plumbing fixtures? The day of unsightly fixtures and utensils and hours of scouring and polishing is past. I do not think any man can but honestly and emphatically admit that chromium is the finest finish ever produced on an automobile. How many men who have had good chromium plate on their automobiles, want to go back to finishes which require continued polishing?

We have in the Baltimore plant alone in the past five years, plated millions of square feet of nickel surface, not including in this figure the chromium, tin, etc., and we have had very few complaints on the plating or its durability.

Every sheet we produce must stand the most rigid tests. We plate in large sheets. After plating, the sheets are sheared, stamped and spun in the manufacture of reflectors, coffee urns, tubs for electric washing machines, etc. It can readily be seen that the plating must be right in order to stand all the crimping, stamping and forming into washing machine tubs, then give years of service filled with hot swirling alkali solutions and clothing.

Yet the automobile industry is condemning electroplating. I was surprised at the attitude of General Motors men and have since learned that a few others have criticized electroplating, while other industries have taken the reverse attitude.

While we electroplaters of the country are partly responsible for this existing condition, the greatest fault lies with the automobile industry itself. You would not build your factory on a poor foundation, neither should you electroplate on a poor base metal and expect a satisfactory result. We know that the slightest porosity in the plating will allow steel base metal to rust through or oxidize eventually causing complete destruction.

Most of the large automobile plants use steel as a base metal. This metal frequently breaks in the stamping, necessitating an army of men welding, patching and filing these defects, then using the various emery buffings to produce a suitable finish— finally, copper plating and buffing.

All these expensive operations would be unnecessary if the proper base metal were used. While brass produces a wonderful finish, the zinc oxidizes rapidly and gives trouble. Hair line cracks eventually appear in the plating and again the finish is undesirable.

Sheet copper being the most ductible metal, makes stamping and spinning a simple matter—all these welders, filers and emery buffers would be a thing of the past. It is only necessary then to polish the copper on a muslin or canvas wheel with tripoli and it is ready for nickel plating. You can see from this, that you have only two or three operations, while before you had six or seven. The floor space, machinery and labor have been cut in half and copper plating has been eliminated.

We now have a radiator shell, or whatever we stamped and polished, with none of the faults of the base metals generally used and in addition, most any plater can do a first class job of plating that will last as long, if not longer, than the automobile itself, at a much lower cost.

The trouble is caused by the manufacturer using poor base metals and running his operating costs sky high, trying to get a satisfactory finish on them, then giving it inadequate coatings or jobbing it out to the lowest bidder, resulting in cut throat competition, there being no standard plating specifications for the work, the result being poor quality and a very unsatisfactory product. As a result, they condemn electroplating and consider the use of rustless or stainless steel and this is not the answer to their problem, it is merely starting over and going back to the beginning of alloyed metals.

We were one of the first copper producers to electroplate sheet copper. Our electroplate business has grown in the past five years by leaps and bounds. The first two years we were practically alone in this field—now most of our competitors are electroplating. Our rapid growth and development I attribute to just one policy, that is—quality. Our whole organization is trained on quality. Quality is the thing that is needed most in the electroplating field and every means you can install to produce it.

In the plating of sheet copper, we are starting out with a base metal that is not subject to atmospheric corrosion as is steel, aluminum, brass and other base metals. Therefore, the plating is only subject to abrasion or tarnish.

I will not go into detail regarding the uses of nickel plated copper. It is one of the oldest metals, and its uses are practically unlimited.

Preparatory to nickeling, the sheets are rolled and annealed, which is done to give the various grain sizes or crystalline structures and various strengths or tempers. They are then made flat; on a hydraulic leveling machine and are now ready for the buffing department.

The sheets are buffed either on automatic or hand wheels of muslin with a peripheral speed of about 10,000 ft. per minute, using tripoli composition. They are then inspected, those having defects in them are sent to what we term the rough buffs or canvass wheels where those defects are buffed out. They are then ready for the Nickel Plating Department. Arriving at the Nickel Plating Department the sheets are clamped or racked. They are then passed to the cleaning operation where they are cleaned electrolytically as a cathode at 4 to 5 amperes per sq. ft. for one to one and a half minutes in a mild alkali cleaner at about 150° F. It is only necessary in this operation to remove the greases used in buffing. They are then water rinsed and placed in the nickel bath—a standard, cold, single salt solution, ran at 70° F., using single nickel salts, ammonia chloride and boric acid. The sheets are left in the nickel solution at from 5 to 8 amps per sq. ft. until a coating of 12 to 2/10,000 thickness has been deposited. They are then rinsed and dried, sent to the re-squaring shears where they are sheared to size, then to the buffing department for coloring.

I was asked to give some account of my troubles with nickel. The general opinion seems to be-that trouble and electroplating are closely related, but it has been so long since I had any trouble, that I could best tell you how to avoid it.

To begin with, everything must be kept clean—all the contacts as well as the floors—keep your plating tanks clean and your solution clear—keep your tanks free of muck and sludge. When adding chemicals or sulphate to your nickel solution, make it up in some other container and then filter it into your regular plating solution.

Use the best or the purest anodes you can buy and keep enough chlorine in solution to maintain a standard metallic content, balancing this with an equal amount of boric acid, thereby making it unnecessary to continually add sulphate; when you add sulphate you also add impurities.

Neutralize your solution and precipitate impurities as often as is necessary, twice a year under average conditions, then bring it back to a pH of 5.8.

It is only necessary to follow a few simple rules to produce good nickel plating, such as—

Keep contacts, solution and anodes clean. A, pH of 5.8 as specified by the Bureau of Standards, should be maintained, as well as the standard metallic contest of about 30 G/L or 4 oz. per gallon. The amount of chloride to carry in solution is governed by the type of anode in use. A cast 97 per cent anode corrodes more readily, so around 9 or 10 G/L of chloride should be sufficient. I prefer the 99 plus rolled, depolarized anode, which may require as much as 16 G/L of chloride in solution, using the same amount of boric acid.

There being no rapid or satisfactory method for the determination of boric acid in the solution, it is seldom taken, but the pH and the metallic content can easily be determined by the colormetric method, and the chlorine can be determined by titration. These titration and colormetric sets can be bought from most all plating supply houses.

Chromium Plating

I think this subject holds the greatest interest of the platers as nickel is an old subject that was mastered years ago by most of them. However, if you have not mastered cleaning and nickel plating, your faults will surely find you out in the chrome tank.

Most chrome plating is done over either nickel, copper or brass and I am thoroughly convinced from experience and observation, that chromium over nickel is by far the finest finish and the greater the lustre of the nickel, the greater the finish the chrome will have.

I will not discuss the various chromic acid concentrations, but will say that the sulphate ratio to chromic acid is very important and in my experience, find the 100 to 1 ratio gives best results.

I have plated and gotten good results in the bright range, with the various temperatures and current densities ranging from 90° F., GO amps./sq. ft. and increasing the current density and temperature correspondingly to 130° F., 325 amperes per sq. ft., with the 400 gram solution. I also found that I could vary either the temperature or the current density by as much as five per cent as long as the ratio was from 95 to 1, or 100 to 1, but when the sulphate was a little low and showed a 107 to 1 ratio, the bright plating range became very narrow. If the current density were lowered slightly, brown spots would appear on the work where no chromium had deposited. Then if we raised the current a little, the deposit would be frosty on the edges.

If the sulphate is low, more sulphate can be added. If the sulphate is high, barium carbonate can be used—two ounces of barium carbonate will precipitate one ounce of sulphate.

I laid stress on keeping everything clean at the nickel tanks and it is of greater importance to keep everything clean around the chrome-tanks—chiefly contacts and anodes. I might say here that I prefer lead to steel for both anodes and tank lining—not pure lead, as it will go up in a short time, but antimony lead, and I refer 6 per cent antimony rather than 3 per cent.

You will find that it is important to keep the lead anodes clean and free of lead chromate. This is a yellow substance which acts as an insulator.

I found if I had not used the tank for a day or so and I placed a dummy cathode in the tank and set a 6 volt, 5,000 ampere generator, at 6 volts, I could only get 4,000 amperes, but in a short time the ammeter would rise until it showed 6,500 amperes at 6 volts. This proves the necessity of good clean anodes and contacts.

We plate the chrome to any specified thickness, the average being a 2/100000 coating. I also found while plating at the various temperatures and current densities, while I have not tested it thoroughly, that the lowest range produced a somewhat softer deposit and correspondingly harder deposits as the temperature and current density was increased.

I have read a few articles where platers have controlled the current with the voltmeter. I cannot see how this can be done if you are plating material of various sizes requiring various current densities. I can plate most any article without either the voltmeter or the ammeter, by observing the action of the solution, but I don’t recommend this method. I use a voltmeter on every tank and an ammeter on everything I plate. These instruments mean as much to me as a bible to a preacher.

Electrolytic Tin

Electrolytic tin is used in the manufacture of dairy equipment, coffee urns, condensers, wash boilers, etc. I doubt if this subject would be of much interest, as very few of the platers do any tin plating.

The solution we use is our own patented acid solution which is very costly to make and requires the porous cell method of obtaining metallic content. This would be out of the question for the average electroplater.

I recommend the alkali tinning solution and preferably the stannate solution as was thoroughly outlined by Mr. Proctor and published in the last April issue of the monthly review. You will get as good plating results from it. It is a less costly solution, has cleaning properties which the acid does not have, and is easily controlled.

Tin plating requires strong cleaning solutions and preferably an acid dip before tinning, providing the work is not thoroughly buffed before plating. If, however, the work is buffed before plating, weaker cleaning solutions will give better results and the acid dip can be eliminated.

Contrary to the general opinion, defects in polished work before tinning show up again when the tin is polished, as does nickel and chromium. Better plating is obtained by using the lower current densities rather than the higher ones.

Tin shows a wonderful deposit much better than that produced by the molten method. Any thickness can be deposited, perfectly uniform.

We are also going to install a lead plating unit, but at the present time have only done experimenting on it.

W. S. Ermlich.

Assembled Expert Scraps With and Without Significance


You put out a bucket of water for the iceman to wash off the sawdust before putting the ice in the box.

* * *
Our weekly allowance was a quarter, and we paid for our tablets and pencils from this sum, and even managed to save enough for an occasional gift to ”Pa” and ”Ma.”

* * *
Bicycles were considered a menace to pedestrian safety and some towns provided bicycle paths, the users of which had license tags on their ”wheels.”

* * *
We men wore detachable cuffs, with cuff holders fastened to our shirts.

* * *
The Twentieth Century Girl
Blessings on thee, little dame,
Bareback girl, with knees the same;
With thy rolled down, silken hose,
And thy short, transparent clothes;
With thy red lips, redding—
With the lipstick from the store;
I wish you all the luck and joy,
Glad that I was born a boy. —R. Dick.

* * *
Summary of Events in Trumbour Family
1913—Thos. Trumbour, Capt. East Baseball Team.
1928—Daughter Joan, flying over Detroit.
Not much more baseball, Tom.—Editor.

* * *
Street cars in small towns carried a mail box and the motorman would stop the car when any one wanted to mail a letter.

* * *
Ladies removed all hairpins from their hair during an electrical storm.

* * *
The whole family ate breakfast at the same time.

* * *
People ate all they wanted and never heard of dieting.

* * *
A Calamity

American (at Scottish football game): ”Why don’t they start ? They ought to have kicked off an hour ago.”
Scotchman: ”Aye, something serious has happened.”
American: ”Not a player taken off ill ?”
Scotchman: ”No, worse than that, they canna find the penny they tossed up with.” —Jos. Vilet.


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The information contained in this site is provided for your review and convenience. It is not intended to provide legal advice with respect to any federal, state, or local regulation.
You should consult with legal counsel and appropriate authorities before interpreting any regulations or undertaking any specific course of action.

Please note that many of the regulatory discussions on STERC refer to federal regulations. In many cases, states or local governments have promulgated relevant rules and standards
that are different and/or more stringent than the federal regulations. Therefore, to assure full compliance, you should investigate and comply with all applicable federal, state and local regulations.




The information contained in this site is provided for your review and convenience. It is not intended to provide legal advice with respect to any federal, state, or local regulation.
You should consult with legal counsel and appropriate authorities before interpreting any regulations or undertaking any specific course of action.

Please note that many of the regulatory discussions on STERC refer to federal regulations. In many cases, states or local governments have promulgated relevant rules and standards
that are different and/or more stringent than the federal regulations. Therefore, to assure full compliance, you should investigate and comply with all applicable federal, state and local regulations.